3 Ways to Cultivate More Peace in Your Life
Let’s start this article with a confession. Contemplative, quiet work bores me. I love the excitement and risk of numbers, thought provoking ideas and my own loud (and messy) musical expressions. My mind is constantly buzzing.
I have a feeling I’m not alone. It’s a common thing for the mind to fixate on what it deems thrilling and fun. The truth is, if we observe what’s on our mind—most of the time—the buzz is about obsessive, anxious and self-defeating thoughts.
The never-ending drama of the mind can create a constant state of worry and restlessness. Our fast-paced environment compounds the sense of unease and urgency.
In a previous post, I gave tips on how to empty your mind. This article is about going a bit deeper. Every little thing you do brings you closer to becoming calmer and more at peace with life.
If we don’t consciously stop to reflect and change direction, we create more pain and suffering for the world and ourselves. This pain manifests physically, mentally and emotionally.
The mind is entrenched in compulsive thinking that is mostly negative. When you pause, your mind will resist and drift back to the usual. When this happens, ask yourself the following questions.
- Would I rather be calm and relaxed or stressed?
- Do I want to do something or just keep thinking about it?
- Do I want to express and receive more love or dwell on negative judgments and what happened in the past?
If the answer is yes to any, or all, of the above, which is usually the case, make a point of stopping and taking time to do the inner work—the work that matters in the long run.
Before we go into what it is that you need to do, let’s explore why you’re stuck in this negative mind chatter and emotionality.
Why do we get stuck?
Our most inner state of being is one of peace and love. All you need to do is look at a newborn and then think of how his inner state could be when he turns thirty.
Over the years, our experiences—or more accurately our interpretations of such experiences—change our state of being. Repetitive thoughts turn into deeply rooted beliefs and negative emotions. As the buildup continues, we slip deeper into pain and restlessness.
The main three reasons we feel stuck are:
No human being goes through this physical experience unscathed—we all have painful experiences. How we deal with them is another matter.
We equally avoid the nonphysical, emotional pain as much as the physical. Instead of dealing with it, we suppress it. We numb it by distracting ourselves or trying to overcompensate by seeking pleasure in the outer world.
Fear of change
A lot of what we go through becomes so ingrained in our psyche that we identify with it. We become our pain, our story, our struggles. Without it, we won’t know who we are any more.
The more severe and deeper the pain, the harder it is to tackle.
Imagine someone snuck up on you when you were very young and decided to live in your house all the time. You don’t like her but she’s always there—day in and day out. You get used to her that the thought of being alone without her freaks you out. That someone is your cumulative pain.
The mind can come up with all the reasons things happen to us that are outside of our control. We blame god, other people, bad luck, politics, the economy, our parents, our spouses and children. We blame everyone and everything—including ourselves.
On the surface, most, if not all, of our painful experiences are outside of our control but that doesn’t mean we have to surrender control over our choices of how to act and feel.
Dealing with the above issues is not easy. However, it is possible. And the best news is you can do it without having to use willpower or discipline. All you need is the willingness to open up and break the cycle of pain.
Ways to be more at peace
A lot, if not all of what’s mentioned below was stated before. The core work is usually the same. The intent and depth might be a bit different. This is by no means a comprehensive how to guide, but an outline of techniques I want to bring to your attention. As your awareness expands, you can explore each option in more detail.
1- Practice stillness.
This is not easy for the mind but you can do it in gradual small steps. Here are a few ways to have more stillness in your life.
Meditate and make it a daily habit. It’s hard at the beginning to sit still as your mind jumps from one thought to the other. With time, you become quieter. You’ll always have mind chatter but you become more aware of it.
If you want a practical approach without any spiritual connotation, look at it this way: sit still and breathe to calm your mind. Do it with a smile on your face. Start with a few minutes and work your way up to 20 minutes.
Reflect on your experiences. You can do this by thinking about your day and how it went or writing in a journal. Be grateful for what you have and what you experienced.
You may have negative thoughts and impressions. Give them a voice in your journal. Write about the things that you didn’t enjoy or didn’t want to experience. When you do this, you transfer your thoughts from your head to paper (or the computer screen). You acknowledge them and allow them to be.
Do nothing or something that is very basic/simple. Try to sit and do nothing for a few minutes.
If it helps, grab a favorite drink and sip on it slowly without doing anything else. Do this daily with something that doesn’t require any mental or physical effort. Progress to intentionally sitting or laying down and just being—with no other purpose.
2- Move gently.
Your body can channel a lot of emotions and thoughts. Moving helps release part of the stuck energy and improves your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
Go for a walk. Enjoy the scenes around you and appreciate the beauty of life. Walk leisurely and forget about everything else.
Stretch or do yoga. Stretching your body increases your flexibility, reduces muscle tension, and increases circulation of the blood, which increases your energy level. It feels really good.
Move slowly. Try as much as you can to do everything deliberately and slowly. This calms you down. Start with one simple action, like brushing your teeth, and then progress to your morning routine, your work and so on. Do it gradually. Don’t add more stress by rushing into slowing down.
3- Feel your feelings.
This is the most difficult thing to do for most of us but has the most impact in changing our lives.
When you allow your feelings to come to the surface, you acknowledge them, and in time, release them. And when you release your feelings, you start dissolving some of the limiting beliefs and repetitive thoughts that occupy your mind and heart. Step by step you remove the layers of suffering and uncover your truth—your state of love and peace.
Consider the three actions below.
Write about your feelings without censorship or analysis. Just write what comes to you. This helps you in becoming more aware of what’s in your heart. Keep doing it. Whenever you notice new feelings coming up, write about them. Make this a habit and you won’t be disappointed.
Learn to forgive. And the first person you need to forgive is yourself. Forgiveness frees you from the shackles of the past. It puts you in the driver seat of your life and allows you to experience what is instead of what should’ve been.
Acknowledge your responsibility for your life. This will happen naturally as you learn to forgive. You realize that you do have a choice in how you respond to life’s challenges.
You are here today, now in this moment, by your own choice. Make the best of your choices.
If you have experienced sever trauma or abuse or feel you can’t handle your emotions on your own, seek help. There is nothing wrong with that. Actually, it’s a sign of strength and courage.
Where do you start?
Start simply by taking an action or two from what’s recommended in this article. My personal recommendation is:
1- Be still by doing nothing for a few minutes a day, and
2- Express what you’re feeling. Be with the emotion as it arises and allow it to go through your body. There is a physical element to every emotion. Feel the pressure in your head … the knot in your stomach. Maybe you’re a bit shaky, or your heart is pounding. Just feel. Write about your experience later to release any emotional remnants.
Let your intuition guide you on what to do next. It’s your best friend.
A calm mind and body, and an open heart are all you need to uncover more of the peace within—to return to your innate state. When you are at peace, you awaken to the wonder of this life and embrace it with all your being.