Finding and maintaining your inner peace in today’s world is no easy task. We tell ourselves that if we practice meditation daily, we’ll achieve inner peace. Or if we do breathwork and mindfulness exercises before bed, we’ll achieve inner peace. Activating and maintaining our inner peace is more complicated than that. There’s a myth out there that inner peace is achieved only through external work and effort. For example, if you wake up in a good mood, practice things you love all day, and go to bed thinking all is well, it’s easy to believe that you have achieved inner peace. But that is not reality. Our days are not perfect. We encounter mishaps and inconveniences that set us off, even if we started our day off with a 10-minute meditation.
So, we assume that we need to ramp up our efforts, and as a result, we book a weekend retreat to turn inwards. This helps us feel at peace again, maybe for longer this time, but life inevitably happens and our inner peace is rocked once again. We may be driving to work one day and someone cuts us off and our anger and frustration disrupt the peace we’ve worked so hard to cultivate.
Perhaps we’ll take it one step further and join a spiritual community where they practice connecting with their inner peace all day long. Unfortunately, those who participate in these communities aren’t immune to inner turmoil either.
The path to inner peace is not a one size fits all approach. You may choose not to embark on the spiritual route at all, and instead, try to do everything perfectly according to society’s standards. You focus on working hard, paying your bills, and saving up enough to retire early. Life seems great and you’re able to travel for the first time in your life. But perfectionism is also not immune to life’s disruptions and turbulence. Even though you’ve done everything you should, you may still have a medical scare, lose a loved one or experience betrayal.
So how do we achieve inner peace when life is so uncertain and unpredictable?
Let’s use an example to explore this further. Have you ever visited a lake on a very still day, and the water is calm and clear, and it’s under these specific conditions that you’re able to see the bottom? Humans are similar. At our core, we are beautiful, calm, and centered individuals. But like a gust of wind disrupting the still lake, external forces disrupt the inner peace that we have inside each of us. It’s during these times of disruption where it’s easy to forget that our inner peace is always there.
When we meditate, we sit with ourselves in stillness and silence. As a result, we feel peaceful because our thoughts that operate all day long deciding what’s right or wrong, are quiet. What we are left with is the silence of the inner self and the inner self is peaceful.
We conjure up a similar feeling when we go on vacation somewhere relaxing. It may take us a couple of days to adapt and give in to rest, but eventually, we grow more present and mindful of our beautiful surroundings. It’s during these times in life where we’re able to completely let go and rest that we realize inner peace is always with us. And when we return from vacation, we’re reminded how quickly our thoughts and external forces disrupt that peace we experienced not too long ago.
Let’s explore how we can maintain and encourage our inner peace throughout the day, even when it’s disrupted by outside forces.
Observe vs. Commentate
‘Inner’ means within us or internal, meaning that inner peace is with us at all times. The problem is, inner peace gets disturbed when we engage with the world. As humans, we form opinions and commentary about the things that happen to us throughout the day. When we are still and quiet and we observe vs. commentate on everything, we are able to achieve inner peace. When we spend our time judging and commenting on the world, we interrupt our inner peace. These thoughts keep the water murky.
To keep the water clear and our inner peace present, we must choose to be the participant of life vs. the commentator of life. We feel peaceful when we meditate or when we’re on vacation because our mind takes a break from providing constant commentary and is able to just exist. We stop labeling things as “good” or “bad,” they just are.
We can practice this by noticing next time something disturbs us. This may happen from an external force (i.e. watching a show, participating in an activity, overhearing something uncomfortable, etc.) or our own inner thoughts that critique the world around us. Once we notice this disturbance, we can take a deep breath and simply observe without labeling things as “good” or “bad.”
For example, we go to the store and the checkout line is longer than normal. We may first notice our inner peace is disturbed, and our inner thoughts begin to say “Why don’t they open more lanes?” Instead of continuing with these judgments, we can take a deep breath and notice other things. We can focus on our breath, the sounds in the store, or the cute baby in front of us. Instead of using this time to be stressed or upset, you’ve used the time to notice and engage with your inner peace. You’ve kept your water clear.
Control the external
Our inner peace is not only affected by our inner dialogue but how we engage with the external world. We make thousands of decisions throughout the day based on external forces and all of these choices protect or harm our inner peace.
We have the choice when we come home after work to sit outside and read or spend time scrolling on our phones. Everything that we expose ourselves to affects how we perceive the world and ourselves. Spending hours on end on our electronic devices can negatively impact the way we see things, and as a result, affect our inner peace.
If we’re spending hours on our phones or tuned into the news, it might be helpful to intentionally separate ourselves throughout the day and find more time for turning inward. We can watch our breath, spend time in nature, go for a walk, or meditate. If disconnecting is something you’re not used to, it might be helpful to schedule pockets of time away from your electronic devices.
As a reminder, maintaining control over our internal dialogue and thoughts also affects our inner peace. If we constantly engage with our thoughts, labeling something as good or bad, or planning and executing, there is no time to experience that inner peace. Meditation offers this time to us. Nature offers this time to us. Quiet moments are where we find our inner peace.
Life brings us a variety of situations and outcomes. Sometimes we may like what life brings us and other times we might not. But we don’t need to hang on to these outcomes, or even label them as good or bad, we can allow them to just exist. Once we choose radical acceptance of what is and intentionally find moments of calm and quiet through the day, we’ll always be able to find the bottom of the lake.
About the Happiness Podcast:
Do you ever wonder what it takes to lead a peaceful, happy life? Are you curious about the specific steps involved in a self-actualized, limitless life? Are you struggling with anxiety or depression? Or are you just plain tired and want some help? We explore all these concerns and more every week on the Happiness Podcast, which has been downloaded over 9 million times since its inception. Happiness does not happen by chance, but because we take specific actions in our lives to create it.
Dr. Robert Puff, Ph.D., author of 13 books, TV show host, Psychology Today blogger, and corporate trainer, has been studying the actions it takes to reach the highest levels of human achievement for decades, and he wants to share what he knows with you. Come and explore, along with millions of others from the Happiness Podcast, Dr. Puff books and Psychology Today blog, private clients and corporate workshop attendees, the specific steps to take so that you can soar in your life.
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