Peace of mind is possible at any moment in time, under all conditions, and no matter what the circumstances. You no longer have to subscribe to “peace at any price,” but rather can achieve “peace at any point.”
It doesn’t require becoming a monk nor making meditation your full-time job. It does take some commitment – mainly to getting to know yourself better. How good are you at listening to yourself? Try these ideas.
1. Let Go
There’s really nothing in this world that we can control except for our own feelings, thoughts, and actions. Everything else is out of our hands. What’s the point of worrying about things we have no power over? So let go – of other people, the world, and outside conditions. Focus on the things you can control, which leads us to #2.
2. Know Who You Are
Getting to know our feelings, thoughts and motives for our actions can take some time – depending on how deeply we’ve buried our awareness of them. Take some time to study yourself and your reactions. Do you really want to go to that movie, or are you just trying to please someone else? Are you apologizing for something you did because you regret it or just to smooth things over and move on in a relationship?
3. Know and Process Your Feelings
Sometimes we don’t even recognize how we’re feeling. Many of us are taught that certain feelings are not acceptable; for example, anger (especially for women) or sadness (especially for men). We push them down and ignore them. But feelings don’t go away; they build up over time. If you tend to react inappropriately to situations – with stronger feelings than are justified – you may be bringing old emotions to the table. Getting to know your feelings means giving space to them, allowing them to be seen and heard, and learning to identify them. From there it’s much easier to find a more productive response.
4. Align with Your own Integrity
As we get to know ourselves, we become clearer about our wants, needs, and ethics. Integrity is knowing our values and aligning our feelings, thoughts, and actions to those values. For example, if you value kindness and non-judgment in your relationships, it might feel uncomfortable to gossip. Though it may be hard to change a habit, when you refrain from the conflicting behavior, you’ll feel much better. That’s how you know you’re in alignment with your values.
5. Find God (or at least know it’s not you)
It’s easier to let go of controlling “everything else,” if we believe there is some greater force shaping life and the world around us. There are innumerable ways to name and understand that force – nature, God as defined by a particular religion, Good Orderly Direction, love. But believing in God is not necessary. All you need to know is, it’s not you.
6. Let Others Be Who They Are
Letting go of belief in our god-like abilities to control means letting others direct their own lives. The best we can do is offer our perspective, make suggestions or offer help if asked, and then let them decide. This goes for children, too. Attempts to force others to think, or feel, or act in the way we think best is likely to do far more damage than if we allow them the dignity of suffering their own consequences. They’ll learn a lot faster and get to know themselves a lot better.
7. Practice Self-care
One of the best ways to take our focus off of what other people are doing is to take care of ourselves. Basic physical needs first – food, water, shelter, exercise, sleep – then more complex needs – emotional, mental, spiritual. Do you know the best foods to eat for your body and when? How much sleep you need? If you’ve figured these things out, do you make sure you get them? How about emotional needs – do you know how much time you need with others versus being alone? Have you identified what you like or even love to do, and make sure you find time for it? Practice does NOT have to mean perfect, experiment with self-care until you find the right balance.
8. Forget What Others Think of You (it’s none of your business anyway)
Worrying about others’ view of us – good or bad – gets in the way of serenity. Focusing on what others think is a huge distraction from the real work – that of knowing and liking who we are. If we feel good about that, it matters much less whether that other driver, or the boss, or our mother approves of us.
9. Focus on Right Here, Right Now
Being present leads directly to peace of mind. If the mind is here, it isn’t off worrying about the future, or obsessing over the past. Keeping it in the moment is the challenge. This saying helps me, “Keep your mind where your body is.” If you drift off, bring yourself to what you’re doing right now. The dishes? Focus on the sensations of soap and water. Making your task list? How do the keys feel under your fingers? Playing with the kids? Get into their mindset – make that blanket fort the best they’ve ever seen. Having tea or coffee before work? Sit on the porch with it, look at the yard or the street scene passing by, and enjoy the sun or the breeze.
10. Do Service
I recently ran across this quote by Pema Chodron: “We work on ourselves in order to help others, but also we help others in order to work on ourselves.” Before we serve others, we must have something to give away. The work of knowing and taking care of ourselves ensures we have the energy and love to share with others. But we can’t stop there. We have to give back. Service work takes many forms, from the grand to the minute. It could be volunteering in soup kitchens and shelters, researching schools for a child, or taking care of aging parents. Listening to a friend, rescuing an animal, even stopping to let a pedestrian cross the road. As long as we take the action with goodwill in our hearts, we will be doing others and ourselves some good.
And one more for good luck:
11. Let Go
Oh, did I mention this already? There are so many ways to let go, it bears repeating. Consider letting go of:
- Other people
- A specific outcome
- Your children
- Controlling your feelings
- Forcing a solution
- Your past
- What others think of you
- The future
- Your image of yourself
- Current events
- Finding your soulmate
- Having to know (anything)
- Being in charge
Your turn, add to the lists!