“To experience peace does not mean that your life is always blissful. It means that you are capable of tapping into a blissful state of mind amidst the normal chaos of a hectic life.” ~Jill Bolte Taylor
I’d just spent over six years trapped in my own worst nightmare. Then in a split second, my whole reality shifted to an experience of exquisite peace and bliss. Walking through the streets of my home city, I seemed to be radiating unconditional love out and into everything around me.
I didn’t know it then, but I’d just tasted the ultimate state of deep peace and presence that most people on the spiritual path long for.
Pretty cool, right? But before I give you the low-down on what happened, let’s rewind and put this into context with the rest of my life.
My first eighteen years on this planet led me to a place of depression, self-hatred, anxiety, and self-harm. After another five years of severe stress and struggle, my body just gave up and my life came to a grinding halt.
I was in my mid-twenties. Having to rely on state benefits and a team of carers due to severe pain and chronic fatigue syndrome was not what I had in mind for myself.
So I went from one doctor and alternative therapist to another, hoping that they could fix me. I saw small improvements, but not enough that I could live normally.
I honestly don’t know how I kept going during those dark days, but I was determined to find the key to my freedom. Through many small insights, I came to see that the answers must be within me, not ‘out there.’ But how could I access them?
Then one day in 2010, my whole life changed again. A friend gave me a copy of the book A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. The way he spoke about consciousness and presence infused life into the depths of my exhausted soul. Then a miracle happened.
One morning, I woke up to that state of total bliss. My mind was silent, the pain and fatigue vanished, and all of my suffering stopped for a full five days. I had just experienced what I really was beyond my mind.
When that experience ended, I was plunged back into illness and suffering. I knew I had to find a way back home to that incredible deep peace and freedom.
I spent the next five years devouring countless spiritual books, courses, and YouTube videos. There was a lot of fuzzy talk about that experience, but nothing that told me how to get there.
The search finally ended when I met a group of monks who taught advanced meditation and consciousness theory. I could feel that exact same blissful peace oozing from every cell of their beings. Knowing they could teach me how to get that state back, I went to Spain to study with them.
If you want to experience that peace too, you need to understand how to go beyond your mind. Many spiritual teachers talk about this. But what does that really mean?
1. If you want to find peace, stop believing your thoughts.
Let me begin with something that may surprise you. You don’t have to stop your thoughts in order to find peace.
Thoughts don’t interrupt your peace when you learn how to watch them pass through your awareness. The suffering starts when you grab onto them and go off into unconscious thinking.
When this happens, you’re no longer aware of what’s going on around you in the present moment. The stories in your mind have literally become your reality. Let me explain.
Have you ever walked a route you know well and when you got to your destination, didn’t remember any of the journey? Instead of paying attention to what was going on around you, you were off thinking about another moment. Maybe it was the fight you had with your spouse that morning or the presentation you’re worried about giving tomorrow.
Here’s the thing—these thoughts only have power over you if you believe them. If you stop believing the scary thoughts about everything that is going to go wrong, your suffering will immediately stop. Those horror stories aren’t actually happening in the present moment!
So if you want peace, the first thing you must do is to place your attention on what is real right now.
Tune into your senses to notice what is going on around you. Give that more attention than whatever your mind is doing. It’ll help you break out of the stress and suffering.
2. Break the cycle of stress and negative emotions.
Right now, bring to mind something that makes you happy. Let yourself think about it for a moment. Did that feel good? Maybe you got that warm fuzzy feeling and your body felt lighter.
Now, think about something you don’t like. How do you feel now? Anxious, angry, stressed, heavy, sluggish, or something else?
You feel what you focus on, so if you think about good things, you’ll feel good. If you think about painful things, you’ll experience more stress and negative emotions.
Now, back to the unconscious thinking. Can you see how getting lost in stories about life’s dramas fuels stress and negative emotions?
Next time you notice you feel bad, see it as a signal that you’ve been off thinking about something you don’t like. Come back to the reality of what’s around you.
Let the remaining sensations of stress and emotion flow through your body. You should start to feel better within a minute or two.
But there’s much more available to you than ‘just feeling a bit better.’ The truth is, you can experience peace no matter what is happening in your life. You may wish to reread that statement because the implications are huge!
3. Connect to the permanent source of peace.
If you want to access the permanent source of peace, you first need to practice coming back to the present moment whenever you’ve been lost in your mind. Only then will you be able to go beyond your mind entirely and experience what you really are.
Your true self is the source of that exquisite peace, freedom, and bliss. You are pure conscious awareness, the watcher that’s beyond the mind, negative emotions, and suffering.
You feel what you focus on. Since what you are is always still and peaceful, if you put your attention there, you’ll feel peaceful.
You don’t need to stop your thoughts or change anything in your life to do that. You just need to give your thoughts and life circumstances less of your attention. Instead, rest more of your awareness on your true self directly.
How can you do that? You can use the fact that consciousness is vast and spacious. In fact, it’s the peaceful space in which all things in this Universe exist.
Look around you now. You may notice lots of objects such as a chair, a lamp, or even the building in which you are sitting. But have you ever stopped to notice the space that these things occupy?
Right now, put as much attention on the space as you can. Notice the space between you and the objects around you. Then, allow yourself to sense the space in the whole room.
Now imagine that space within you. Wide, open, scattering your obsessive thoughts so far in the distance you can barely hear them. Do you feel more peaceful?
If I can connect to that ultimate state of deep peace, I know you can too. We all have the power within us to do this.
It’s really just a case of remembering to choose where you place your attention. If you forget and get lost in your mind, no worries! Just come back to peace when you do remember.
The more you practice connecting to the space around you and creating space within you, the more peace you’ll invite into your life. Gradually, the stress and struggle will melt away as you learn a new way of being. Over time you’ll find that you just don’t give as much attention to all the mind drama anymore.
Keep it light by treating it like a game. Play with being aware of the space as you go through your day. Can you notice the space while you’re brushing your teeth? How about during a conversation?
For me, this practice has been the gateway to ever deeper levels of peace. By committing to playing with this, I’ve trained my brain to stay in that state for longer periods of time. It’s become easier and easier to pull myself out of any drama when life turns upside down.
It’s not about perfecting life. It’s about the ability to roll with whatever happens. If I need to take action, I do it from a calm and grounded state of mind. It’s in stark contrast to the desperate struggle I used to experience.
The answers really had been within me all along. It’s true for you too. This tiny but mighty shift in attention has the power to totally transform your life.
Since I stopped listening to that voice in my head, I’ve experienced deep and permanent healing. I no longer buy into all the self-criticism, fearful thoughts, or stories about how I’m not good enough. Sure, that stuff pops up from time to time, but I choose to smile and let the thoughts go.
As it turns out, connecting to my true self was also the key to my body healing. Stress and negativity had been depleting my energy and vitality for years. Now that I’m much calmer, my body has been able to use the extra energy to heal.
I want you to know that this is not a mystical adventure, reserved for a few lucky people. This experience is for everyone. Living in peace and bliss is your birth right!
So connect to your own source of peace. I’d love to hear how you get on.