“Every day brings a choice: to practice stress or to practice peace.” ~Joan Borysenko
Humans are amazing creatures. We have so much potential to create, effect change, and love. We can generate and organize. We can grow and learn.
The unharnessed creative potential within us also means that we have the capacity for destruction. We can start wars over words, or follow our monkey minds into a frenzy of worry and distraction. We can keep on telling ourselves that when that one thing we want so badly happens, then everything will be better.
We are so creative that we believe our best lie to ourselves—that there is time available for us to waste on not finding inner peace. We’ll pin our hopes on the new car, new house, or new job instead and stay in limbo, waiting.
I had a transformational experience recently when I dug up my old journals from the last ten years and read them. I was feeling particularly miserable and a clear question popped into my head: Have I just been going around in circles all this time?
I suddenly felt sharply aware that I had been in that place before many times—sad, demotivated, and looking for something to shift.
When I looked in the journals I saw that nearly every single time, I had tied my inner peace to an event or outcome.
For example, I had diary entries going back to my time in school where I was pinning all of my happiness on passing a particular exam or making a particular teacher like my work.
I have a diary from after I graduated where I was making myself sick with worry about getting on to the Masters program I wanted; if I could just get in then everything would be perfect.
I have an entry from two years ago where my only goal in life in a bad housing market was to sell the flat I owned that I desperately wanted to move out of. If I could just sell it then I could stop being unhappy and everything would be perfect.
Needless to say, with every single entry, as soon as the thing I needed to happen happened, after the briefest of celebrations, I moved onto another objective to pine miserably over.
It was always the same unhelpful, un-empowering mantra: If this goes well, then I will be happy. If that goes well I can get on with living my happy, dream life. In the meantime, I would continue to allow myself to take no responsibility for my own happiness.
It hit me all at once, reading the entries back to back. For the last ten years or more, I have been putting off inner peace.
I have been evolving and changing in the beautiful way that humans do, and the journals were a testament to that, but the entire time, I was waiting for something to happen to me to make me happy. I cried. Not from sadness, but pure joy. I was finally free to be truly happy.
In that moment I realized to truly break the cycle and embrace life to the fullest, I needed to do the following, and I’m sharing these with you in the hope that you stop putting off your inner peace today.
1. Be grateful every single day.
Gratitude is the grounding force of inner peace. We all have something to be grateful for every single day, and if we don’t think we do then that is the first sign that we are sacrificing our own inner peace for an ideal that doesn’t exist. Write down or tell somebody the one thing you are grateful for every day.
Social media is a great channel for this, as people are often projecting negativity into the world. Change the pattern. Make your status updates full of gratitude.
I regularly reflect on how grateful I am for my health, for my loved ones, and for my desire to help others. I am so grateful to be alive and to have this opportunity to connect with people so we can all work together to be better. I realize every day how lucky I am to have food, shelter, and health. Having these basic needs mean I can be lucky enough to think bigger and try to offer something back.
2. Do something that makes your heart sing every single day.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the perfect job. It doesn’t matter if you’re having difficulty in a relationship or feeling lost. Just commit to doing one thing every single day that makes you feel happy.
It can be as simple as taking a walk, writing in your journal, or doing some yoga. The more space you create for your heart to sing in your life, the more you’ll realize the peace you already have inside of you. I personally choose to do one thing each day that helps me help others to feel bountiful, beautiful. and blissful. That makes my heart sing.
3. Stop looking for fixes outside of yourself.
Everything you want and need, you already have and you already are. You don’t need to project onto other things. Notice those patterns in your behavior and give yourself permission to let them go.
You are a being full of creative potential. You don’t need anything outside of yourself. You just need to tap into what’s already there.
When I begin to notice myself stressing out or falling into the patterns of pinning all my hopes on one thing, I close my eyes. I sit or lie down quietly and I breathe. I completely fill and empty my lungs with long, deep breaths and know that my body will ensure I get the oxygen and life force I need.
I know that this will keep my organs going and keep my heart pumping blood around my body. I know that the life force in the air I breathe will keep my spirit alive in a way that no mark in an exam, no Masters program, or no shiny new house ever will.
I lie back quietly and breathe until the part of me that knows everything is perfect the way it is arises and reminds me that’s the case, or until the part of me that is strong and determined offers me a plan for change that I can move forward with. I wait until I either accept my situation with grace or I am motivated to clear action.
I stop looking outside of myself and leaving myself in limbo even though the temptation is there. Sometimes I notice it’s happening, and I laugh. I laugh, and the part of me that knows everything is or will be fine smiles inside. Then I breathe and close my eyes and connect to the resourceful woman I have inside of me who knows that all my real answers are within.
4. Be still.
Your potential is resting inside of you waiting for you to notice it, like I do when I close my eyes to breathe. To allow it to flourish, be still. Practice yoga followed by a relaxation and a meditation. Sit quietly in the garden and breathe. Do whatever works for you to be still.
Be still so your can hear the whispering of your inner teacher who already knows the value of gratitude, joy, and the potential that you hold within.
Stop putting off inner peace. Start living bountifully today.
Man in lotus image via Shutterstock