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Posts Tagged “peace of mind”

Peace: The Heart of our Being

People “seek” peace. People say it is elusive. Transitory. Lost in a distant, simpler past. An illusion of childhood. Hidden in the wilderness, on mountain peaks, on placid waters. Embedded in lovely music, in hushed houses of worship, in sublime poetry. It appears we think peace is a state we visit, a temporary shelter from the storm of life.

What a comfort to discover that the search for peace begins and ends within us! Peace is the natural state of being before the formation of thoughts about ourselves. Peace is the deepest wellspring of survival, the source from which we keep mercurial life in perspective.

What gives me the right to say such a thing? No one could ever have “told” me that, or “persuaded” me of that. But in the presence of people who had discovered it for themselves and were, therefore, at peace and untroubled by variable thoughts, I stopped thinking so hard and fast myself. I calmed down, and then I SAW it for myself. It came as an insight, a realization about myself, about life. It was an immediate certainty that I am the agent of my own experience. The external world lost its power over me. Just like that, my perception flipped from that of a person living at the mercy of all the things happening around me to a person living at the effect of my own thinking about everything.

I recognized that I cannot change what happens around me; yet I knew I have the power to shape my experience of it from the strength of my own originality. My mind fluttered to rest, and for the first time in a long time, I felt free and empowered. I was sitting with a group in a restaurant when this beautiful moment happened and I never even mentioned it. It was my experience. I figured that my lunch companions were relieved that I had stopped talking so fast and asking so many questions, and I just relaxed and had a good time.

The most significant insight imaginable is not a big deal. It’s not a big deal because the peace was there all along; it IS who we are. Just settling back to who we really are feels natural and easy. But once we see it, we can’t “unsee” it. Even at moments when our minds start racing again, we know what we’re doing. It’s not scary; it’s temporary. Knowing we’re making it all up anyway and knowing there are infinite possibilities of what else we might be making up, we don’t get trapped in our own worst ideas. Peace is a dynamic state, the state of knowing, no matter what, that we are meant to thrive, always close to an answer we’d never dreamed of before.

The outcome of this remarkable awakening to how our own minds work and to our own psychological strength is that we become better problem-solvers. People think we’re in denial, but we aren’t. We are in invention. Accepting what is and re-imagining what we can make of it and where to go from there. Creating fresh ideas, unafraid of the untested.

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Do you ever get upset?

Upset smiley face“I never see you upset. Do you ever get upset?” At least once or twice a week, someone asks me that question, as if they are expecting that someone who truly understood how the mind works must never be anything but calm and happy.

So sorry, that’s not how it works. There is no way to anticipate what might come into our minds, and sometimes, the thoughts we bring to our minds carry with them upset, angry, frustrated, negative feelings. Of course, I get upset, just like every other human being on the planet.

The difference between me getting upset before I learned how thinking works, and me getting upset now is that now I don’t care if I’m upset. It doesn’t feel important to me. It feels like a passing experience, sort of like a thundershower. And I know not to take it seriously because I know what it is — just a torrent of negative thoughts passing through.

The reason people don’t see me upset now is that I keep it to myself and don’t pay much attention to it, whereas in the past, feeling upset used to be my go-go-go!-signal to take action and, by golly, track down that person and give them a piece of my mind, or write that nasty letter and let someone know they couldn’t take advantage of me, or speak harshly to people I perceived as letting me down, or call a friend to seek commiseration.

Understanding how our minds work, and the nature of thought and experience, does not make us immune to upset. It just makes us disinclined to pay much attention to it. So what? It’s just my own thoughts creating the temporary experience of being upset. Let those thoughts go and different thoughts will come to mind. Then I’ll feel different. I know better, now, than to take seriously or act on upsetting thinking because doing anything in a low state of mind does not work out well at all. (Have you ever actually solved a problem by yelling at someone, or sending a nasty letter?) And I don’t need to burden my friends with my negative thoughts because it’s up to me to see them for what they are and let them pass. Talking about them just holds them in place. And among my friends, there’s no one who would actually discuss them anyway. I know the look — the look that says, “You must be kidding me? That makes sense to you?” In the world I live in, we’d both be laughing in a matter of seconds because it’s absolutely silly to get all worked up about the smoke and mirrors of up-and-down thinking.

So, sure, I have the feeling of upset, sometimes several times a day. But I see it as a signal to slow down, quiet my mind, and wait for a minute. When I get that tight, tense feeling that signals a droopy mood, I don’t try to figure out what’s up. I know what’s up. I am thinking myself into a lower mood. No need to feed that cycle. I turn away from it, rather than indulging it. And then, at the speed of thought, it goes away as other things come to mind, and I start feeling more like myself again.

Often, I ask my clients, “How cheaply are you willing to sell your peace of mind?” Usually, it has never occurred to them that they have to sell it or give it away to lose it, even for a second. Peace of mind is the natural default setting we fall back to as soon as we let go of what pulls us away from it. The only thing that can pull us away from it is our very own negative thinking that we’re making up, all by ourselves, seeing as real, and taking seriously.

The gift of understanding the Three Principles that explain how we create our own experience is that we’re always in the driver’s seat. We get to decide whether to stay upset, or leave it alone. We get to decide whether to take the risk the quick relief of yelling or hurting ourselves or someone else, or get the reward of the quick relief of quietly seeing our thoughts/moods for what they are: Nothing. Images on the screen of our minds. If they’re worthwhile, helpful and uplifting, we can hold onto them and build on them, enjoy working with them. If they’re petty and discouraging and gloom-inducing, we can turn our backs on them.

Of all the gifts I have received in life, the most precious to me is the deep realization is that I am in charge of me. Life is not in charge of me. Nothing can bring me down but me. If I don’t think my way into stress and sadness, I can handle anything life brings me with wisdom, insight and good will. I can get upset and get over it, and do no harm.

What could be better than that?

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Gratitude: a route to inner peace

Without any plan to do this, I have slipped into the habit, as I lay down to sleep, of thinking of something or someone from the past day for which I am grateful. And then, when I awaken, thinking of something I am grateful to look Into the lightforward to in the new day. Often, I am surprised by what comes to mind. Almost always, they are small things, or momentary unexpected encounters with people, that elicit a smile and a peaceful feeling. Sometimes, they are big things — pivotal moments in my life or opportunities that changed things for me completely. The effect is the same. Finding gratitude brings with it peace.

It occurred to me to share this experience with a client I saw recently who complained that she had trouble sleeping because as soon as she went to bed, her head filled with all the negative, unpleasant events of the past day, and she always awakened dreading what might happen today. As she talked, I remembered years of my life when I did that, too. Without any understanding of what I was doing, I would catalogue the negative events and the mistakes I had made as I went to bed, I would sleep fitfully, and I would wake up with my schedule and all its demands on my mind. I was always tired and out of sorts. I thought it was because my life was a pressure-cooker of demands and disappointments. Now I know it was because I had no idea what I was doing to myself with my own power to think.

My heart went out to my client because she really was exhausted and overwhelmed. She was jittery and on the verge of tears, and she confessed that she spent most of her days that way, drinking copious amounts of coffee to keep going and fighting off depression as she tried to get her job done and take care of her family. She said she always had a “looming sense of disaster.”

She was taken aback when I asked her if she had anything in her life for which to be thankful. “I’m sure I must,” she said, “I just never think about that.” I suggested we take a little time to think about that now.

It took her a few minutes to redirect her thinking, but then she started listing things. Her two children were healthy and happy in school. She had a secure job that paid well enough for her to get by as a single Mom without too much worry. She liked her landlord and she lived in a safe place that was well taken care of. Her parents lived nearby and enjoyed babysitting so she could get out sometimes. She liked the Church she attends and had good friends there. Her ex-husband paid child support regularly and, although he lives far away and never sees them, he does remember the children’s birthdays and holidays. She has a good friend who invites her and her children to a cabin in the NC mountains in the summer so they get to take an inexpensive vacation that the whole family enjoys.

As she slowly worked through this list, she relaxed, and her whole demeanor brightened. “I guess I really have a lot going for me,” she said sheepishly. “So why am I always so down on my life?”

She had opened the door to seeing something completely new to her:  What we call “life” is actually our moment-to-moment experience of the thinking we are bringing to mind about life. I explained to her that the little exercise we had just completed could be mistaken for “positive thinking” — but that the power behind it is NOT the power to fix or change the content of our thoughts. It’s realizing how easily each one of us can let some thoughts pass and entertain others, and knowing that the true power behind our perceptions is that we are making everything up — good and bad. That is the gift of the spiritual nature of life, the gift TO think. When we don’t know that we are the thinkers, it appears to us that we have no choice; when negative thinking floods our minds, or when we get in the habit of taking everything negative that comes to mind more seriously than other things, we spiral into misery and it starts looking like there’s no way out.

I asked, “Do you think you could have refused when I asked you to think of things for which you could be thankful?”

“Of course,” she said.  “I almost did. I wondered why you would want to waste my time not talking about my problems.”

“Then why did you decide to go along with it?”

“I don’t know. You seem like a nice person who wants to help me. It was kind of a refreshing request. So many people I have gone to for help have taken me deeper into all the bad stuff and I end up feeling worse. The idea of stepping away from it appealed to me. And then, once I started, I was surprised by how easy it was to keep coming up with more things.”

“So you were actually directing your own thoughts the whole time? You could have chosen to think anything, but you liked the idea of bringing different kinds of thoughts to mind.”

“Yes, I guess so. But what does that mean?”

“It means,” I said, “you are free. You do not have to live as the victim of your own most distressing thinking. You can think anything, and you can take whatever you think more or less seriously. It means your power to think your way through life is the key to the quality of your experience.”

“Wow,” she said. And she asked me to explain more about that. She began to look inside, at the power described by the Principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought. I saw her twice more, and then she thanked me and said that she was fine. She would call me if she needed any more help, but she really felt confident that she was realizing her own strength and everything was changing for the better.

That night, she came to mind as I lay down to sleep. I am deeply grateful for the work I get to do as a Mental Health Educator.

I leave you with this from Sydney Banks:

Gratitude and satisfaction have wonderful effects on our souls. They open our minds, clearing the way for wisdom and contentment to enter. Once you become grateful, the prison bars of your mind will fall away. Peace of mind and contentment will be yours.”              The Missing Link p. 131.

 

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