We often imagine peace will come when things in our lives are calm and we have no problems. If we think that this is the only way we can achieve inner peace, it often feels unattainable because of the reality of our lives: work, relationships, children, financial concerns, illness, anxiety, worries, demands, obligations, and so on. Is it possible to find inner peace even when life is full of turmoil? Can we learn to cultivate inner peace?
Yes, we can. Mindfulness teachings do just that. With practice, we begin to see life from a different perspective. We begin to see that it is our interpretations of our experiences that lead us to loose our peace. How we perceive what happens in our lives is what can make us feel lost.
We spend too much time fighting our reality, or in the past dwelling on things that we did or didn’t do, or in the future worrying about something that has not happened, imaging the worst. If we are ill, we feel that our bodies have become our enemies. So much of this is literally in our mind!
Mindfulness is a discipline that helps us gain mastery over our minds. With mindfulness practice we learn how to become observers of the thoughts and stories that our minds generate. In being able to observe our thoughts, we become able to discern which of our thoughts are useful and which are destructive and torturous. Furthermore, we learn that thoughts are just thoughts; they do not have any power unless we give it to them. So, we can begin to say “oh, that’s just a thought, I don’t have to believe it or get hooked by it.”
Tip: Every time you notice yourself stressed and anxious or upset, pay attention to your thoughts, observe them as if you were watching a movie. Say, “oh there is that thought again…” or “oh, there is that awful thing I am telling myself.” “I don’t have to identify with my thoughts.” And then attend to what is in front of you, here in the present (for a mindfulness strategy that helps with this, click here. Imagine being like a tree; just there, stable, grounded, accepting of what comes (weather, storms, heat, etc.), you grow leaves in the summer, lose them in the fall, welcome snow in the winter, and grow flowers in the spring. We can cultivate our ability to be steady, grounded, and accepting of what comes with peace and acceptance.