At some point as school children, we were all taught about life’s basic necessities; those things a human being cannot do or live without – the lack of which may result in death. These are often listed as food, shelter, water, and clothing. Some lists include air or oxygen (yes, breathing would be nice.) These are generally considered the bare essentials – the primary factors, if you will, that enable survival and enhance human existence.
Many odd years later, the school of life has taught me that there is something that is perhaps not as basic but just as necessary for our survival and enhancement as humans: INNER PEACE.
Sure, you can literally survive without inner peace. Question is, would you want to? And, for how long?
Without waxing philosophic, I say this with all confidence and certainty: If you have lived in this world long enough, you will have come to realize that it is virtually impossible to live without a sense of inner well-being. Life has a way of beating on you – of beating you down, even – and if you let it, it will reduce you to nothing but a blubbering fool in search of your marbles. A basket case like no other (it is interesting to note that this term derives from early 20th century slang, originally used to denote a soldier who had lost all four limbs, thus unable to move independently. The lack of inner peace robs you of your ability to live life to the fullest!)
Yes, life – for all its harsh realities – will do this to you.
IF you let it.
We all need a little shelter
Growing up in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, I adored Cinderella. Not the one-glass-slippered princess (although she’s pretty cool, herself.) The band. The big-haired, leather-clad, skinny-legged demi-gods of glam. Among my top picks from these gurus of glitz and glitter rock is a screechy, gritty, catchy little ditty called, Shelter Me. I could go ahead and type every single lyric, and end this piece, really, but I will leave that between you and Google, and give you the just a snippet: Everybody needs a little place they can hide / Somewhere to call their own / Don’t let nobody inside / Every now and then we all need to let go…We all need a little shelter / Just a little helper to get us by / We all need a little shelter / Just a little helper (ooo) and it’ll be alright.
Inner peace is that shelter. It is a respite from life’s “harsh weather conditions,” if you will. It is a flourishing, pleasant oasis and place of refuge, in the midst of a barren and arid area of lack.
Strong, in the face of stress
Inner peace, often also referred to as or peace of mind, is the state of being mentally and spiritually at peace. The person in possession of inner peace has what it takes and is equipped with sufficient understanding to stay strong in the face of stress. To borrow a highly-overused marketing tag line these days, this is the ability to ‘KEEP CALM AND…” You fill in the rest of the line.
The state of being “at peace” is the opposite of “being anxious” or “being stressed,” despite circumstances that would otherwise bring on a stress-reaction. Inner peace is often associated with bliss, happiness and contentment.
If we can liken it to a flashlight, inner peace is the ability to shine or illuminate the positive things in your life, even in the presence of negative things and challenges. If all we ever do is beam our attention on the negative things; if we give in to the spirit of “doom and gloom” (think Glum from Gulliver’s Travels, and his constant lamentations of “We’ll neeeeeeveeeeer make it!), this is pretty much all we will see in our lives. Eventually, this will consume, overwhelm and break us.
Recharge your batteries (and so much more!)
Your shelter from the stress of daily life protects you form many undesirable effects. Cultivating a sense of inner peace provides numerous benefits; among them, the ability to revitalize and recharge your mind, body, and soul (including your emotions.) Think of it as a way to recharge your batteries, so to speak.
Inner peace revitalizes you from the inside out, and this helps you feel happier, be healthier, and even look younger! And who does not want THAT?
Plus – as if all that we not enough – being in tune with your sense of inner peace or allowing your peace of mind to prevail enables you to be more in control of yourself and your reactions to situations. You may not have much control of events around you, but you will definitely have greater control of events within you, and of your reactions to external factors and stressors. Ultimately having a sense of inner peace allows you to take greater control over your life; to really be “in charge.”
A lack of inner peace, on the other hand, generally produces stress, frustration, restlessness, anger, annoyance, and other negative feelings aimed at yourself and others. Not good!
The website www.peacerevolution.net/ lists the many benefits of inner peace. Here are some of them:
• It lowers oxygen consumption.
• It increases blood flow and slows the heart rate.
• Increases exercise tolerance.
• Leads to a deeper level of physical relaxation.
• Good for people with high blood pressure.
• Reduces anxiety attacks by lowering the levels of blood lactate.
• Decreases muscle tension
• Helps in chronic diseases like allergies, arthritis etc.
• Reduces Pre-menstrual Syndrome symptoms.
• Enhances the immune system.
• Reduces activity of viruses and emotional distress
• Enhances energy, strength and vigor.
• Helps with weight loss
• Builds self-confidence.
• Increases serotonin level, influences mood and behavior.
• Resolve phobias & fears
• Helps control own thoughts
• Helps with focus & concentration
• Increase creativity
• Increased brain wave coherence.
• Improved learning ability and memory.
• Increased feelings of vitality and rejuvenation.
• Increased emotional stability.
• Improved relationships
• Mind ages at slower rate
• Easier to remove bad habits
• Helps keep things in perspective
• Provides peace of mind, happiness
• Helps you discover your purpose
• Increased self-actualization.
• Increased compassion
• Growing wisdom
• Deeper understanding of yourself and others
• Brings body, mind, spirit in harmony
• Deeper level of spiritual relaxation
• Increased acceptance of oneself
• Helps learn forgiveness
• Changes attitude toward life
• Creates a deeper relationship with your God
Amazingly, those I have listed above are but a few of the benefits!
Inner Peace How-to’s
By now, you should be sold on the idea and necessity of having or strengthening your state of inner peace. I know I am more sold on the idea than a shopaholic on Boxing Day.
But how to get from wanting it, to actually having it?
The ways and tips from getting to “A” to “Zen” are as numerous as the benefits. I have narrowed them down to five of the more essential ones. I learned these at self-help classes I used to attend, dealing with anxiety and depression; so you can probably say I learned these “the hard way.” Still, I am ever –so grateful that I have learned these:
1. SIMPLIFY. More is not always better! Cut out that which is unnecessary from your life; these are mere burdens that weigh you down. Keep your daily “To Do” list as short and essential as you possibly can; schedule your plans and activities as efficiently as you possibly can.
2. ACCEPT AND LOVE YOURSELF. Realize that you ARE worthy! Worth is something you ARE, and not something you HAVE or ACQUIRE. Worth is your state of being, as a unique and special individual! You cannot work for worth; it is already IN you, waiting to be released, realized, expressed and activated. Sadly, many fail to see this; even sadder, others neglect or throw it away. You ARE worthy!
3. FORGIVE. For your own sake. Begin with yourself. The most deep-seated issues of bitterness often stem from un-forgiveness of self. This creates a root of bitterness that eventually chokes out the very life of your soul. Forgiveness is the ax that cuts down the bitter root.
4. BE STILL. Take time for time out. Seek out an environment that allows for moments of stillness. Turn the noise off! Break the vicious hustle-and-bustle, seemingly endless cycle of DOING. In today’s world, there always seems to be “too much to do, and never enough time to do it.” This is the antithesis to nurturing inner peace. Tune the busy-ness out, and tune yourself in. Meditate, listen to soothing music, lie down in a quiet space, practice yoga, indulge in relaxing downtime, go to the spa. The time you make for time out will eventually pay off and translate into more energy and productivity for you. As we learn the art of stillness, we will be able to find that stillness within us, and draw from this deep well when things around us grow crazy.
5. VISUALIZE AND AFFIRM. Think of your favorite place, or memory; any positive mental image that you can see in your mind’s eye when the you-know-what hits the fan. Close your eyes and visualize the good and positive! Along with your visualizations, activate your affirmations. Write down some positive thoughts and phrases, and repeat them to yourself – out loud, if you have to – until they become like a mantra.
6. TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOURSELF. Be mindful of your health. Exercise, and set those endorphins free. Eat right! The more junk you take in, the more junk you put out in the forms of health and weight problems, mood problems, etcetera. Get adequate amounts of sleep.
7. BREATHE! Don’t forget to breathe, and to do it properly: in through the diaphragm, out through the nose. When things start to get stressful, pause and take three deep, cleansing breaths. Keep your positive visualizations going while you breathe.
8. GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR SPIRITUAL SELF. You are more than just your flesh. Get in touch with your spirit, and its unique expressions: art, music, compassion, love, poetry, God; just some of the many.
9. DO WHAT YOU ENJOY. Life’s too short to be miserable. This is not mere hedonistic enjoyment, mind you; but the kind that brings true gratification. Nurture the relationships that matter. Connect with loved ones, friends, family.
10. GUARD YOUR INNER PEACE. Once you’ve found it – guard it! Keep it! Take care of it! As a precious gem amongst fool’s gold, so is your inner peace in the world.
The ripple effect
Yet another most awesome aspect inner peace is the ripple effect it creates. Like the ever-radiating and expanding ripples created when an object is dropped into water, the inner peace “dropped” into you ripples across your life incrementally.
It touches your family.
It touches your friends.
It touches your community.
And if enough ripples are created from each individual across communities, cities, and nations, then who’s to say that our inner peace can’t touch the world?
I, for one, say that it CAN.