My missing peace
For much of what I like to call the middle bit of my life* (*may not be mathematically accurate) I looked for peace.
I didn’t have much, but I could see people who did. I was tangled up in a world of busyness, running around looking under every stone for the elusive peace.
I asked other people where to find it. They either suggested I seek professional help (not very helpful) or looked at me like I was nuts (ditto).
I studied meditation and tried various wholistic therapies to straighten out the kinks; Immersed myself in a couple of relationships; Took pretty good care of myself – home, health, job, finances, social life. Still nothing. I drove myself pretty nuts. The quest lasted for many years.
How I found my missing peace
Fast forward to now.
You don’t need the grisly details from the middle, do you?
Now I experience peace. And joy. And love.
Not all the time, though – often I have to focus my mind and remember where I left it. But it’s there randomly, pervasively, predictably and on demand.
This is the juice I always wanted – creating positive emotion on purpose. Creating peace.
How to Find Peace
If you’re chasing peace, and it’s running away, here are four reasons why this might be happening and what to do about them.
Problem 1: You want to experience all the positive emotions, but you resist the negative ones
Life is 50/50 positive and negative emotions. That’s the human experience. You can’t transcend this. So, if you want all the positive feelings, you have to be prepared to have the negative ones too. Block one, you block the other.
In fact, if you resist the ‘bad’ feelings, your resistance becomes feeling bad about feeling bad. So maybe now you’re in 25/75 positive and negative. Think about when you do something wrong and beat yourself up about it. How bad does that feel?
This shouldn’t be happening – I just want to be happy
FIX: How to turn negative emotion to positive
To create a positive emotion, first accept your current negative thought and emotion – the ones you are labelling as ‘bad’. MAKE YOUR PEACE with them.
- Sit and think the negative thought on purpose. Let the negative emotion come up. Stay focussed on them, without allowing other thoughts to come in.
- Sense any resistance or judgement you have and choose to let it be there. You can do this in a meditative way or just be still, aware of what you think and feel.
- Have compassion for your suffering and the ways you’re compounding your suffering with your resistance.
- Be gentle and let it all be. You’re just having human thoughts and human feelings. No big deal.
- Actively develop acceptance for the thought and feeling. When you resist a thought or emotion it gains power over you and will remain. When you accept it completely, it loses power and passes.
- Enjoy the glimmer of peace that steals over you, as you stop the fight
Problem 2: You practice beating yourself up
If you have a negative thought in a way that’s habitual for you, such as beating yourself up for doing something wrong at work, it starts a familiar train of thoughts. One thought brings the next, brings the next and you quickly find yourself in a tirade of self-abuse.
You might only be dimly aware of it.
You might think it’s justified. It’s not. Maybe you made a mistake, but that’s all.
You might let it run on un-checked, playing the whole disaster movie in your head. How miserable is that?
FIX: Stop the movie
If you become aware that this movie is playing, you can simply choose to stop it. You’ve heard it all before and a re-run is not serving you. Just notice that it’s playing and stop it. Choose to forgive yourself. I challenge you to choose something caring and supportive to think about yourself. Maybe just that you stuffed up, but your intentions were good. Or you’re just tired today and tomorrow you will fix it. Or that your efforts are generally good and a mistake is tolerable.
Showing yourself this love, care, acceptance and forgiveness has side-benefits beyond cheering you up in the moment. You will develop a broader acceptance of your perceived faults, become less judgemental and enjoy having your own back.
Warning: May lead to peace.
Problem 3. You over-identify with your past
If you think you have a flaw – let’s say that you lack self-confidence – you can use this to perpetuate dis-satisfaction with yourself.
Making the ‘flaw’ part of your identity – who you ARE – prevents any opportunity to change. When challenged, confirmation bias kicks in and you will argue for why you’re lacking in self-confidence, because your need to be right will overcome your need to be happy.
Defending your limitations is just your brain resisting change and loss.
FIX: Creating a new identity
When losing a ‘flaw’ is your objective, consider that you’ve just had some experiences in the past of lack of confidence. Now, though, you’re choosing to look for experiences that you ARE confident. Evidence you overlooked previously because it did not support your belief.
Often this evidence is right in front of your nose. Build a dossier of examples of when you were confident about something. Anything.
Relax in to kind appreciation of yourself. Enjoy the peace.
Problem 4: You have a Manual for yourself and others.
A Manual is your set of rules for how a specific person should behave to make you happy. If the person does not behave accordingly, you judge them and start telling yourself stories about how bad they have been.
Notice that the Manual is actually rather aggressive – you’re not accepting this person as the human being they are; you want them to be different. Just to please you. You’d probably like to manipulate them to behave better.
The Manual causes suffering in both you and the other person. It creates and fuels frustration and conflict. If you wrote the Manual, you will feel fully justified in judging the person for not sticking to it, but it embodies your values, not theirs. As adults, they can and will do as they please, according to their own values.
FIX: Burning the Manual
If you notice that someone else is frustrating, irritating or angering you, or that you have a resentment towards them, take a look in the Manual and see where they’ve broken a rule.
Sit with this knowledge. Work on accepting them as exactly who they are – since you have no choice anyway!
Forgive yourself, your thoughts and judgements, your desire to control.
Develop compassion for the pain of your past that caused you to write the Manual; for the fear you had of people and life.
You can see how you’ve contributed to your own distress now. You can see the drama you created and the stories you told yourself about it.
With compassion for the whole mess, comes acceptance of yourself exactly as you are in this moment.
Compassion and acceptance are the faces of unconditional love.
Unconditional love for the self replaces fear with resilience and confidence.
Unconditional love is the face of peace.