Would you like the key to finding peace in daily life?
Ok. Here it is:
To experience peace in our daily lives, we need to have more agency over our mind and mental energy, and, to regularly practise both of these things.
Sorry if that wasn’t as sexy, punchy or attention grabbing as you might have hoped.
The thing is, whatever we change in our outer lives – job, home, relationship, income, hairdo, family status – we still take ourselves and whatever is within us and our habits. Life and the world which is busy and fast will carry on.. being busy and fast. Our past will continue to affect how we think and feel.
But if we learn a new tool, or change our environment, that will help won’t it?
It can, but it’s not enough.
We need to look at real inner transformation and that comes through mind and inner training.
That is why it’s important – and a game-changer- to know and acknowledge what barriers come up to us finding inner mental peace. Then you can expect them, pre-empt them and know how to handle it when they arise – and keep going.
Life is a series of moments, one moment after another
Life, like our breathing, is ebbing and flowing. For us to truly feel alive and in the moment is to be in this flow with consciousness. Finding peace is about finding a capacity to meet life’s ups and downs, it is not about stopping the ebbs and flows, or eliminating external difficulty or challenge.
We can cultivate this capacity, with just a little practice each day.
Once you decide you want to make finding peace in daily life a regular practice (hurrah, by the way, when you do!), there will still be external and internal challenges along the way.
Don’t lose heart or effort. Know this is universal human experience.
To help, here I share some of the common scenarios (see below in Challenges) that can trip us up or de-motivate us to continue with the effort of living with awareness and bringing our mind into there here and now.
In terms of what you can actually do in daily life as practice and exercises to rewire your mind to peace, there are lots to choose from, and personalise to suit you. I explain and share more than 30 daily life exercises for peace in my book Finding Peace in Difficult Times (which inspired this blog post).
Challenges to rewiring the mind to peace
In essence, we want to meet what is and cultivate a compassionate response to it and to what is standing in the way of us being present in the first place.
Unable to control the mind
Don’t be hard on the mind. It’s doing what it is used to do doing: which is thinking, calculating, second guessing and responding to any given moment based on past and future projection.
As well as its basic functioning, for most of us our minds are used to operating from the back-foot, in order to keep us alive. Our minds are wired to be negative over positive in order to protect us and save our lives when at risk. But we can re-wire and re-balance from within so that our minds don’t trip to negative as a default.
To serve our best interest and to not be stuck in the past, fearful of the future or distracted by things not connected to the here and now, our mind needs guidance, training and some rewiring. Daily, small practices are how we do this re-wiring.
The World Wide Web
We live in an age where we are constantly drawn to and distracted by: the internet.
Be it mobiles, laptops, watches or computers, more than half the adult world is hooked up to the net via devices. The lure of information, fast connection and getting instant validation is ever potent and largely responsible for the shortening of attention spans and putting more of a distance between where we actually are and where our minds take us.
Is the only choice to get off the device or ban it from areas of our lives? I don’t think so.
Without this current day technology, we would miss out on the wonders of amazing connections and learning.
Instead, I suggest we consider the advent of this incredible technology as an incentive to do your own internal training.
In other words, this is a clarion call for us to not just get savvier with how we use our phones and laptops, or find ways to avoid them. Now more than ever is the time for us to understand our inner patterns and learn to work with them for peace and improved wellbeing.
We can also review our relationship to technology – rather than shame it or push it awa. Consider it ‘a practice’ in itself to look at how you use your devices and technology and so you can see how you could be in better relationship with it.
Consider the ends and effects of your tech usage, and let that influence and train you in the means with which you do use tech. Put another way, look at how your internet usage might be contributing towards distracted states of mind, unease in the body and worry in the mind, and look instead at using it as a tool towards inviting more peace, steadiness and awareness into your daily life.
Mental and Emotional Resistance
Being present is not unpleasant or like taking medicine. You are not being asked to give up what you like or who you are. Doing little daily practices for your wellbeing can be enjoyable for the sake of it and often a benefit felt quickly.
Don’t be fooled by what might seem simple. Simple doesn’t mean easy.
As well as engaging your attention into the present moment, you will find out more about yourself, your patterns and the ways of the world. What could be profound than that?
Just to add, if the kind of resistance you come up against is too difficult to work with or seems unfathomable, it could relate to something that happened in your childhood or in the past. Or, it could be because there is something big and very difficult you are dealing with now in your life. The advice in these cases is not to persist with any practice or use any tool that aggravates a condition or makes you feel unhappy. Be gentle, curious and experimental. And where you can, reach out and find a guide, friend or teacher you can trust for inspiration or support in those really difficult times.
Pain and Unwellness
Pain, illness and injury, be it short-term or chronic, affects not only our body’s functioning but how we think, feel and relate to the world and to ourselves.
If you find yourself unwell or in pain, let what you are experiencing be there and notice it. While this may sound counter intuitive, let ‘the discomfort’ plug you back into presence as you give it your attention. A ‘live’ pain – be it physical, mental or emotional – is a present moment happening after all.
Combine this noticing and allowing for what is there with a real tenderness and care. Imagine you are supporting a dear friend, loved one or pet. Approach what you are experiencing in your body with deep listening and patience.
When I was recovering from surgeries for a on on-going health condition I am working with, I would hear my internal voice talk me through practices that I could not physically do. The effects were remarkable. So it’s not about how much we do – but the energy we bring to what we notice. Trust that you can certainly receive positive impact if you bring your awareness to what you are listening to – in an audio or through your own inner voice.
Life is moving too fast. I will get left behind.
Do not underestimate the power practising presence of mind can have not just in your own life but also in the world.
Your state of mind will affect those around you.
Do you know the story of the snowflake?
One day, a Robin and a Dove were perched on their favourite tree chatting about the weather. “I wonder how much one snowflake weighs, probably nothing,” said the Dove. The Robin remembered something and shared it to his friend: “I was sitting on a branch of a fir tree last winter when it began to snow. It was not heavy snowfall, just a light sprinkling. Since I didn’t need to get anywhere I decided to count the snowflakes settling on the twigs of my branch. Eventually I reached the number 3,741,952. Then when the 3,741,953 snowflake dropped the branch suddenly broke off.” The two of them nodded in recognition.
What if more of us were present more of the time?
Can you imagine how that might change the world and life as we know it?
-this blog is adapted from the chapter Keep Going, from my book Finding Peace in Difficult Times (published by Watkins, June 2020)
-picture credit: meditt.space