We’re all on a mission to find it, right? Our peace. Our inner Zen. But how do we go about that? How do we find Zen or Peace in a world full of chaos and disturbances and drama?
I certainly don’t profess to have all the answers and based on experience, I’m relatively certain finding inner peace is not a “one size fits all” plan but I think I have a few suggestions for letting go of the outside negative influences, the internal negative influences and the people who are serving to bring you down rather than lift you up…
Step by step instructions for getting you to that place of happiness and love without feeling the need to change the world.
We’ve all heard it before, right? The key to inner peace is to breathe. But we’re all breathing all the time, right? So is it just deep breaths that help?
Well…sort of. Taking a deep breath will certainly help almost immediately to calm your heart rate, settle your mind and certainly bring about a pretty quick (yet short lived) sense of “peace” but is that one deep breath going to get us to actual peace and Zen? Probably not anytime soon.
The key to “just breathe” being a long term solution is to train ourselves to breathe deeply on a consistent basis and to practice breathing mindfully (being fully aware of each breath we take). The easiest (maybe only??) way to do this is to practice, practice, practice.
Take a few moments each day to sit in meditation and just breathe…taking special care to notice the inhale and the exhale of each deep breath. Your mind might chatter but that’s okay. The more we ignore the chatter in our minds, the less our minds will chatter. The mind eventually gets tired of talking to itself, so if you acknowledge the thoughts as they come up. Mentally say “Stop” and get back to your breath focus, eventually, the mind will stop trying to interrupt your meditation. It will learn (through your training) that meditation is not the place for it to chatter. It’ll move on to a more appropriate time.
Sometimes it helps to visualize during a meditation. Visualization can keep the mind “occupied” and not allow it time to wander.
Try this: Visualize a white light that holds all the love we you can possibly handle, all the peace in the world, all the good in your fellow humans and visualize that light coming into your soul as you breathe in…visualize that bright white light filling you up with peace…filling you up with love….expanding because you personally can only hold so much before you have to share. Visualize that bright light expanding from the tips of your toes to the very top of your head and then out….past you…past your home and family…touching them all…past your neighborhood….out to the entire world and on to the universe…touching everything and everyone…swirling about…changing the feel…changing the world. Visualize that light, as you inhale, spreading peace to all living creatures.
Then, as you exhale, feel the tension release from your body. Feel yourself relax just a little bit. Visualize yourself letting go. Letting go of people and actions that are weighing you down. See yourself letting go of situations that are outside of your control. See yourself losing the feeling of anger and heaviness you feel when others behave in ways you do not approve. Watch and feel yourself getting lighter and calmer.
Breathe in and fill yourself back up with the love and peaceful light of the world. Feeling it expanding joy from your heart out. Feel it creating love and using you to spread that love to the ends of the earth and beyond.
Practice this meditation/visualization at least daily but preferably twice a day (morning and night). You may not notice much Zen in the beginning, but after time…after training our minds to breathe mindfully…our breathing will automatically start to go deeper, last longer and produce a much more consistent feeling of peace in our hearts. Eventually…after we dedicate to a consistent meditation and prayer practice….that peacefulness we seek is with us a lot more often that we ever knew could be true.
2. Let Go Of What You Cannot Control
And remember…this includes the actions of others as well.
There are so many things in this life that we can control and all of those things point back to ourselves. We can control ourselves. We can control nothing outside of that.
I know it can be frustrating when other people don’t believe the same things we believe, don’t act in a manner that we would like them to act, don’t do things the way we want them to or the way we believe is “right”. I know it’s frustrating when we’re in one place on our journey and we want so much for others to join us and believe us and follow us. I know how it feels to want to shake someone and tell them to stop behaving in a certain way. Believe me, I know how it feels to want to change others…to want to change the world…to believe that the only way to change the world is to control and change others.
But here’s the real truth. We cannot control others. We are not responsible for the actions of others. We do not need (nor should we want) to change other people.
Here’s the key though: We CAN change ourselves. We CAN control ourselves. We ARE responsible for our own actions.
And by taking responsibility for only our own actions and by changing ourselves and by controlling ourselves…we CAN change the world. If everyone participates in taking care of themselves…the world changes. But be careful…it’s not up to you to convince the rest of the world to change or participate. Change yourself and the people around you will either change with you or they will go away. Either case is outside of your control. Everything you do is about changing yourself. And believe me, we all have room for a little change. Let’s focus on that sometimes, okay?
3. Be Generous
I don’t know if it’s the age we live in or if it’s a matter of my own experience due to living in the Western World or if it’s a reality, but so many of us are afraid of being generous. It’s like we truly believe there is only so much to go around…only so much money…only so many jobs or promotions or opportunities…only so many customers or chances or things.
I say that’s a very, very limiting belief. In my personal experience, the more we support others and lift them up and help them succeed, the more successful we become. I’ve seen it time and time again. One person helps another and somehow, that helpful person becomes even more successful, happier and richer (in so many ways).
If you are afraid of the success of others…if you are afraid to be generous…if you are afraid to help someone else up…please, take time today and sit with that in a silent meditation. Pray about it. Ask the question: Do I really believe there is not enough to go around? Do I really believe we can’t all be successful. And if the answer is yes, why?
And then go out there and help someone else find success. And when you do, sit with those feelings in meditation as well. Does it feel good or are you afraid? Do you want to feel good like this again or why are you still afraid? Meditate on it. Pray about it. Teach yourself to be generous to others. See how that one little change affects not only you but the people around you too.
5. Be kind
I think it’s important to always be kind to others. Now, I’m not perfect, this in no way means I’m always kind. It means I know I should be and I strive to be. And it means I believe it is important for you to do the same.
Being kind sounds easy because it is…when we’re talking about the people we love. But being kind is very, very hard when we’re talking about people who are not treating us with kindness. When our instincts kick in and we want nothing more than to lash out or get revenge or hurt someone the way they’ve hurt us. Being kind can all of a sudden take every ounce of our restraint. Being kind can be the farthest thing from easy.
But…remember earlier when we talked about only being able to control ourselves? Well…we cannot control whether or not others are kind. We can only control how we are.
And also remember…it’s important to be kind to yourself as well. Sometimes the kindest thing we can do (for ourselves and for the other person) is to walk away. There’s no reason any of us ever have to stay in hurtful situations or participate in hurtful conversations or be a part of anything that doesn’t feel good.
Consider, next time you want to lash out, do the kind thing instead, remove yourself from the situation. People get used to it and they don’t really like it. More often than not, the people you are walking away from will begin to change. But again…that’s not really your concern.
6. Take time alone with yourself
Whether you choose to do this in mediation, in a long bath or a long walk, by taking a vacation alone or by sitting outside enjoying the weather, it is critically important to take time to be alone with yourself. There are so many of us in this world that think we know ourselves but we really don’t. We can’t. We aren’t even comfortable being with ourselves for a few minutes at a time.
Make it a practice to get to know yourself again. Be alone with your thoughts. Write down your dreams (you’ve probably forgotten so many of them by now). Listen to your mind. Pay attention to what consumes it. Hear the stories you are telling yourself. Grasp on to your daydreams (whether good or bad). Take care of yourself. If you’re beating yourself up, you won’t find peace…but the first step to changing how you treat yourself is paying attention to how you treat yourself. If you can’t see what you’re doing that’s hurting you, you probably won’t stop the hurt. Get to know yourself again. Learn to love yourself again.
I know these steps are not a full plan for everyone…and as I said, finding peace is probably not a “one size fits all” deal…but I do believe it is a really good start and I believe with everything in me that making these changes in ourselves and taking this time to focus on ourselves will absolutely bring peace to our hearts more often than not. So I encourage you…sit with these steps…try them out for a week or so…see how it feels…and then come back and tell us all about it. If there is ever anything we can do to aid you in your journey to finding your own Zen…we’re here to help.
Brigett (and everyone at Kahanu Yoga & Meditation Spa)