The first step to inner and outer peace is to ask ourselves who we truly are. Many people believe they are a human being who can have a spiritual experience, yet we might consider that we are spiritual beings having a human experience When we remember who we truly are, we come back to the peace of our own soul. When we discover that our own consciousness is filled with bliss, then we stop trying to manipulate and control others as we allow life to unfold and reharmonize itself the way the ancient Taoists have prescribed
As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Matthew Brownstein.
Matthew is the author of the book Peace Under All Circumstances and The Sacred Geometry of Meditation. He is a philosopher and religious scholar, who runs the Institute of Interpersonal Hypnotherapy and OnlineMonastery.com, where offers in depth teachings on The Anahat Meditation System. Matthew has dedicated his life to creating more health, wealth, and enlightenment through his Life Mastery Course, while helping others to find inner peace regardless of external circumstances.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
In 1992, I had a powerful spiritual awakening which showed me that pervading all of time and space is one universal love, light, peace, and joy, which many call God. The experience was so awe-inspiring that it changed my life forever. Being in college at the time, I changed my major to philosophy and religion to figure out what had happened. That then led to living in various monasteries and ashrams, and in the Himalayas in India where I studied with great masters. My quest to be able to guide all beings to this experience of oneness also led to the healing arts where I attended two Chinese Medical Colleges and continued with in depth training in Clinical Hypnotherapy and Neuro-Linguistic Programming. In 1997, I opened Anahat Meditation Center, which eventually grew into Anahat Education Group, OnlineMonastery.com, and Silent Light Publishers. Most of my work continues with The Institute of Interpersonal Hypnotherapy, my books, and through the Online Monastery project.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
After leaving the Zen Monastery, I went to meditate on the top of a mountain. I was not familiar with the area and it started raining. Night fell and I could not find my way down. I realized that the safest thing to do was to stay on the mountain top, yet I had no camping gear, no flashlight and not enough clothing to keep me warm. The temperature dropped to about 40 degrees and it was so dark that I could not see my hand in front of my face. In the midst of the pouring rain, I managed to find a large stone to sit meditation upon. I began intense meditation practice to regulate my body temperature and to survive the night. The power of intense meditation is what I attribute to surviving an almost freezing rain-soaked evening alone on a mountain top. When the sun rose, it was a truly beautiful sight.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
People need to be awoken to who they truly are. If meditation could be brought into the workplace, then people could connect with their own inner peace and creativity before the day begins. People could learn to sit and breathe and to work harmoniously with each other as they honor that each person has something truly unique to bring to this world. A thriving work culture, filled with happy people, could come about from encouraging each person to open up to who they truly are, find the joy that is within them, and then work in truly collaborative ways where love and kindness become the basis of all that we do. We all get upset in relationships from time-to-time, yet this provides the fuel to allow us to forgive, respect each other, and return to loving and harmonious relationships, which produce awe-inspiring results.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Old Path, White Clouds, Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha by the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh is one of the many that stand out. The book is a sweet retelling of the story of the Buddha’s journey, enlightenment, and life’s mission. After seven years of intense spiritual practice, the Buddha simply stopped and meditated under the now famous Bo Tree. There he attained his enlightenment and from there he founded monastic orders which disseminated his teachings to the world. One man dedicated his life to relieving the suffering of all beings and simply by sitting still under a tree he changed the world. I resonate with the stories of the great saints and sages because their lives show us that one enlightened being can create ripple effects of peace, understanding and compassion which can influence countless millions of people.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?
Mindfulness is a gentle term for the more advanced states of being that long-term meditators achieve. In meditation, we generally practice some form of concentration where we place our attention upon an internal or external object of consciousness. By coming back again and again to this object which is always in the present moment, we release the past and the future and dwell in the here and now. This intense concentrated power can then be placed upon our very own consciousness. We can be aware that we are aware. Being mindful of the moment and the one who is observing the moment brings us to a profound state of peace. Being mindful is simply what an advanced meditator does at every moment, where everything that we do becomes spiritual practice.
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?
The body has two primary modes of functioning. We have the parasympathetic nervous system response, which is fight or flight, and we have the sympathetic nervous system, which is the rest, digest and heal response. When we are stressed out, our body remains stuck in flight or flight mode and our digestion and immune systems are robbed of vital life force energy. By finding inner peace and returning to it constantly if we waver from it, we find a mind that becomes calm and clear, a heart that remains open, happy, and loving, and a body that follows. Psychosomatic illness is the result of the mind causing major health problems. Inner peace is health. When we are not at peace, we are not healthy. When we harbor hurt, sadness, fear, anger, guilt and shame, our bodies react in very disharmonious ways. Mindfulness could therefore be considered as a way of releasing the illusory past and future and coming into the present moment where true peace resides. As long as we are mindful in the here and now, then peace is always possible.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each?
The first step to inner and outer peace is to ask ourselves who we truly are. Many people believe they are a human being who can have a spiritual experience, yet we might consider that we are spiritual beings having a human experience When we remember who we truly are, we come back to the peace of our own soul. When we discover that our own consciousness is filled with bliss, then we stop trying to manipulate and control others as we allow life to unfold and reharmonize itself the way the ancient Taoists have prescribed.
My experience of asking Who am I? has caused a significant change in my psyche and in my physiology. By always being open to the pure potential of who I am, I have been able to reach heights that I never would have dreamed of. I have experienced corporate success beyond what I ever could have imagined when my company was running from the top of a skyscraper and when I semi-retired at 41 years old, and when I found myself flying my paraglider at 13,000 feet over the Sacred Valley of Peru near Machu Pichu or flying around the Christ the Redeemer statute in Brazil. I never cease to be amazed at what surrendering to life with a beginner’s mind can do as long as I am willing to let go of who I thought I was in exchange for the glorious reality of who I am and who we all are.
The second step, after asking Who am I? is to ask if I can handle whatever is happening now. If I answer, “Can I handle this?” with no, then I suffer. If I say, “Yes, I can handle this”, then I open to all of the power, strength and inner resolve that is always within me.
I have been quite exhausted in the past when I used to see many clients and students each day, day in and day out. I have had weeks where I saw 30 clients per week to help them to find inner peace, while also teaching many classes on meditation. It can be exhausting, yet when I ask, “Can I handle this?”, and answer “Yes, I can,” then my body, mind and emotions respond with a virtually inexhaustible supply of energy.
The third step to peace, once I know who I am and that I can handle the situation before me, is to ask myself if I can be at peace with it. If a situation is challenging, and even if it is causing me stress, I can simply ask “Can I be at peace with this?” If I answer no, then I suffer, yet if I can handle the situation, then I can be at peace with the situation. Peace does not mean that my body, mind and emotions feel good in that moment, yet my remembering who I truly am as the observing consciousness who can handle anything, then I find that I can always be at peace with any situation, regardless of inner or outer circumstances.
This principle has shown me that peace is always a choice and is available to us at every moment. I do this when standing in long lines, when stuck in traffic, when handling challenging relationships, or even when I just lie down in bed at night. I simply tell myself, “I could be at peace right now and I choose to be.” This simple choice makes all the difference in the world.
The fourth step to peace is to reinforce the idea that I am the observing consciousness and that I am not my mind, emotions, or body. I am the observer of my human self and here I simply ask, “Who is observing this right now?” This establishes the idea of a subject-object relationship. When I remember to be the observer of my feelings, I can then let them go and not be caught up in them. It is okay to have emotions, yet it is important to observe those emotions and not to suppress them. The easiest way to remain at peace, even when life is challenging and emotions flare, is to pull back to be the observer and to remember that my emotions cannot hurt me.
I have done this throughout my entire adult life. When I meditate, I often focus on my own consciousness and I reinforce the awareness that I am the observer of my body, mind, and emotions. I train myself to be able to pull back and to observe process. It is rare that I must push hard to accomplish anything. Life seems to unfold easily and naturally when we are simply allowing what is to be what is. By observing my emotions, I can allow them to move through me and my system remains clear most of the time. Then, if there is any form of upset, it becomes a sort of barometer to know how to best respond. By being mindful of being the observer, I am much more in touch with how I feel, and I can surrender and let go, trusting process to unfold naturally from a peaceful inner center.
The fifth step to finding peace, is to ask, “What am I feeling right now?” It is very important to keep our heart’s open and not to suppress our emotions. Inner peace does not come from closing our hearts and not feeling. Human beings get hurt and we get sad, we become afraid and we get angry. This is normal and natural. There is nothing wrong with being human and having human emotions. When we ask, “Who am I” and “Who is observing this right now?” then we reestablish ourselves in the seat of the observer. When we ask, “What am I feeling right now?” then we make space for our heart to feel whatever it does. If we are willing to let go and to allow our human self to be as it is, then it balances itself out. Disharmony leads to oneness, and that which seemed to be disturbed finds its own equilibrium and balance.
To me, this relates to forgiveness because when I allow my feelings to be there, and I realize that I do not want to feel bad, then I can forgive, release, and let go. People harbor hurts and anger. This is unhealthy. It is okay to feel feelings and to simply let them go. Meditation teaches us to remain in the present moment. Sometimes we have feelings in the moment which do not feel peaceful. Instead of resisting them to find peace, we release them, and peace is what is left. This has always been my experience since I began meditation over 25 years ago.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
The first step in supporting others who are not feeling well is to validate their feelings and simply to listen. Meditation allows us to be with what is. If another person feels bad, and we are conscious enough, then we can hold space for them, hear what they have to say, apologize when necessary, and then truly let them know that they are heard. Reflective/Empathic Listening is a truly great skill. We feedback what we heard the other person say and we let them know that we are working to understand them. We do not ignore them or try to change them. We do not talk about ourselves. We simple listen and when a person feels truly heard and understood, then they feel free to let go and to return to being happy. When we learn to truly listen, then we never interrupt someone. It is not about us. Good listeners are a powerful force to bringing about peace, understanding and love.
After listening to the person who is essentially calling out for love and support, then we can ask, “What do you need to feel better right now?” It is a simple and compassionate request that honors that another person is not at peace. We can do our best to get them what they want or need, without any sense of sacrifice on our part, because being of service to another person is to be of service to myself. By truly listening and understanding, then I can find out what the other person is asking for and simply ask them what they need to feel better. Often the requests are easy to fulfill and if I am humble enough to put myself aside for a moment, then I can reestablish peace for them and therefore for me. Once I help them to get what they want or need, then I can ask again, “And what would feel even better?” as I go beyond what either of us thought was possible.
Another major step in finding peace is to ask if I am willing to let go of my perceptions and of my need to be right. Everyone has their own way of seeing things and I have learned that I would rather be happy than be right. By releasing the need to be right, we can allow both people to find that which is harmonious and beneficial for all involved. To do this, I simply ask “Am I willing to let this go?” Letting go, does not mean letting go of the relationship, yet rather letting go of the part of me that is struggling. The mind can cling to its own limited perceptions or it can release, let go and allow. People tend to transform beautifully when we do the latter.
A fourth powerful step to helping others to be at peace, is to practice forgiveness and to teach forgiveness by simply being it. Most people are afraid of forgiveness because they are attached to the idea that anger brings them what they want. It is okay to get angry and to have emotions because that is what human beings do, yet each form of upset is a chance for healing and for a return to love. When other person is upset, I choose to forgive myself for having a human response and I forgive them for having a human response. When I can listen, find what I can do to make things better, let go of my old perceptions, choose to be happy, and forgive myself and others, then peace is an easy next step.
Another powerful practice in helping another person to feel better, is called Pacing and Leading. If I listen to them and allow them to be who they are, and if I work to understand them, then I am pacing their reality. This softens the person because they can be themselves. I can then lead them back to peace by holding a state of peace within my own being. I do not necessarily drop down to their level, yet I honor where they are at and gently work to guide them to peace by simply being peace. Being peace is a choice that I make repeatedly as a habit in every moment. If there is upset, it is still my job to pace and lead myself and the other person back to peace. In this, the more conscious force in a relationship can be the one who reestablishes trust and rapport, and then great things can occur when two minds join for a common good. By choosing to forgive and return to peace and love, the other person eventually opens up to who they truly are, they are allowed to reach their full potential, and win-win relationships tend to occur most of the time. To win, is simply to be at peace and to find that everyone is made better off.
What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?
I am very passionate about my new website www.OnlineMonastery.com, because mindfulness, while beautiful, is a watered down version of much deeper spiritual teachings. On that website I teach The Anahat Meditation System, which anyone can do from the comfort of their own homes and in any moment of their life. On that website, I have hundreds of hours of free classes on meditation, sacred geometry, Peace Under All Circumstances, Meditations on Higher Consciousness, and teachings on healing and enlightenment. My books Peace Under All Circumstances, The Sacred Geometry of Meditation, The Anahat Meditation System, and The Sutras on Healing and Enlightenment all capture my highest intentions to heal the world through healing the heart and mind and by awakening people to who they truly are.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
One of my favorite life lesson quotes is “Do not go out to energies, let energies come to you.” By being at peace within myself, I tend to vibrate at wonderfully high rates and The Law of Attraction simply teaches that like attracts like. The Tao Te Ching teaches that you never need to leave your house to create world peace. This relates back to the idea of Buddha simply sitting under a tree. By doing nothing, everything can be accomplished. The wise leader simply sits back and observes process. It is rare that I must reach out to others. I simply watch how people come to me. I keep an open-door policy for people who are drawn to my life’s mission to come my way. By observing process, I see that there is a harmony to life and what I need comes to me when I need it. The less I do, the better my life seems to be, however doing less does not mean doing nothing. It means that I put my whole heart into whatever is in front of me, yet I allow life to bring me what I am meant to interact with. This keeps me from creating drama and useless journeys that lead nowhere. I simply focus on who I truly am and what my life’s mission is and with an undying determination to fulfill my life’s mission, I find that all that I need is there when I need it.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’ve already started my movement to bring about the most good for the most people through my books and teachings. I founded Anahat Meditation Center in 1997 and the Institute of Interpersonal Hypnotherapy in 2007. Through www.InstituteofHypnotherapy.com I have created almost 1,000 very well-trained Hypnotherapists who work towards the healing and enlightenment of humanity. To this day, I continue to teach The Anahat Meditation System every Sunday night at 7:00pm EST through www.OnlineMonastery.com all around the world. I never stop teaching, seeing clients, empowering others with careers, and creating teams of people who bring these teachings out into the world. The movement towards peace and harmony was already established by the great saints and sages of this world. I am simply doing my part to keep carving footprints in the jungle for others to follow which lead them to true healing and true enlightenment. I believe that everyone has their part to play in “The great crusade to eliminate all error,” and that by returning to Truth we are all set free.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
For those interested in a powerful meditation system, which can serve at its own spiritual path, or can supplement any other spiritual or religious path, I recommend www.OnlineMonastery.com.
For those interested in my Interpersonal Hypnotherapy Trainings, books, free classes, and blog articles, they can visit www.InstituteofHypnotherapy.com.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!