“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” — Dalai Lama
To a disciple who was forever complaining about others, the Master said: “If it is peace you want, seek to change yourself, not other people. It is easier to protect your feet with slippers than to carpet the whole of the earth.”
The tale by Anthony de Mello reminds us that peace begins within. There’s no use demanding peace when we mock others and lead an unwholesome life.
Turmoil exists when we believe our thoughts are true. In fractured areas of the world, problems arise because people act out their thoughts.
To attain peace, we needn’t take part in peace rallies or demonstrations, for it is much simpler than that.
It begins with our thoughts and has a ripple effect in our life and the lives of others.
“When we hold on to our opinions with aggression, no matter how valid our cause, we are simply adding more aggression to the planet, and violence and pain increase. Cultivating nonaggression is cultivating peace. The way to stop the war is to stop hating the enemy,” states Pema Chodron in, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times.
Consider an inappropriate thought towards another person. If dwelled upon, it inflames other thoughts and leads to negative action.
The title of the article is adapted from a quote by the American brain neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor who experienced a stroke at the age of thirty-seven.
In her book titled, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey she states, “For me, it’s really easy to be kind to others when I remember that none of us came into this world with a manual about how to get it all right. We are ultimately a product of our biology and environment. Consequently, I choose to be compassionate with others when I consider how much painful emotional baggage we are biologically programmed to carry around.”
“While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart.” — Francis of Assisi
If you seek peace, begin by being mindful of your thoughts.
Many people are driven by unconscious desires and fall victim to their urges because they are unaware of them.
We can concede to the pain in the world or choose to nurture loving and compassionate thoughts in our everyday life.
Your greatest undertaking is learning to live with your thoughts without believing the narrative they promote.
I challenge any person, irrespective of their status, wealth or circumstances to sit alone with their thoughts. Only then will they discover their true self.
On one hand, we claim to have free will yet we’re unable to activate this power because of our unconscious desires.
Don’t be led by your fears and insecurities since they’ll lead you to dark places.
Be guided by creative thinking, which is the seat of the intuitive mind.
“Paying attention to automatic thoughts is simply a habit we can change. When you shift into awareness-based knowing, automatic thinking moves into the background, and you experience true peace of mind,” avows author and psychotherapist Loch Kelly in Shift into Freedom: The Science and Practice of Open-Hearted Awareness
If we’re invested in our thoughts, we’re unable to distance ourselves from them because we buy into the belief: I think, therefore I am. It was French philosopher René Descartes who first coined this phrase, proposing that thoughts are evidence you exist.
You are more than your thoughts. They are not the cause of your suffering or unhappiness, it is when you identify and attach yourself to them that you suffer.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” ― Martin Luther King Jr
Problems arise when you define yourself by your thoughts, instead of seeing them as a stream of consciousness flowing through the mind.
Thoughts are impermanent unless you associate with them.
You needn’t liberate yourself of unpleasant thoughts for peace to exist. Instead, avoid giving them attention by moving your awareness towards enriching thoughts.
I enjoy this passage from author Mary O’Malley from her book What’s in the Way Is the Way: A Practical Guide for Waking Up to Life, “Life created the mind as a tool for manoeuvring through Life, not to be in charge of it. The mind is a wonderful servant, but it is a horrible master. Giving it the task of being in charge of Life has created the world of struggle that most people live in all day long, keeping them cut off from peace and joy.”
As you move your attention away from destructive thoughts, they recede to give way to higher thinking. If you do this often, you will embody peace at a cellular level.
Peace is a choice, not something that requires dedicated study, under the guise of a spiritual guru. Whilst it certainly helps, peaceful thoughts arise in your moment to moment experience.
To know if your thoughts are positive or negative, observe your body when you think such thoughts.
For example, have the thought: “I hate myself, I’m a bad person.” Note the physical response in your body in comparison to: “I love and accept myself completely.”
Notice the latter is uplifting and effortless. Even if you don’t believe it, part of you identifies with it because it is tied to the essence of your core self.
Create peaceful conditions through: the music you listen to, the words you speak, your actions and the people you surround yourself with. These have an energising effect and can lead to wonderful experiences.
“Mindfulness offers a reliable and trustworthy path home; the mindful skills of attention, kindness, and acceptance can help you transform unhealthy habits into a way of being that embodies freedom and inner peace,” avows author Hugh G Byrne in The Here-and-Now Habit: How Mindfulness Can Help You Break Unhealthy Habits Once and for All.
As you become attuned to your body, you will appreciate how your thoughts and the accompanying emotions influence your physiology. In doing so, your body will relay messages on the accuracy of your thinking.
I have outlined the benefits of meditation on the mind-body experience in earlier articles. People believe they need to sit in a meditative pose for hours to achieve the positive effects of this practice.
Granted, whilst it has lasting benefits to the meditator, even five minutes a day of quiet reflection with your thoughts, can have a dramatic effect on your mind and body to begin with. As you become more attuned to sitting in silence, you may wish to increase the time. Your body will tell you when it is ready.
“The more open your heart is, the more you have access to your natural state of peace, well-being, and ease, no matter what is happening,” states Mary O’Malley.
If it’s inner peace you look for, look no further than yourself. This is the starting point of conflict and can be healed with the right intention and an open heart.
As the Master reminds us: it is easier to tend to your thoughts than to change the whole world.
Originally published at medium.com