A Beautiful Way to Find Peace of Mind
Do you wonder how to find inner peace? Do you every ask yourself what it means to have peace of mind or if it’s even possible?
You might think I have it all figured out because I write this personal/spiritual development blog. You might imagine that I live in a state of constant inner peace and always act from a loving heart.
But I’m still very much on the journey, and sometimes, those perfect, idealized ways of being seem far, far away.
Indeed, over the past few years, bit my bit, my world turned upside down. Everything I relied upon was stripped away.
Instead of inner peace, I’ve felt heart-broken, bereaved, and completely disillusioned. I’ve felt lonely, lost, and uncertain. I’ve found myself falling into self-blame and self-criticism, so subtle at times it would go on and on before I caught myself. I’ve found myself wanting it all to be different, but also knowing it can never be the same nor would I truly want it to be.
Getting Real on the Spiritual Path
I’ve come to see I had unrealistic, sometimes far-fetched, ideas about my spiritual path, fueled by a narcissistic teacher, and about my own capacities as a spiritual speaker. Maybe I needed everything to be stripped away, like a hard knock on the head that brought me to my senses and face-to-face with a more matter-of-fact version of myself and what it truly means to be a truth seeker.
In light of all that’s happened, I’ve had to let go of magical thinking and see the spiritual path as it truly is. There may be a handful of exceptional people who suddenly wake up and live in peace, love, and clarity. But for most of us, spiritual awakening doesn’t occur in an instant, in six-months, or even a single lifetime. Finding inner peace takes commitment, and practice.
Indeed, it’s not easy to let go of negative emotions or to simply remain in or return to the present moment, practices that bring about a sense of peace and form the essence of many spiritual paths. We’ve been conditioned, all our lives, to follow and exaggerate distressing thoughts, and to live in the past or the future. No wonder my mind tormented me, when everything I had relied upon feel away.
I had perspective from my years of spiritual training, thank goodness. But still, there were times when my mind and heart felt tormented for hours and even days.
I’m reminded of something the 19th century mystic, Terton Sogyal has said about liberating negative thoughts, which puts the ability to find inner peace - what it really takes - into perspective:
“The real, true sign of whether you can liberate or not is when you actually meet, face to face, negative circumstances and thoughts, which arise blazing like a raging fire or bubbling like boiling water. If at that very moment you are able to liberate them, then that is really the same as a true miracle.”
If you are able to liberate one attachment, one aversion, one negative thought, then many aeons of negative karma are purified.”
Isn’t it just wishingful thinking, the spiritual equivalent to the happy ending, to believe you’ll quickly reach a state of equanimity, in which difficult circumstances and negative thoughts no longer faze you?
Wouldn’t it be more realistic to accept that, surely as a beginner and even as a dedicated meditator, negative thoughts and emotions will continue to arise in your mind, perhaps for a long time? Sure, you’ll have more moments of peace, maybe even stretches of peacefulness. But it will take time to more thoroughly erase the negative tendencies of mind. Just like when you try to erase writing on a piece of paper; often, there’s a stubborn residue that remains.
The Key to Finding Inner Peace
The key to finding inner peace, or at least a little bit more of it, isn’t in the abolishment of negative arisings, but in how you respond to them when they do occur.
If you know thoughts and emotions are transitory projections of the mind, and not the essence or awareness of mind, the part of you that knows and sees them, you can learn to allow them to dissolve on their own. In other words, behind all the thoughts and emotions, there is a pure awareness that can never be disturbed.
The first step to finding inner peace then is to sit quietly and observe the comings and goings of your mind, without judgment. And while this form of mindfulness is not the ultimate practice of meditation, it constitutes a necessary foundation to be able to one day liberate whatever taxing thoughts or emotions arise in your mind or heart.
When I sit in silence, in the present moment, with my senses wide open, aware of my thoughts, my emotions, and sensations, I no longer feel broken-hearted, disillusioned, or bereft. A feeling of peace begins to penetrate my mind and heart. The corners of my mouth turn up in a smile, my thoughts slow down, and I feel more spacious and at ease. In these moments, there’s a beauty and a resonance; a knowing this is the way.
It’s not a permanent state of peace. Difficult emotions still arise, attempting to lure me away from any sense of serenity. But when I’m able to just let them be, peace returns. I don’t suppress or deny them, but I also don’t follow them, making them bigger than they are. Slowly, slowly, they arise less often.
In that calmer place, when my mind settles. I’m naturally more in touch with my loving heart as well. It’s easier to see how we’re all twisted about by the fantastic stories we make up in our mind, rooted in the conditioning we received as children. For the most part, our suffering is homemade by the unconscious mind, but most of us don’t know how to get conscious and operate any differently.
Of course, when I get up off the cushion, I may be at peace for awhile, but later prone to distraction once again. I may be more easily drawn into distressing emotional dramas. But less so, the more I practice. Even with all the crises and difficult emotions of the past few years, I was still more grounded than ever before.
Mindfulness meditation isn’t the only way to find inner peace. Reading, listening to, or watching inspiring spiritual teachings also brings me into a greater sense of calm and clarity. But I think we need both. We need to slow down and be with ourselves often, if we wish to find inner peace.
Mindfulness meditation is not necessarily a panacea for every ill, as many purport it to be. Most people need to do their psychological work too. For people with trauma, mindfulness can be a trigger. And mindfulness needs to be used with common sense, not as a means of spiritually by-passing painful feelings, childhood wounds, or unmet developmental needs.
But no one else can work with your mind and heart. No one else can heal you. If you want to feel more at peace, you need to do the work, whether you begin in therapy or with therapeutic practices, start with mindfulness, or combine both.
I know for myself, I need to let go of magical thinking and do the work. Perhaps that’s the biggest lesson in having almost everything stripped away.
If you would like to know more about mindfulness meditation and be inspired on your spiritual path, check out these articles:
How do you find peace of mind? Are you able to sit quietly by yourself? If not, what stands in your way? I would love to hear in the comments.
Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious! Don’t forget to sign up for Wild Arisings, my twice monthly letters from the heart filled with insights, inspiration, and ideas to help you connect with and live from your truest self. Subscribers receive access to the Always Well Within Library of free self-development resources.