Imagine a world where we are passionate and energized by our life’s work, where all of our relationships are stress-free, loving and expanding, and where each day for us is filled with joy, safety and deep knowing that we are a part of a bigger whole. In this world, there is no war and starvation or unresolved conflicts and broken relationships, because in a world of abundance and plenty nobody goes without. This world is without problems. It is one of peace. Do you think this world is possible?
In my work with clients and research on human potential, I believe the ability to experience inner peace is very achievable. Even today – with the rush and demands of modern life – there are those who experience a life of peace and abundance. Inner peace is not just available to the spiritual giants. It’s available to each and every one of us, right now! So, how can this be possible?
Upon examining the writings of ancient sages, spiritual leaders, as well as many of today’s success gurus, peace is a primary goal common to all traditions and patterns of thought – the idea of achieving peace, first internally by experiencing personal, inner peace, and then expanding externally to others and the environment – eventually leading to the creation of true peace on Earth.
All the great religious traditions, including Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity and Buddhism, use the word peace when greeting or addressing each other. For the Jewish tradition, it’s "Shalom." In yoga, it’s Shanti (peace in Sanskrit). For the Christians, the greeting "Peace be with you" is standard. "Blessed are the peacemakers," said Jesus, who was also named the Prince of Peace.
From the Eastern Traditions, Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk, advocates the practice of mindfulness that brings peace in every step. Master spiritual teacher Lao Tzu, a messenger of peace, wrote the Tao Te Ching (604 BC). According to the Buddha, "Better than a thousand hollow words is one word that brings peace."
When teaching A Course on Miracles, my business partner Bobbie Bridges and I found that the main goal of this extensive study is to move from a state of fear, lack, competition and scarcity to a place of love, abundance, joy and peace. The Course teaches, "To Be Peace, Teach Peace." So, the question is how do we teach peace when we don’t have it? How can we choose peace, rather than this?
Here and Now
We achieve peace through internal transformation. Peace is not sought after, external or attained. It starts in our own mind, here and now. It’s about understanding that we live in a world of conflicting belief systems based on fear, competition and meaninglessness. It’s impossible for our minds to choose peace if we’re coming from a place of lack and scarcity.
Living in the past or wishing for the future is a sure set-up for disappointment. Ultimately, we have a continuous progression of "now" moments. The secret to happiness and inner peace shared by great mystics throughout the ages is to do just what you are doing, but to do it with present-moment awareness – in the now. The book, Peace is Every Step, by Thich Nhat Hanh, is a wonderful introduction to achieving this blissful state.
There are some amazing resources that have helped my clients move into the "now" – from the lower fear-based states of being into more higher vibrational states of love, joy and peace. The CD, 101 Power Thoughts by Louise Hay, has always been a favorite of my clients. Such books as The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, Power Versus Force by David R. Hawkins, and As You Think by James Allen are additional resources that open the mind to the possibility of achieving inner peace in the now. Remember, there are limits to material growth, but there are not limits to inner enlightenment!
Taking 100 percent responsibility is a concept that has to be instilled before moving forward into a life of inner peace and success – and that’s total responsibility for everything you experience in life. When we release the need to blame and take responsibility for our lives, we increase our personal power and create the future we want. According to many success gurus, there are only three things we can control in life: the thoughts we think, the images we visualize and the actions we take. How you use these three things determines everything you experience.
According to Dr. Wayne Dyer, author of the Power of Intention and many other books on human potential and healing, "If you change your mind, you’ll solve your problems." And, Marcus Aurelius adds, "The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts." This is the foundational principal underneath living life "consciously" versus "unconsciously." At any given moment in our lives, we always have a choice about our thoughts.
A Course in Miracles suggests that when your peace of mind is threatened in any way, say to yourself, "I can see peace in this situation instead of what I see now." This is the first step to taking personal responsibility. Identifying the things that threaten your peace of mind and then taking action shifts your thinking from fear, lack and frustration to personal power and peace.
My personal experience is that taking 100 percent responsibility in my life has allowed me to make the changes necessary to achieve inner peace and happiness. So, take responsibility for developing your own regular program of self-care and consider some of the following practices that will open the door to your own self-awareness and start you on the path of inner discovery, as you release old ways of thinking and being and move to higher levels of consciousness. Now that’s true success!
Practices that encourage Inner Peace
Today, there are many mind/body practices that encourage inner peace. Yoga was the mind/body practice that opened my mind to its potential for achieving inner peace. Tai Chi and Qigong are other similar practices, and there are many others. The important step here is to start a mind/body practice. Find a class or a teacher that resonates with you and then make a commitment go regularly. Like most people, you’ll find the personal transformation you experience will lead to a regular home practice as well.
Many of the mind/body practices above include a period of meditation – just to give you a taste. Older than organized religion and common to virtually every culture on the planet, meditation is a tool that allows you to open to each moment of life with calm awareness.
Studies by physician-researcher Harold Bloomfield show how inner silence is crucial to your health. Bloomfield’s work is among more than a thousand laboratory studies showing meditation "reduces anxiety, tension, irritability, chronic fatigue and depression." He claims that meditation creates a state of deep rest, marked by decreases in heartbeat rate, oxygen consumption, perspiration, muscle tension, blood pressure and levels of stress hormones.
When Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers," he clearly understood the importance of choosing peace rather than this.
My first experiences with meditation were from a Judeo-Christian tradition, and they still continue to be through prayers such as the St. Francis Prayer of Peace. "Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace" is a wonderful mantra (repetition of sound) for meditation.
Mother Teresa often espoused the value of silence and meditation saying, "God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, grass – grow in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence…We need silence to be able to touch souls."
There are many forms of meditation, and finding the right one for you can seem overwhelming. One form that my clients seem to embrace easily is Conscious Breathing – or the awareness of each breath. Our breath is the link between our body and mind. It is scientifically proven that when our breath slows down, our mind slows down and relaxes, creating a sense of calm and peacefulness that improves your mood and promotes healing.
A daily practice of 20 minutes of balanced deep-breathing will increase your physical and mental energy. Simply lie on your back (sitting is fine, too), and observe your breath, making it balanced and following it from the beginning to the completion of each inhale and exhale. Feel the transformation to a calmer state of mind.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that as life rushes by, peace is available to us in any moment. According to Thich Nhat Hanh, "Each action in the sunlight of awareness becomes sacred."
One way to cultivate mindfulness is by eating mindfully. Each bite contains the energy of the sun and the earth. The practice of mindfulness can be extended to doing the dishes, cleaning or walking. With mindfulness we slow down and see the miracles all around us. As Lao-Tzu puts is so well, "If you scramble about in search of peace, you will lose your inner peace!"
The practice of mindfulness can even be extended to the basic act of smiling. A smile on the face relaxes hundreds of muscles in our body. New research shows a link between facial expressions of joy and the production of real joy in our nervous system. Be mindful of the expression you’re wearing on your face – and practice more smiling!
In the wilderness
To find peace, go to nature. Listen to the wind whisper through the trees, see the sky’s colors reflecting in the water, feel the softness of a bed of moss. Communing with nature almost always brings peace and serenity. By making time in nature a regular part of your own self-care program, you have the opportunity to practice concentration, awareness and mindfulness – with many of the same benefits as seated meditation.
In the East, walking meditation is just as important as a seated meditation practice. A walking meditation is also a good technique for restlessness. Walking meditation is done very slowly, with the goal of total awareness of the beauty around you. This practice, done without purpose or compulsion in a relaxed way, can greatly enhance happiness and inner peace. Take a walking meditation in the wilderness and become the peace that surrounds you.
Achieving inner peace takes time and commitment, but as Dr. Dyer says, "your sense of inner peace depends on spending some of your life energy in silence to recharge your battery, remove tension and anxiety, reacquaint yourself with the joy of knowing your Source, and feel closer to all of humanity." And, it’s available NOW. At any point in time, you can replace your feelings of depression, anxiety or worry – or thoughts about a situation, person or event – with Peace.
If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.
– Lao Tzu