As humans, we suffer when our attention is locked into painful thoughts and feelings. If you stop in any moment when you’re unhappy, you’ll be able to know exactly why you’re suffering.
You’ll notice that your attention is caught in thinking negative, agitating thoughts. You might be worrying about the future, ruminating about something that happened in the past, thinking about what you should have said or done, judging yourself or others in your mind.
You might be holding expectations about how you think things should be that aren’t being met. And you might be aware of emotions and tension in your body, feeling stressed, anxious, frustrated, or sad.
Waking Up to How We Suffer
We’re often unaware of where our attention goes unless we consciously take a look. And when we’re unaware, we mistakenly identify with limiting thoughts and emotions that just aren’t true.
They’re affecting our mood, how we show up in our lives and our relationships, and the decisions we make. Without our realizing it, these habits become our reality.
My experience of becoming aware of where my attention is focused makes it completely obvious why I’m not peaceful and happy in any moment. How could I possibly be happy if my experience is dominated by stress and negativity?
The first time I saw this, it was a huge and exciting revelation. If I knew how I was suffering, I knew that I could find my way to peace in any moment.
Ways to Peace
How to do that? Here are some of the ways I’ve found to be helpful. Try them out. Experiment. And know that it’s possible for you to be peaceful now…and now…and now…
- Develop a new way of relating to your experience. Make a U-turn with your attention away from the world. Tone down the drama and become curious about your in-the-moment experience instead.
- Become an expert in how you suffer. Notice what thoughts are consuming your attention. Realize how these thoughts affect your mood, how you show up with people, the life decisions you make. Now you’re motivated to find another way of being.
- These conditioned thought patterns don’t serve happiness. Shift your attention away from engaging with the content of the thoughts and instead just be aware that they’re present.
- Then get to know the experience of “being aware,” which itself is peaceful. Allowing thoughts to flow through you like clouds in the sky, you’re conscious and alive. Amazingly you realize that this “being aware” is not touched by the content of the thoughts. It remains peaceful no matter what thoughts and feelings are present. In the moments when you’re consciously aware, you’re not resisting your experience by believing it’s who you are.
- Use your breath and your senses to come alive to the present moment. What do you see, hear, and feel in your body?
- When you’re in the throes of a strong feeling, know that ruminating on the story about the feeling will only keep it locked into place. The experience of every feeling includes physical sensations. Instead of feeding thoughts, move your attention into your body. Notice the physical sensations and let them be present as they are without needing to get rid of them. This deep acceptance is a beautifully loving way to be with yourself. You stop resisting your experience, and you’re at peace.
- Our lives are way too busy, and our happiness is served when we slow down. Call it meditation or just sitting, but spend a little time every day being quiet.
- Reduce the mental and emotional noise around you. When we’re unconscious, we tend to move too fast and make decisions that don’t serve our peace and happiness. Becoming more aware, you might realize you want align your lifestyle to invite peace. This might mean you drink less, let go of people in your life who aren’t serving peace, watch less news and fewer violent movies, or reduce the drama in your life by gossiping less.
- Be on the lookout for spontaneous and natural experiences of joy, awe, wonder, tenderness, gratitude, heart-opening, and clarity—and experience them deeply.
- Relish in doing things you enjoy. Listen inside to how love, enthusiasm, aliveness, and creativity want to move you, then take action even if it’s scary.
- Have patience and compassion with yourself. It takes time to counteract decades of conditioning and unconsciousness. Stay committed to your desire for peace.
- Don’t feel frustrated when habits recur—that’s what habits do! Celebrate every sacred moment of waking up to the suffering so you can know peace.
Realize that you don’t have to be defined by unhappy thoughts and feelings. In any moment, let them go. And here you are, steeped in awareness, peaceful, and fully one with the unfolding of life.
What About You?
How do you find peace in any moment? Experiment with these suggestions and let us know in the comments how it goes. I’d love to hear… And if you’re reading by email, please click here to visit GailBrenner.com and to comment.