“It’s good to do uncomfortable things. It’s weight training for life.”
Inner peace. Isn’t that something we all want more of? Who doesn’t like feeling relaxed, happy, and at ease?
The reality for most of us is that inner peace seems to come and go. But if we take a very close look, we can see that peace is always here. In fact, it is our natural state. When our emotional reactions and conditioned patterns subside, here we are, peaceful once again.
Instead of peace being just another experience that pops up on the landscape of our being, consider this: peace actually is the landscape. It is the ground of being that everything else arises in.
Strategies Mask Our Reality
If we want to realize this endless well of peace, we must discover that there is great value in hard things. Our most challenging feelings, stories, and reactions mask the peace we long for. When we stop resisting and avoiding them, we end the inner war. We find that peace has always been here, available, patiently waiting.
Humans are infinitely creative, and sometimes we use this creativity to hide from ourselves. How many ways can you think of to avoid difficult inner experiences? The list is endless! We drink, smoke, snack, get busy, call someone, procrastinate, ruminate, plan, obsess, worry. We bring trouble to our lives in the form of addictions, relationship drama, and stress of all kinds.
The purpose of these strategies is to keep us from feeling pain. And in the avoidance of pain, we are denying ourselves the peace and contentment that are rightfully ours.
Take a look at anything you would define as a problem in your life, and I can guarantee that you are overlooking the feelings that are driving it.
Be in Harmony with Your Inner World
Inner peace means that there is harmony with all experiences that arise. Everything – and I mean everything – is included, accepted, and welcomed in. Nothing is left out. No strategies are used to ignore, push away, or manipulate. When we can relax in the face of any feeling or reaction that appears, peace remains undisturbed. The principle is very simple – if only we put it into practice.
Recently, I shared with a friend some frustrations I was wrestling with about my career path. Her response? “Everybody says they want peace. Then something hard comes up and they say, ‘No, not this.’” Her comment hit me right between the eyes – the issue was my avoidance of frustration and not a problem with my career. Now, that is a true friend.
How to Open to All Experience
Do you truly want to know lasting inner peace? Then your job is to learn how to be with challenging experiences. Consider these steps, and watch your life transform.
- Be willing. Find within yourself an openness to be with whatever experiences come your way. Vow to stay open, even if it’s hard.
- Know your strategies. Reflect inward to identify your particular avoidance strategies. Get to know them very well – what triggers them, how they work. Bring loving awareness to yourself as you see how you play out these strategies.
- Peel the onion. Start with an emotional reaction to anything, large or small. Create a huge field of compassion in your mind and heart, and feel the feelings. Don’t pay attention to thoughts about the feelings. Let the thoughts float away, and bring your attention into your body for the actual direct experience of the feeling. If this process is new to you, just try it out for a moment or two.
- Be in your experience. You will feel sensations in your body. You might have memories and feel like crying – or laughing. You might realize that what you have avoided for so long isn’t that painful after all. Know that the only way to be peaceful is to be in harmony with all experience.
What You Will Realize
You will notice a number of happy side effects that come from simply being with what is.
- Effortlessness. Being afraid of our feelings and using strategies to avoid them is exhausting. We are constantly on the lookout for any inkling of discomfort, then scurry to deflect from it. These inner dynamics sap energy, and simply being restores it.
- Truth. Avoidance strategies contain within them a subtle lie. We are lying to ourselves about what is actually happening in the moment, and at some level we know it. Telling the truth about reality as it is might be difficult in the beginning, but what we gain is a deep sense of integrity.
- Transformation. When we offer our loving attention to the most buried fragments of ourselves, we can’t help but change. When we are no longer driven by unconscious forces, we feel relaxed, whole, and clear.
- Empathy. When we welcome our own feelings, we connect with the universality of life. Fear is not just “my fear,” but we realize that everyone feels it. Same with sadness, loss, or inadequacy. We become so tender toward “others” who are suffering. And just as feelings are universal, so is the possibility of knowing lasting peace.
Certainly, life offers us an array of experiences to wake up from; we don’t need to go searching for them. However, I have found great benefit in practicing. And my venue for practice is the yoga mat.
I have come to so appreciate the value of holding a challenging pose. I see so clearly that the mind wants to quit way before the body needs to. I open to the opportunity to recognize the stories that run through my mind and feel the terror and desperation without escaping. I experience that it’s OK to be uncomfortable, and discover that even that is a story. The power of simply being brings unimaginable peace and joy.
Whether through yoga, another form of movement, or just living life, allow yourself to discover the great value in hard things. And see if your light doesn’t shine brighter.
What have you discovered about facing the hard? Do you find it challenging? I’d love to hear…