What does inner peace mean to you? This is an important question, because you’re more likely to find inner peace when you know what you’re looking for. When you create a definition that is real, practical, and usable in ordinary situations, you will have access to real peace — practical inner peace.
Let’s be real about inner peace. It doesn’t mean that you’re away from everything, meditating blissfully on a mountaintop. You want a definition that you can take with you into your daily reality. But doesn’t peace have to be total peace?
Ah ha — you want inner peace, and inner peace takes place within you. That means that you don’t need to have the all-encompassing one hundred percent peace that you fantasized about. You need something more subtle than that, and more real than that, too.
But how can you have peace in this material world, anyway?
Your reality has challenges, and those challenges aren’t going to go away. But you can face them, and that gives you a clue. When you face your challenges, at first, you may actually feel some moments of tension, fear, sadness, or any natural emotional response. But here is the key to understanding this at a new level of awareness…
You have the choice to be aware of your emotional response. There is an amazing power in simply noticing your response. You can notice this emotional response, but you don’t have to get stuck in your response. And you don’t have to fight your response, either.
So if you aren’t enmeshed in your emotional response, and if you aren’t vigorously fighting it, then where does the inner peace come from?
Peace isn’t the all-encompassing bliss-out state that many imagine. Real inner peace is alive and dynamic. Peace, as you are coming to understand it, co-exists with this world. Peacefulness is your ability to be present in any situation, while being present with your response to the situation. For example:
If you are focusing on your work, and there is a sound of a lawnmower outside, how is that going to affect your inner awareness? Is the sound distracting? Actually, it is somewhat distracting. But is the sound literally preventing you from working? Ah ha, the sound is a challenge, but it is not preventing you from working. But what is keeping you from your inner peace in this scenario?
The major element affecting your inner condition is not the sound of the lawnmower. Yes, the sound is admittedly somewhat bothersome, but it is not totally distracting. But if the sound is not the main issue, then what is the matter?
The irritant is your own response to the lawnmower sound. Your emotional response that troubles you is your own inner voice. Your inner voice is saying something about the bothersome lawnmower. And what’s more, your inner voice is insisting that until the sound is gone, you can’t work. Let’s look at this, because the moment you recognize your inner self talk, that is the moment that you get closer to inner peace.
Your inner voice is speaking automatically. It is always commenting on your reality. Some of your self talk is helpful, but much of it is merely reactive responses from your ego, and these emotional or dramatic responses are particularly unhelpful. To understand how to respond to your inner self talk requires understanding something about the art of being centered.
The centered person is able to notice their self talk. They do not deny their inner talk, but they do not give in to it. There is a special power in your being able to listen to your self talk. It is this: When you listen — without getting wrapped up in the words — the inner voice feels satisfied that it has shared its concerns. You have listened to its dire warnings about reality, and it is happy with that.
Now you recognize the purpose of the inner ego voice. It is trying to help you, but in its own somewhat childlike, dramatic way. And what would happen if you denied the existence of this inner dramatic voice? That is called denial, and it creates another problem, because to successfully avoid your inner voice, you have to suppress your aliveness. Suppressing your consciousness actually takes a lot of energy, and that is devitalizing — and it is distinctly not peaceful.
This is a fascinating paradox — if you want inner peace, it requires being present to your inner self talk, but not taking it seriously. And if you thought that inner peace was something that you would attain if you could entirely block your inner voice, think again. People try to block their inner self talk with drugs or alcohol. It doesn’t work, and it has side effects.
So you can have true inner peace, but now you have redefined it. You recognize that inner peace isn’t some blissful state of ignorance about the world. Inner peace is your capacity to experience something, to notice your response, and to keep on breathing and doing whatever you’re doing.
The first time you try this, your inner voice may remind you that you still feel tense, and so this approach isn’t working. Nice try, inner ego voice, but not clever enough. The shift to peace within comes from your being willing to explore this process gradually — you don’t get instant total results. Rather, you cultivate the ability to explore subtle levels of inner peace from moment to moment.
That is because the little shifts in consciousness come from your noticing subtle things that you didn’t notice before. For example:
1. You are now noticing your automatic inner voice response to a situation. You hadn’t been aware of it before.
2. You are now noticing that you don’t have to automatically repress your negative self talk. You can listen, thank it, and continue with your life.
3. You are noticing that you have natural bodily processes, such as your breathing. You are discovering that even if a situation seems to make your breathing tense at first, you can become aware of this response. And when you notice it, and gently become aware of your breathing, the breathing becomes smoother.
4. You are noticing that people, events, sounds, sights, and various influences do not actually prevent you from moving forward. You can choose to move gradually forward in your life, in spite of any influence.
5. You are noticing that when you follow these practices, you begin to sense a subtle glow of aliveness within you. That is the dynamic inner peace that you are discovering.
6. You are noticing that inner peace is not an all-or-nothing situation. Rather, peace is an ever shifting landscape, where you are exploring being present amidst situations, and you are discovering the many subtle aspects of peace within all those situations.
So you have made some new discoveries about inner peace, and you realize that peace is not as magical or mysterious as you may have thought. The recognition that peace is dynamic, existing in many forms, may be a revelation to you. This frees you to experience peace as it really is, rather than as a rare experience.
Isn’t that what you want? Something real that you can use in the world, every day? Not something that you have to wait for, or something lofty and unattainable, but something that is already within you. The tools are yours — your awareness, and your willingness to use your awareness to notice your breathing, notice your inner self talk, and your willingness to move forward towards your goals in each moment.
It almost sounds too easy. Here is another paradox — yes, this practice is easy, but it does require a bit of attention. If you’re willing to notice a few things, and play with these ideas, you can experience inner peace as it really is. But you might have to give up some lofty fantasies about an all-encompassing peace that exists in some mystic dimension. But in place of the idealized notions about peace, you will have attained the real thing — dynamic peace, in all its subtle levels of experience.
Yes, there really is inner peace. You already have the capacity for it, and you may well have created that kind of subtle peace many times before, perhaps without realizing it. You are invited to enjoy a peaceful day today — true dynamic peace as you now understand it — the peace that doesn’t resist the sound of the lawnmower, and that doesn’t resist your self talk about it either.
And besides, you can always close the window, notice your breathing, smile at the silliness of the situation, and continue with your work. May you enjoy the delights of your enriched perceptions in each moment, with every breath you take.