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Life can be easy. Life can be hard.
For me, some days I struggle just to get out of bed and other days I’m up and brimming with energy and positivity. Kind of an ‘all or nothing’ energy blueprint that is rooted in growing up in an alcoholic family. I always say ‘family’ rather than one person being an alcoholic because it is a disease that touches the entire family system and every person in it has their own struggles with the aftereffects.
When I was a teenager someone told me about al-anon meetings and it was there that I learned the Serenity Prayer and the concept of accepting what I could not change – my alcoholic father, the pain in my family, my mother’s depression and much more. At that time it was a new idea for me – an invitation to stop trying to ‘fix’ my family. It was an invitation I ignored for many years and inner peace remained just beyond the horizon – always out of reach.
With today’s busy lives, inner peace can seem even more difficult to achieve. But that just means you have to understand what inner peace actually is and where it comes from. What I’ve learned is that:
Inner Peace is a CHOICE.
And that choice is found in this idea of acceptance.
For a long time I thought acceptance meant that I somehow approved of what was going on. I didn’t realize that acceptance was about facing ‘what is’ rather than what I thought could be or should be. And in that gift of acceptance was the impetus to change what I could change – myself.
It is easy to get caught up in the emotional drama around you. Life can throw a lot of challenges your way – a health crisis, a career crisis, the loss of a loved one, the end of a marriage and the less personal barrage of negativity that comes from the daily newscasts.
Add to that your own judgments of self and others, wounded concepts of self-worth and the invisible prison of other people’s opinions and it is inevitable that you expend effort trying to control what is outside you. And wanting to control what is outside you is the opposite of inner peace.
There is a lot of frenetic, volatile energy in the world that can seep into your own energy field and the impulse to focus on it, worry about it and obsess over it can be compelling. Until you realize that you are not your thoughts. You are not your emotions. You are so much more than that – you are energy and that energy is creative and filled with light.
So the path to inner peace is one that runs within you.
And that brings me full circle back to the Serenity Prayer:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. ~~Theologian Reinhold Neibuhr
For me this simple prayer didn’t take hold until I was able to bring the energy of loving kindness into my mind, heart and actions. And that meant first and foremost that I had to love and accept myself, flaws and all. So that is the first step on the path to inner peace:
1) Love Yourself.
Such simple words but perhaps not so easy to put into action. Within the ability to love yourself are the gifts of non-judgment, acceptance and forgiveness. So Step #1 on the path to inner peace is to treat yourself as if you were the most precious of beings – the most cherished, the most worthy of love and kindness. Because you are. Breathe that truth into your heart. What would it mean if you could fully accept that truth? Who would you be? What would you do that perhaps you have been afraid to do? What would you create? Find ways to turn this idea of loving yourself into actions that demonstrate that love. Take care of yourself in ways large and small. Put love into action first with yourself, then with others.
2) Change Your Thoughts.
You are not your thoughts. The second step on the path to inner peace is to monitor and challenge your thinking. As you do this you may find that the thoughts that float through your mind are inconsistent with how you truly feel and who you truly are. You may find that most of them are fear-based and negative. And as you monitor your thoughts you may be surprised to realize that you have been unaware of their impact on your ability to feel at peace in your life. You can use mindfulness meditation to work with first recognizing your thoughts and then changing them. As you change your thoughts to ones of love, kindness and acceptance you will find you are more peaceful and less affected by the drama that goes on around you.
3) Daily Presence.
Only today exists. And within the borders of a single day, every day, you have all you need to live a life of peace, love and kindness. Worry takes you into a future that hasn’t and might never happen; and ruminating on losses of the past keep you from experiencing the joy inherent in the present. Only today exists. Use that as a mantra and know that whatever comes before you today you will be able to handle. Life does not exist in a status quo. Life is ever-changing. Some days will bring loss. Some days will bring excitement. Some days will be boring. Some days will be busy. Life is ever-changing. What stays constant is you. If you step into daily presence then you can weather whatever comes your way today. Only today exists. Make it a day of love, peace and kindness.
Wishing you love, light and peace today and every day.