“The pursuit of inner peace is more important than the search for happiness or success.”
If you’re reading this article, it’s probably because you find inner peace to be elusive. You’re not alone.
Given the turmoil of our planet due to climate change, the ongoing COVID pandemic quickly followed by a loneliness pandemic, and deeply divided, cynical, and angry people everywhere we look, it’s understandable that so many of us feel stressed, lonely, and exhausted.
From the American Psychological Association:
“We are facing a national mental health crisis that could yield serious health and social consequences for years to come.
There is no question: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a substantial impact on the lives of all Americans, and it will continue to do so. It has disrupted work, education, health care, the economy, and relationships, with some groups more negatively impacted than others.”
Cultivating inner peace sounds like a good remedy for these issues. You might, like millions of others, decide to start up a spiritual practice in search of it. Here, too, you wouldn’t be alone.
According to the statistics from MedAlertHelp, people start yoga to:
reduce tension (54%)
increase mental and physical strength (52%)
improving mood (43%)
dedicating more time to themselves (27%)
Included in the statistic for reducing tension is a desire to find inner peace.
But inner peace is so much more than a mere moment of tranquility. Often, what we’re experiencing during spiritual practice, such as yoga, is momentary relaxation for having temporarily slipped out of our skins — the roles and activities of our lives. We’re feeling a sense of relief for not having any impositions or pulls on us for an hour or so. We’re experiencing a deep rest that comes when we separate from society for a while.
But inner peace takes us deeper than simple relaxation, it’s longer lasting than relief, and it’s more restorative than rest alone. Inner peace is an experience of deep, lasting acceptance of who and where we are in our lives. It transcends what we’re doing and fuses with who we are.
According to Psychology Spot:
“…inner peace involves much more than freedom from negative emotions and feelings, it also means being aware of the wonders of life and feeling fully connected to the universe and to ourselves.”
Regardless of the turbulent times we now live in, inner peace is attainable for all of us—with or without a formal spiritual practice.
Six Real-Life Ways to Experience Inner Peace
“You cannot find peace by avoiding life.”
Inner peace is a real phenomenon. It’s something we all deserve to experience in our lives. It’s waiting inside each of us, like a pearl inside an oyster. And, it doesn’t require us to step out of our lives to experience it.
True inner peace doesn’t require we step away from the normal expectations of and pulls on our lives. It can co-exist alongside, and in fact thrive within, the most ordinary, mundane, difficult, and “non-spiritual” moments and days of our lives.
If you can’t seem to find inner peace while practicing Downward Facing Dog, not to worry. Here are six ordinary, real-life things that are guaranteed to lead to inner peace.
“Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued—when they can give and receive without judgment.”
We are social creatures. But, because of the world we live in, many of us wisely have our protections up around people.
I’m like a porcupine with my quills on the ready when I meet someone new. I suppose “porcupine” is my metaphor for “boundaries.” Usually, within a few moments, I can tell whether or not this new person is someone I’d like to get to know better and open up to. If not, I keep my quills up. But if so, the quills come down, and from there, I can experience a true sense of connection.
Conversing with someone and connecting with them are two different things. If we could watch the energy flow between conversations, we would recognize the truth of this. If we’re just talking with someone to pass the time but not feeling a connection, the energy moves up and around and dissipates. It doesn’t penetrate either person. It doesn’t change anyone or lead to healing or growth. But, when two or more people truly connect, an energetic throughline runs through them, connecting their hearts and minds. Even if we can’t see this, we can feel it.
To me, that experience of true connection opens up a feeling of inner peace. A true sense of belonging and being seen for who I really am.
Truthful, honest, open expression
“Peace without truth is false peace.”
~Manachem Mendel of Kotzk
Nothing shuts down our ability to experience inner peace faster than having to stay quiet when we have something to say. Or worse, being in a situation where we have to carefully monitor our words and ideas.
I have to shut down certain expressions of my truth around some family members and friends so as not to ruffle feathers. Probably a lot of us choose to do this. But this action, designed to “keep the peace”, actually shuts down access to our own inner peace. We leave these conversations feeling drained and frustrated.
I know some people who work in corporate environments have to be careful what they say online. It might be necessary to keep the job, but it does tax our soul when we stifle and silence ourselves.
The more we can find people, places, and opportunities in which we can express our most authentic, true selves—our emotions, our ideas, our hopes, and our fears—the more we will find ourselves settling into our inner peace.
“The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul.”
~ Dieter F. Uchtdorf
It is not true that only some people are born to be artists. Human beings are inherently creative beings. An artist is anyone who seeks to make the world more beautiful and honest. It’s anyone who finds joy in birthing something new into the world.
To be at peace with ourselves, we must find creative outlets, for the act of creating connects us with the eternal world behind our world—the world of imagination, beauty, and magic.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was best known for co-writing the best-selling book, On Grief and Grieving, with David Kessler. But did you know that after her passing, Kessler added a sixth step to the process of moving through painful times in our lives?
“In his new book, Mr. Kessler said that following the death of his son, “I knew I couldn’t and wouldn’t stop at acceptance. There had to be something more.”
That “more,” he concluded, is meaning. He calls it “the sixth stage of grief, the stage where the healing often resides.” It can take any one or more of many forms. It can, as Ms. Cohen has done, strive to keep others from being killed by a vehicle, or in Mr. Kessler’s case, from dying of an accidental drug overdose like the one that killed his son.”
Kessler understood that acceptance, the last stage of the original process, was not enough. For human beings struggling to find peace, especially after grief and loss, we need to move on from acceptance into meaning-making.
My friend and fellow writer
recently pointed me to a worthy quote about “meaning-making” from Viktor Frankl in his book In Man’s Search for Meaning.
What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life — daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.
Like all of us, I get despondent from time to time as I try to determine where and how my skills fit into the world. But as long as I demand the universe show me the answers, the more I get stuck in meaninglessness and hopelessness.
By no longer demanding the universe provide me with a sense of meaning and taking responsibility for making meaning for myself, the more I find my inner peace.
How closely aligned is your life to your values? Is your life a reflection of your values? The greater the congruence between our values and our lifestyles, the greater peace we will experience.
I don’t think we know just how taxing it is on our souls to live in a way that doesn’t align with our beliefs. At some point, it is quite possible for human beings to not even know what their core values are.
A good exercise to return to our values is the simple Tombstone exercise.
In this exercise, we ask ourselves what single word we would want to be written on our tombstone.
When you find that one word (and you do need to reduce down to one single word), ask yourself if you’re living that life right now. If you say you want to be remembered for being charitable, for example, are you living a life that is deserving of that word? If not, what changes can you make so that it does align?
This is a simple yet easy exercise to get past all the fluff of who we think we want to be known for down to the potential of who we can really be. The more closely aligned we live to our values, the more “value-full” or life and the more inner peace we will experience in return.
I’m saving the best for last. Nothing begets inner peace quite like the practice of compassion.
Compassion is a practice because it is an active process of consciously seeking to connect with others through the plights, challenges, and struggles of being human.
The best practice for this is Tonglen, a Buddhist mediation practice, which I describe in detail in this article:
- Think of a pain you’ve experienced in your life, and hold it lovingly inside you. Allow it to open and spread. Give yourself permission to feel it in its entirety — no justifications, no qualifications. Breathe in the pain, exhale relief for yourself.
- Begin to let the event(s) that caused the feeling go, and focus only on the feeling itself. Is it anger? Shame? Sadness? Betrayal? Loss? Grief? Now, imagine one other person comes to sit across from you — someone who has felt the same way, even if for entirely different circumstances. This can be someone you know or a stranger in your mind’s eye. Now, breathe in the pain for both of you. Feel it as though it has doubled within you. And then, send relief and healing to both of you, feeling this doubled as well.
- Take this to the next step and imagine all beings have felt these emotions. As your practice deepens, invite more and more people into this circle of healing. Continue to breathe in the pain of the collective, and breathe out the relief.
True inner peace, I have learned, comes from giving and receiving compassion, which erases all judgment, division, and loneliness.
“We’re just all walking each other home.”
For those of you who do experience deep inner peace through meditation practices, I see you, too. But for many of us, it is nearly impossible to get past the noise and layers of our identity, thoughts, and fears to truly rest in our inner selves.
But through connection, compassion, expression, creativity, meaning-making, and living a value-full life, an experience of inner peace can become the rule of our lives, not the exception. It’s by finding our place among the many other traveling souls just like us, not merely our place in the yoga studio, where we can truly gain access to that elusive inner peace.