It is undoubtedly easier to feel at peace when there’s nothing going on externally to upset your equilibrium. However, life tends not to be co-operative on that score. How do we hold a sense of peace regardless of the chaos or conflict around us?
For me, one of the critical issues has been acting honourably. If I am comfortable with my own actions, then I am much better able to deal with external issues. Where I feel I have not been as honest, careful, clever of effective as was needed, I lose my internal calm. Looking back over my life, I think I’ve been far too susceptible to the opinions of others when it came to determining whether I have acted well. I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to trust my own judgement on this one. I put a fair amount of effort into trying to be fair, honourable and decent and have been too ready to listen to those who, for whatever reasons of their own, do not see what I do in the same light.
Which leads to the second point – a sense of self ownership, self determination, personal power. It’s very hard to feel peaceful in a situation of powerlessness. If you do not believe in your own ability to deal with setbacks, to manage yourself or your emotions, then that will undermine your capacity for inner peace. I’m still very much at the figuring out stage with this issue, so cannot do more than flag it up.
Self acceptance makes a lot of odds. We all have flaws and failings, but if you cannot make peace with them, that can be a big issue. Things that appear to be failings in some situations can be strengths in others. I’d felt for a long time that my difficulty coping with the anger of others was a failing. I’ve come round to thinking that it isn’t – I’m a fairly gentle creature and it is not difficult to alarm me, especially with shouting or intimations of physical aggression. I would like to be stronger, more independent, better able to stand up for myself but I need to accept who and how I am. Coming to those conclusions has allowed me to make peace with myself.
I find that a sense of achievement adds to my sense of inner peace. If I am working well, creating good things, making my home a pleasant place, etc, then I feel more at peace with myself. I find creativity far more effective on this score than meditation.
There is also a peace that comes from having survived. Anyone who goes through a testing experience – giving birth, fighting an illness, dealing with practical setbacks, gains some sense of what they are equal to. Surviving times of conflict, chaos and distress, we have the chance to learn that we can indeed survive. That makes it easier not to be afraid of what the future will bring. Sure, there will be hard times, but those can be survived too.
This is a very new line of working for me. I’ve spent much of my life conflicted and uncomfortable with myself. I have a lot to figure out, but I can see ways forward. On this topic, I can do little more than share the beginnings of a journey, but will be back with progress reports when I have them.