A few years ago, the Dalai Lama was asked, “With all that is wrong in this world, how can you be happy and serene?”
His answer? “In my world, nothing is wrong.”
I guess all of us would like to have an inner universe like the Dalai Lama, but then we don’t have his life. We exist in a daily world of emotional roller coasters, stress, and challenges. We worry about money to pay the bills, saving for retirement, problems at work, and a range of other things.
Our inner universes are often reflections of that “outer noise,” because we can’t shut it off or even get the volume down.
Those of us who live in this noisy outer universe can work on developing a different inner universe. It takes work and commitment but it’s a journey worth taking. What’s on the other side is a place where we are powerful, confident, strong and at peace with who we are. I’m on that journey, and I plan to stay on it until my inner universe is developed. Here are the five things I am doing to get there:
1. Meditate—get into the gap.
I know, everyone says to meditate. In fact, we are probably tired of hearing this. While the techniques we commonly hear about can be great for relaxing the body and mind, I have taken mine to a different level based on a technique that was taught by Wayne Dyer during one of his many lectures. It takes practice and some diligence, but has a greater impact than other forms, at least for me. Here are the steps:
1. Find a prayer that you know well. I use the Lord’s Prayer, because it’s one that I know by heart.
2. When you are in bed, ready to go to sleep, close your eyes and begin to see the words of that prayer in your mind. Start with the first two words. Picture them.
3. Now place a space between those two words—a gap.
4. Now, in your mind, move yourself into that gap between those two words, just slide into it. There is nothing there.
5. Keep moving into that nothingness until all thought goes away.
6. If you have trouble getting rid of all thoughts, try a single humming sound. When I first started with this technique, I used an ohm.
7. Stay in that gap without thoughts. Time spent here will increase with practice.
8.You will return to your outer universe with a sense of peace.
Now that I have mastered getting into the gap, I can do it anytime, even just for a few minutes during my day when things get tough and stressful. That peace comes from my inner universe, and it lets me approach my outer universe without stress, anger, or any other negative emotion.
This is a hard one, and I am not there yet but here is what I have learned: When you hold a grudge, the grudge is always with you, draining you, and keeping you from your inner universe of peace. You continue to see yourself as a victim, and it’s almost like being a slave to that person you can’t forgive. In many ways, forgiveness is an act of love for yourself.
Are there others who have disappointed me or have emotionally injured me? Of course. But what I finally learned a few years ago, is that everyone is on his/her own path and has his/her own lessons to learn. I have to let the hurt and anger (and them) go.
I learned how to do this with a help of a story that Wayne Dyer shared in one of his lectures. His father abandoned his family when he was very young, and his mother struggled to raise three boys, sometimes being forced to put them in foster care. He grew up angry and resentful and hated his father. Ultimately, an aunt informed him that his father had died. He found his father’s grave, hundreds of miles away, went there, sat by the graveside and spoke to his father out loud. He told his father he forgave him. And in that one loud statement, he was able to let it all go.
I am working on forgiving some people too. I talk to them out loud when I am in my car, when I am in the shower, when I am falling sleep. I think I am not at the level of inner universe development that Dyer was, but I do feel like I’m slowly getting there.
One thing I did recently was to call a sibling to whom I have not spoken in three years. I’ve held onto that anger for five years. Finally, after “talking to her” out loud in my home and in my car, I picked up the phone and actually talked to her. The conversation was not a wonderful reconciliation but it was my catharsis, and when I told her I forgave her, I released a part of my outer universe that was weighing me down and preventing the peace of my inner universe from shining through.
3. Try new things.
I think expansion is a huge part of developing our inner universe—if we aren’t expanding our thoughts, we aren’t growing at all. Expansion allows us to become aware of what is possible and, as Deepak Chopra often says, we have to see a universe of unlimited possibilities.
Expansion forces us out of our comfort zones and into new possibilities.
Let’s say you’re in a job you dislike, one that is causing you negativity and stress, but it has become a comfortable place to be, so you stay. Think of the possibilities for new positions. Go after them with gusto and determination. Study the psychology of interviews, and prepare for them until you become that confident self you know you can be.
I use the example of changing jobs because I had a similar experience. I had a job with a good paycheck and benefits. It was safe, but it was an environment that was not peaceful. Because I had begun my quest to develop my inner universe, I took a huge risk and struck out on my own. My income is less steady; I have to pay for my own health insurance. But every day, when I get up and start my day, I smile. And it’s a beautiful way to start the day.
4. Practice kindness.
I believe in karma. I also believe that every living thing on this planet deserves compassion, no matter how evil the outer universe defines them as. They are on their own paths and their own karmic journeys. What I can do is make my world, outer and inner, a better place by practicing kindness. Here is my quest.
I have a note that says “Do one kind thing today” on my car dashboard and I read it every time I get into my car. It’s my personal reminder to follow through. Often I do more than one kind thing, because it makes me feel good and it makes another person feel good. That’s two people who are now happier than they were before.
5. Manage thoughts.
Negative thinking is a killer of peace and joy. If I want my inner universe to be peaceful and joyous, I have to change my thinking.
It’s hard. It means that when a negative thought comes to my mind, it has to be replaced by a positive thought. Positive thinking is nothing new, of course, but it has to be a choice and a consistent practice. Old habits die hard, as they say.
What I am doing is this: Throughout my day, I am plugging little positive thoughts into my subconscious. Sometimes, I recall a laugh I had with a friend the day before; sometimes, I recall that crazy wonderful fling I had on vacation several years ago; and sometimes it is as simple as patting myself on the back because I worked out last night or ate a salad instead of a burger. It does not matter the “size” of the positive thought, what matters is that it brings us happiness.
Blocking a negative thought is harder, but if it can be quickly replaced with a happier thought, it can be neutralized.
My inner universe is a work in progress, and it probably will be the rest of my life. Yours will be too. The important thing is that it is becoming a better place because of our choices to think and do differently.
Although I am still working on my inner universe, I am happier, more confident, more at peace with my outer universe and I am beginning to see that there really are unlimited possibilities.
Why happy thoughts might not be the answer:
Author: Patrick Cole
Image: Jonathan Powell/Flickr
Editors: Katarina Tavčar; Emily Bartran