One of the things that I want most in life is inner peace.
Inner peace is an abstract concept.
Oftentimes, it seems elusive, and as such, I believe that it’s a lifelong journey for me to reach a point where I feel completely at ease with myself and life, regardless of my external circumstances.
However, during the last few years, I have gained a deeper sense of self-awareness and employed a series of practices that have enabled me to experience moments of inner peace, even if they’re fleeting.
I hope that these practices will be helpful for you, as they have been for me.
1. Accept what is (versus wishing what could be or lamenting on what could’ve been).
A few weeks ago, I had a flight from Salt Lake City to Albuquerque that kept getting delayed. It was such a relief when we were finally able to board the plane. Alas, 30 minutes into the flight, the captain announced that due to inclement weather, it was impossible for us to land in Albuquerque and that the only option was for us to head back to Salt Lake City and wait to fly out the next day.
I was annoyed in so many ways—this had already been a huge waste of time, and now I had to figure out accommodations for the night and book another flight for the following day. In addition to my annoyance, I had a moment where I went down a rabbit hole of what ifs—what if the flight had arrived in Albuquerque on time? What if I had flown one day earlier?
I caught myself and realized the futility of entertaining those thoughts because the reality was that I was stuck in Salt Lake City for the night. Wishing that I were in Albuquerque or wishing that I had traveled on a different day wasn’t going to change my current reality. If I just accepted the moment for what it was, then I could just be present, instead of creating more suffering by imagining impossible scenarios. Pain is inevitable; suffering isn’t.
One way you can learn to accept what is, is by neutralizing an experience, rather than labeling it as “bad.” In the aforementioned example, rather than thinking that the flight delay was “a huge waste of time,” I could’ve viewed it from a neutral perspective: time had passed. Time would’ve passed regardless of the flight delay.
2. Be in the present, in the here and now, by anchoring yourself in your breath.
As you’re reading this, you are breathing in and breathing out. As you’re breathing in and breathing out, you are okay. You are okay at this very moment because you are alive and you’re breathing.
The only times when we’re not okay are when we ruminate about the past or worry about the future. We can’t do anything about the past and the future has yet to come, so what we can do instead is focus on the present, where we’re breathing in and breathing out. Remember that in the present moment—you are okay.
3. Trust that life is happening for you.
A few years ago, I came back to the Unite States after spending over a year traveling and volunteering. Applying for jobs is challenging in and of itself. To top it off, I was applying for jobs with a one-plus year gap in my resume. The entire process felt like an emotional roller coaster—I’d submit an application, not knowing if or when I’d hear back.
Then, every so often, someone would respond and ask for an interview, and I’d feel so excited! Then, during the interview, I’d realize that the company and I weren’t a good fit and I’d be back at square one. Now, repeat this process for months. I couldn’t wait to get off the roller coaster.
However, when I look back on this period of my life, I feel grateful. It was because of the highs and lows of the job search process that I deepened my meditation and yoga practice. So, despite how challenging my job search was, with hindsight, I can see how it also led me to become a stronger and more grounded person through the spiritual practice that I built during that time.
One way you can learn to trust that life is happening for you is to reflect on previous, less-than-ideal experiences that you’ve had and ask yourself the following questions: What did I learn from these experiences? How did I grow?
4. Embrace every aspect of yourself, even your shadow sides.
I tend to be an indecisive person and it takes me a while to make decisions because I go back and forth between options and I end up in analysis paralysis. I then think about how indecisive I am and subsequently judge myself for taking so much time to reach a decision, which is like rubbing salt on a wound. It’s even harder for me to move forward because now I need to deal with the decision-making process and self-judgment.
Through introspection, I realized that rather than judging myself for taking time to make decisions, I could reframe this aspect of myself. Yes, while it’s true that it does take time for me to arrive at a decision, maybe that’s because I’m an analytical individual who likes to consider all possibilities, and there have been many times in my life when my analytical skills have served me well.
When I embrace this side of me that I originally judged, then I can accept myself as I am (versus wasting time and energy judging myself, which then makes it impossible to focus on higher-level and creative thinking, which is what I actually want more of in my life).
One way you can learn to wholly embrace yourself is to first identify qualities within you which make you feel dissatisfied and then ask yourself: When have those qualities been helpful in my life?
When you see that the qualities have served a purpose in your life, it will be easier to accept them as a part of who you are.
Although it may be easy to grasp these concepts intellectually, the challenge comes when we strive to apply these concepts to our lives. That’s okay—we’re human and the ego mind is accustomed to old patterns and habits.
The first step is self-awareness—be aware of where your thoughts are leading you and remember that at any given moment, you have a choice.
Ask yourself, “Does this thought serve me?”
Then choose whether you want to follow that thought or if you want to choose to think differently.