Have you ever tried to find a sense of peace? Where did you look? What did you do? Attend yoga, meditation classes, use hallucinogens, try out different spiritual practices, or get a massage? If you’ve tried one or all of these things, then you are not alone! Many of us have used a variety of relaxation methods in order to become more peaceful.
When I hear the phrase ‘inner peace,’ I can’t help but think of Master Shifu from Kung Fu Panda 3. If you’ve ever seen the movie, you’ll remember that Shifu is tasked with instructing Po (the main character) to find inner peace and to harness the power of Ch’i. It cracks me up every time I think of that clumsy Panda trying so hard to make himself experience ‘inner peace’ - his squinting eyes, furrowed brow, and fists clenched make him look like he’s really constipated and uncomfortable.
Of course, discomfort and painful pressure is not what we are aiming for with being at peace! But, even some of the relaxing activities I listed above can end up feeling forced, trying to will ourselves into a calm state of being. So, sometimes you might wonder if achieving inner peace is even possible, considering that some relaxing activities don’t bring about the desired effect.
Each person, whether consciously or not, wants that sense of calm and relief from tension. The thing is--our brains and bodies have not quite adapted to the rapid growth of industry and technology over the past century. Most of us walk around in a perpetual state of ‘fight or flight,’ which uses up our mental and physical energy faster than our bodies can replenish it. In The Body Keeps The Score Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. explains how our fight/flight system developed and why it’s often so darn hard to ‘chill out’ after we’ve been through a really stressful event, including a traumatic one. Our body wants to calm down but becomes afraid and unable to relax. I highly suggest checking out Kolk’s book and his research on how stress affects us! Now, more than ever, gaining a sense of inner peace is critical to our ability to function in society, at work, and with family and friends.
The question remains - How can we achieve this sense of inner peace? How can we become calm in mind and body without completely removing ourselves from the busy lives we all lead?
I’ve got some ideas and I invite you to try them!
Disclaimer: First of all, if you have been through a traumatic event then please seek professional therapeutic support. Treatments like EMDR (eye movement desensitization reprocessing), CRM (comprehensive resource model), or Brainspotting can be especially helpful.
For the ‘way too busy stressed out’ person:
Create an achievable ‘inner peace’ goal for yourself. Typically a goal is easiest to follow if it’s very specific and measurable-- “Increase my sense of inner peace from 0 days a week to 4 days a week over the next 6 months - my sense of inner peace will be defined as …” You can define for yourself what inner peace feels/looks like. Then, write out the steps to achieve your goal. Maybe you need to enroll in a mindfulness meditation class or start paying closer attention to how much time you are on your phone.
Practice sitting quietly and notice what happens. What do you feel and think? What do you notice about your surroundings? This is a mindfulness practice that you can try for just a few minutes as often as you’d like. Write down what you discover about yourself!
Approach your day with curiosity and wonder! Look intently at the world around you, like you’re seeing it for the first time.
Take note of any thinking errors you might have. Whether making assumptions or thinking in all or nothing terms, we can be robbed of inner calm/peace through our common thinking errors.
Defend your self-care time as though your life depended on it! There is only one you, only one life you get to live, so it is okay to take your time in mastering the skill of ‘inner peace’.
Remember that achieving a goal does not happen in a linear fashion. We all take steps forward and then back again. There is never a permanent sense of inner peace that can be achieved, so when you feel calm, enjoy it!
I hope you find this helpful, and I wish you the best on your journey toward your best, most peaceful self!
Seija Zimmerman, LMFT #106164
Thrive Therapy & Counseling
1614 X St., Suite A
Sacramento, CA 95818