Practical Steps to Inner Peace
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By: Barrie Davenport
That is such a wonderfully descriptive word.
I have known some truly unflappable people. They exude an inner calm even in the most trying circumstances. They are fully present with everyone — gentle and accepting of themselves and others. They are slow to anger.
I often think about Atticus Finch in my favorite book, To Kill a Mocking Bird. He is a role model of inner peace for me. There’s a scene in which Atticus, the small town attorney defending a falsely accused black man, encounters Bob Ewell, the low-life white farmer who is the accuser. A drunk Ewell calls Atticus a stream of filthy names and then spits in his face.
In the movie, this scene is played beautifully by Gregory Peck. With spittle covering his glasses, he doesn’t say a word, but reaches for something in his pocket while staring at Bob Ewell. Ewell flinches thinking Atticus is going to hit him, but instead Atticus pulls out a handkerchief and calmly wipes his face and glasses, then walks away.
Not many people could maintain that state of equanimity in such a situation. (He is a book character after all.) What I love about Atticus Finch is that he knows who he is and has peace with that. He doesn’t have to prove himself by indulging in anger or retribution.
Our lives are so over-scheduled that we go about our days frantic and preoccupied. It’s hard to relax or fully enjoy life with all of the distractions and upsets.
In fact, you’ve probably known people who are prone to creating problems and crises. They even get off on the drama in a weird, unhealthy way. But inside they feel anxious, unsettled, and rarely content. Small disruptions morph into major issues. Someone spitting in their face would cause a tsunami.
Others are born with a disposition that is calm and not prone to agitation. That’s a lucky head-start, but lasting inner peace and the desire to make it a priority in life is a learned trait. In a culture that venerates busyness and constant stimulation, you have to make peace a priority if you want to reap the benefits.
Inner peace is more about being than doing. It’s about leaning toward rather than struggling against. It’s about being fully present and focused on the task at hand. The rewards of inner peace are numerous. They include mental and physical health and well-being, self-confidence, better relationships, and a more intense and joyful experience of life.
Most of us want these things, but sometimes we must shift our perceptions of ourselves and how we live in order to create an environment to foster inner peace. Once we make the shift, we must practice the actions that lead to inner peace in order to sustain it.
Here are ten practical actions on how to find inner peace.
1. Have nothing unresolved.
As opposed to just having things finished, completely clear up the larger unresolved issues personally and professionally that sap your energy and create other problems in your life. You will feel a weight come off your shoulders.
2. Surrender and accept what is.
Rather than resisting and fighting, just stop struggling. Resistance blocks energy and creativity. How can you find a solution when you are flailing about and tensed up? Unhook yourself from the situation or person and view it from a detached perspective.
3. Take full responsibility for how you react to others.
Other people don’t make you behave in a certain way. You choose your behavior. Decide who you want to be in all circumstances. Mentally prepare yourself and plan for a calm, unflappable response even during trying times.
4. Become aware of and sensitive to feelings rather than ignoring them.
This means your own feelings as well as others. Don’t shove away feelings because they are uncomfortable. They are sending you a message. Take time to poke around those feelings to discover what is behind them. If you don’t, the feelings will come back in more unpleasant ways and really disrupt your peace.
5. Tell the entire truth.
Resist editing, lying, or translating. Be real. Lay it on the table in a gentle and authentic way to yourself and others. Hiding the truth doesn’t serve you in the long run. Staying true to your integrity brings peace of mind.
6. Know your higher self.
Distinguish between your self versus your mind, ego, needs or past experience. Take the time to understand who you really are. What are your values, your goals, your joys and passions, your integrity? Those are what define you and make you authentic.
7. Unhinge from adrenaline.
Adrenaline is the drug of choice in a stressed out society. It gives us a jolt of superhuman energy when faced with a threat. But mostly we use it to get that rush to blast through the day. An adrenaline lifestyle can do soul-damaging things: overworking, being greedy, insistence on getting ahead or winning even at the expense of relationships. Kick the adrenaline dependency. Slow down and let go — or risk losing your health, your relationships, and your peace of mind.
8. Know what rattles your cage.
What makes you bristle or pushes your buttons? There’s a reason you react, and understanding the truth behind these feelings is the first step in addressing the problem or letting it go. Keep asking yourself, “Why do I feel this way?” until you know the real answer. Then deal with the answer directly.
9. Step over nothing, even the small stuff.
Don’t ignore even the smallest tolerations or imbalance in your life. You may not be able to change everything, but awareness and the ability to manage tolerations in a healthy way can bring you peace.
10. Prioritize peace ahead of performance.
Make an estimated guess on the days you have left to live. Do you want to look back at your life and celebrate the rushing around, the completed “to do” lists, and the stuff, or do you want to reflect on days of calm, connectedness, great relationships, wonderful experiences, and peace of mind?
The most profound impact of inner peace is the peace it spreads to the world outside of us. Peace between families, communities, and countries begins with each individual. Inner peace is contagious. As you find inner peace for yourself, you become a model for others and spread the seeds of peace everywhere you go.
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