Toward A Black Belt in Inner Peace
from resisting to embracing life
What this page is about
What is abundantly clear from the new brain research is that inner peace is brain power. It wires our brain for health, success and happiness. Stress and anxiety do the exact opposite. But cultivating inner peace doesn’t mean we’ll never be upset. Ironically, it often involves being at peace with not-being-at-peace. Peace is a mental martial art that embraces instead of resisting an upset for its power to quiet stress reactions and restore the skillfulness that succeeds with difficulties. Given these facts, I have decided over the next 52 days or so to go for a black belt in inner peace by diligently embracing upsets as well as moments of joys more and resisting them less. Each day I’ll post 3 sentences to report my progress, so stay tuned.
Day 24: The awesome feeling I embraced today was: Dodging the bullet
While traveling to Tulsa to conduct a workshop on the brain power we gain in making the shift from stress to inner peace, I experienced a moment of dread. The dread came out of nowhere, unrelated to anything immediate, so it had to have been the firing of a rogue brain cell that got wired into me way back in my past … probably from my stepfather pounding me with “You’re worthless.” As soon as the dread arrived, I sent it packing. I practice everyday catching these brain disturbances before they take hold and darken the day.They rarely get their foot in my door anymore.
Day 23: The awesome feeling I embraced today was: Spiritual
I am going to change my definition of success because the one I’ve been following lately oppresses me. It’s measured in terms of the world bending to my goals, indicated by numbers going up or down … book sales #, evaluation #, # of clients … # of likes and followers … # of calories and the bathroom scale #, my next birthday #. So, as I go for goals today, success will be about … was I kind … did I stop to smell the roses … did I follow the light and look only on what it showed me … did I forgive … did I choose to be happy … was I grateful …was I at peace with myself.
Day 22.2: The awesome feeling I embraced today was: Loving admiration
Over the years, I have come to see my beloved through the lens of us, as in I am her and she is me and we are one together. Sometimes, the depth of our connection astonishes me, and yet today, right out of the blue, I saw her just as herself, distinct from me, as if I were seeing her for the first time. And I was taken in all over again by who she is, along with who I know she has become and is becoming, and I was touched by the humble way she goes about simply being herself.
Day 22.1: The awesome feeling I embraced today was: Getting clear
Today, when I stopped to relax and catch my breath, I was met by a murky worry that started with the troubling thought of failing at a goal, which my brain automatically believed, evidenced by the emotional jolt it set off making the thought feel real. There was no fact or logic to the worry, just a growing anxiety about to paint my mind into a tight corner. So I practiced sitting with the disturbance without believing a single thought it spun and gradually my mind cleared, the way a glass of cloudy water will clear on its own, and I was passed back to the strength of having faith.
Day 21: The awesome feeling I embraced today was: Happiness
I awoke from what felt like an enlightening dream in which I climbed to the top of a high Mesa – like those in Arizona – and then walked across it for miles and miles to a point at the very edge overlooking a scary vertical drop into a deep canyon. Above me was a dark cloud formation with sunlight breaking through in streams like a Renaissance painting indicating God is present. So, assuming it was God, I asked, “Tell me, what am I supposed to be doing down here,” to which the clouds answered “Be happy.” I was a little bewildered by this … I was expecting something different, like “save the world” … but I said “OK, I will,” and then I woke up.
Day 20: The awesome feeling I embraced today was: Pure grace
I’ve been working hard all week, getting ready for an upcoming gig, and this afternoon I took a badly needed break and sat by the bay window and watched the tall trees bend in a furious wind, waving their limbs like wild dancers, breaking up and scattering the bright afternoon light everywhere as if the light was cosmic paint … and for about 30 seconds I was filled with such unexpected happiness that was not of my own making but from some merciful grace that took me into its mystic beauty long enough to transform my fatigue to joy.
Day 19: The hard feeling I embraced today was: Judgments
There are days when I can’t help but love everybody, from strangers on the street to the people I work with to my friends and family. Life doesn’t get better than a day like that. But today (oy vey) my ego got loose, and I seemed to be judging everyone … like the guy in my yoga class who never returns a hello … the “silly” clerk wearing that polka dot bow tie … the technical support representative who was “a waste of time” … on and on, culminating in me judging me for judging them.
Day 18: The awesome feeling I embraced today was: Creating the day from a blank canvas
Today has been magical, all because I started this morning trying to imagine what it would be like to feel free of every limitation, simply by being open to everything and attached to nothing … most of which meant detaching from my hopes of success and fears of failure. As I imagined this freer mindset, suddenly the day became like an enormous blank canvas on which I was invited to paint a masterpiece. Every hour since then I have taken a few minutes to accept this invitation and all day it has lit me up with creativity and made me happy.
Day 17 The awesome feeling I embraced today was: Wanderlust
As I write this, the sky is dark and tumultuous, brewing up a rainstorm, and I try becoming one with its power and beauty, so I can embrace all the fresh possibilities for creating success today. But my heart won’t cooperate; it doesn’t want to work today. It wants me to jump on an airplane and fly faraway to some wild unknown country and disappear into the wonders of this world … and I’m seduced and even think of quitting … until I hear Robert Frost whisper in my ear, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but you have promises to keep and miles to go before you sleep.”
Day 16: The awesome feeling I embraced today was: expansive
For a long time, I didn’t meditate … it felt tedious … but research on meditation is way too positive to ignore, so I committed to practice consistently, and WOW did it paid off. Now when I meditate, my mind and heart expand and a light in me comes on and I feel happy … like I am on the road headed back home to the place where I am loved, after having been gone for a long time. Today as I closed my eyes to meditate I worried that I wouldn’t make it to the light this time but a voice inside said, “That’s just your old nonsense talking; come along now, this couldn’t be easier” … and sure enough it was.
Day 15: The awesome feeling I embraced today was: Freedom
My intention this month has been to embrace difficult feelings by not resisting them and today a very old wound surfaced, which was a betrayal from long, long ago that I have never quite gotten over. So, I stepped up, bit the bullet, and embraced the heartbreak and rejection without indulging the devastating story I’ve told myself a thousand times, and to my great surprise and relief, the pain’s grip gradually loosened, then let go, and I was free. I thought, can it be that easy … yet it was.
Day 14: The awesome feeling I embraced today was: a lighter happier heart
Today I committed myself to being mindful to bust small grievances during the day by forgiving them immediately … and, of course, the world offered me a good number to work with … like the truck driver who tailgated me for half a mile, and the grocery clerk wasting time, chatting it up with a customer when I was in a hurry, and the woman who came late to yoga and squeezed into the tiny space between my mat and the wall. I forgave them all, as well as a few other “trespassers,”and my reward … for real … was a lighter, happier heart and way better energy for my work.
The hard feeling I embraced today was: STRESS
Yesterday, I made the mistake of going to my home office first thing, reading emails, checking my to-do list, and drinking another cup of coffee … instead of starting out meditating on the expansive, positive, enthusiastic attitude of self-worth that embraces a brand-new day and makes good on it. Before I knew it, my mind was a rider flinging itself on a horse and riding madly off in all directions. By two o’clock, I was irritable and scattered, but at least it produced the resolve not to make the same mistake this morning.
The awesome feeling I embraced today was: Connection
This morning I have been remembering my younger brother with such gratitude. Four decades ago, he died of an overdose and at that time I thought I had failed as an older brother to save him, which added guilt to my grief making the loss unbearable. Then one day miraculously my brother came to me in a lucid vision looking vibrant and happy and we even talked, and afterwards my guilt was gone and my grief much lighter, because obviously, wherever he is, he is alive and well, and now I can embrace him and thank him for crossing the great divide to let me know all is well
The hard feeling I embraced today was: My brain’s faulty wiring
I was taught growing up to stay clear of dogs because my uncle had been badly mauled by one. I love to hike but when I come across a big dog, like today, my brain’s fear center goes on full alert which takes effort to embrace the surge of fear to keep me from bolting. Today as I passed this big dog, I looked down at him and what I saw was a “happy to see ya” smile on his face, which his waging tail validated, and I wondered, how many unfounded knee-jerk fears like this are wired into my brain.
The awesome feeling I embraced today was: Freedom through forgiveness
There is an old grievance that I haven’t completely forgiven, and this morning it raised its angry head once again. Once more I had to recognize that the pain of not forgiving punishes me, not the other person, so I stopped what I was doing, practiced acknowledging the light in this person and not the lampshade that my anger has made of his mistake. Then I listened to Mozart’s piano concerto #21 on my iPhone and let it all go.
The awesome feeling I embraced today was: Together side by side
My daughter, who lives an ocean away, just called to catch up and we talked about growing our businesses and growing ourselves, and about projects we are creating and books we are reading … and when we hung up I took a moment to embrace the gratitude I feel for the respect we extend to each other. We have walked a long way together to be able to walk side by side.
The hard feeling I embraced today was: My heart clenching
I love to write articles and posts like this one and I love working with people in workshops and giving keynotes. But sometimes, like this morning, I feel vulnerable after speaking my truth or being honest about one of my imperfections. So this morning I had to embrace that fear to keep my heart from freezing up, because I know if I don’t, I’ll lose the courage to do what I love to do.
The awesome I embraced feeling today was: Vibrating with a child’s heart
This morning I woke up smiling, with the attitude of a kid who can’t wait for the day to get going. It’s now a quarter to three and that sense of wonder is still vibrating in me. I even enjoyed doing my Saturday chores (if my mother was only still alive to have witnessed that).
The hard feeling I embraced today was: Losing
I’m competitive, I admit, the upside of which is I never give up on my mission, no matter what, but the downside is a stupid streak of petty jealousy I suffer under at times … like today when I learned a competitor is succeeding more than me. So, to ease the pain, I am devoting my practice today to remembering this old saying my daughter hipped me to that goes, “Blowing out someone else’s candle won’t make mine burn brighter” (it just blows out the peace in me).
The awesome feeling I embraced today was: Being at peace with myself
During my morning meditation, I noticed I felt unhappy about something not being enough of this or that or whatever, which when I penetrated turned out to be my ego’s perennial opinion that I’m not enough … no surprise there. So, I responded to its poor opinion of me by practicing 100% self-acceptance, simply by letting go of anything having to be different than the way it is today, including me.
The awesome I embraced feeling today was: Light joy and peace
I have been practicing stopping for 5 minutes every hour to embrace the idea that there is a light shining within me that radiates with joy and peace. I’ll admit I was annoyed by the interruption a couple of times when the reminder bell rang at the top of each hour, but even then I managed to embrace the idea long enough to experience, at very least, an improvement in my mood. I’ve been doing this simple exercise now for 8 straight hours and my mind is lighter, more creative, and happier, enabling me to cruise through my work.
The hard feeling I embraced today was: You’re screwed
Today started with a discouraging thought about a goal I want to achieve which, unfortunately, I believed, and my mind began to stringing even more limiting thoughts into a story. I understood that I had to head it off at the pass, so I practiced what I teach which was to ask, What is the deep-down belief below this story that threw confidence and enthusiasm under the bus? The answer came as a picture from the painful past and it was uncanny how liberating it was to connect the dots.
The hard feeling I embraced today was: My future is out to get me
Last night I awoke from a sound sleep afraid and worried. Instead of resisting it I practiced embracing the fear and dropping the fretful story fear was making up. Gradually, my fear dissolved on its own and I feel back to sleep. This morning I woke up happy.
The hard feeling I embraced today was: I’m not good enough to write this book