Tag Archives: Inner Peace

The Good Life

I’ve written two books on stress, and the latest one I boldly entitled The End of Stress.  Now when I’m out on book tours, or presenting keynotes and seminars people ask me if I’ve ended stress in my life, once and for all.

The truth is we end stress in the present moment—right here, right now—not once and for all. We either end stress by choosing to be undaunted and at peace the moment a stressor raises its head … or we don’t. Peace is the polar opposite of stress and anxiety. It instills a calmer, clearer perspective that in turn generates much better brain function.

More often than not, becoming stress-free is a correction we make to be at peace, after we’ve allowed a stressor to grow into a mental storm, like I did one Saturday morning cleaning the house. The way I was going about my chores was stressful to the point of making me edgy and negative. I started out fighting with a broken appliance I had to fix and feeling irritated with one of the screws that wouldn’t unscrew. It was as if a trickster god was tightening the screw as I was trying to loosen it.

Next, I was annoyed at having to unload the dishwasher. As I went about cleaning the rooms, it seemed there was ten times more work than usual. I felt victimized that there was no one to help me, and I was wishing I had the money to afford a housekeeper, the lack of which intensified my bad mood.

Then, mercifully, I caught myself in the middle of an unhappy string of self-pitying, resentful thoughts. I stopped with the chores for a moment and practiced not believing any of the thoughts my bad mood was thinking. I managed to let go of thinking altogether, and gave my mind the chance to quiet down. I made the conscious choice to be at peace with whatever chores I had left. As I made this commitment, lines I’d memorized years ago from a poem by D. H. Lawrence came to mind:

As we live, we are transmitters of life.
And when we fail to transmit life, life fails to flow through us.
Give, and it shall be given unto you
is still the truth about life. . . .
It means kindling the life-quality where it was not,
even if it’s only in the whiteness of a washed pocket-handkerchief.

As I recited the lines, my attitude shifted. At that very moment, a cloud blocking the sun passed and the sunlight poured through the windows and lit up the room. All at once, everything was OK. I was calm and my mind was much happier. I felt alive and awake, as bright as the sunlight. It surprised me, as it always does when I rediscover how vibrant inner peace actually makes a human being. Peace is not just a sweet sentiment on a holiday card; it’s the quality that makes the mind dynamic and expansive (the complete opposite of what stress does to the mind).

I looked around to see what chores still remained, and set upon them. Work flowed like a dance. As I was raking the last of the leaves in front of the house, a bird flying by caught my eye, and I watched it land in the Japanese maple tree across the street.

www.canstockphoto.com

www.canstockphoto.com

It was autumn and the maple leaves had all turned scarlet red. Some of the leaves had shed, creating a velvet blanket of red on the sidewalk.  I looked down the street and noticed that the sycamores had shed half of their leaves. Their network of dull gray branches were now exposed that the autumn light turned silver in places. From where I stood, the street gradually sloped down to the avenue, and across the avenue was a large field covered in brown decaying grass with shoots of new green grass emerging from the decay. Overhead a falcon, fluttering in midair, scanned the field for prey. And above this small but beautiful corner of the world was a pale blue autumn sky. For a moment, I felt at one with the world.

As I turned to go back inside the house, I thought if I hadn’t shifted my attitude, I would never have experienced that moment of splendor. I thought of Carl Rogers, the great American psychologist, and his idea of the good life, by which he simply meant being well, then doing well on your way to flourishing. For Rogers, the good life emanated first and foremost from “being well.” This is what the research on happiness shows. Only 10% of what makes us happy is attributable to our circumstances. A positive, peaceful attitude is four times more likely to achieve the good life. It’s has a bigger impact on our quality of life than making more money, getting a better job, or, as in my case that day, being able to afford a housekeeper.

The more we make the correction to peace, the more it becomes our attitude, and the better our life goes. The good life is not so much a set of circumstances or even a fixed state of mind as it is the direction in which our attitude is pointed. To quote Ernest Holmes:

“If everyday things are a little better, a little more harmonious, a little more health giving and joyous; if each day we are expressing more life, then we are going in the right direction.”

De-stressing the Holidays Couldn’t Be Simpler

peace300

Click image to download article

Thanksgiving through New Year’s is the time in America when we celebrate peace – at least in theory. It’s the time of year we’re encouraged to remember that peace on earth begins with peace in our own hearts. So, the cure to holiday stress is simple. Make the holidays about the opposite of stress, which is peace, which is the one thing the holidays are meant to be about. Make peace the quality you aspire to be every day this holiday season. Peace is not hard; stress is hard. Peace is incredibly simple. The more you practice peace, the easier it gets, and the easier your life becomes. Below are ten simple qualities of peace and directly below each box is a simple approach to achieving each quality. Look them over and choose the ones that speak to you and your situation, then turn it into a daily practice. Qualities and Practices for a Peaceful Holiday 1. Peace is quiet, so each morning this holiday season wake up a little earlier ahead of the rush. Start your day in quiet in a place where you won’t be disturbed.

  • Follow your breathing.
  • Imagine each breath softening your heart and opening it wider.
  • Feel appreciation for the gift of another day of life.
  • Feel appreciation for another day to be with the ones you love.
  • Set the intention to have a great day, achieving meaningful results in your work.
  • Equally, set the intention to succeed at love, peace and joy.

2. Peace is rejuvenating, so take breaks and catch your breath.

  • Every couple of hours each day, step away from the rat race.
  • Observe what the sky is doing.
  • Watch the wind blow, the sun shine, or the snow fall.
  • Allow yourself to feel connected to life.

3. Peace is grateful. So, once a week, before going to sleep, count your blessings.

  • Name three things that happened during the previous week for which you are grateful.
  • Then name three things of your life, generally, for which you feel blessed.

4. Peace is spacious. Now and then, take a time-out to open your mind a little wider.

  • Tell yourself to go a little slower, and not to be so nervous or negative.
  • Open your heart a little wider.
  • Practice thinking less and loving more.
  • Tell yourself and often that everything is going to be alright.
  • Refocus your attention on this moment, right here, right now, and allow life to surprise you.

5. Peace is forgiving. So forgive the past.

  • Forgive everyone, including yourself.
  • Forgive every bad thing that has happened, is happening now, and is sure to happen again.
  • Forgive the past so completely that you’re standing in the present facing the future with vision.

6. Peace is intelligent. It takes the middle way and stays balanced.

  • Peace doesn’t eat too much or spend too much or withhold too much.
  • Peace doesn’t argue, defend or complain.
  • It changes the things it can change, accepts the things it can’t change, and it can tell the difference between the two.
  • Peace is not co-dependent. It’s no one’s fool and no one’s doormat. It’s smart enough to walk away from dysfunction and stand out of harm’s way.

7. Peace is self-confident. It doesn’t worry.

  • So don’t worry about anything this holiday season.
  • Pracitce letting go of outcomes and trusting the process.

8. Peace is compassionate, so don’t judge.

  • Don’t judge yourself when you slip up, become stressed, or behave badly.
  • The same goes for other people’s mistakes, nonsense, and blunders.
  • Let it all go and start over, renewing your intention to be at peace.

9. Peace is flexible. It lets you into its house through the back door as well as the front door.

  • If you are not at peace, use the back door. Be at peace with your non-peace.

10. Peace has faith. It’s an attitude of faith and trust.

  • There is no degree of stress in any situation that faith cannot soften.
  • Often the problem in life is not the situation we face but the lack of faith with which we face it.

It’s a no brainer. You will have a happier, less stressful holiday if you commit to practicing even three of the above. The better angels of your nature will come out and create a holiday to remember.