Originally published on February 11, 2016
We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.
~ Dalai Lama
He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home. ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I was recently asked by an attendee at one of my talks, “Are you happy?” It was the first time I had been so directly posed that question, and it took a minute to figure out how I would answer, because for me, happiness is not a state of being; it’s a superficial feeling, a temporary, descriptive way to express a reaction to a gesture, creature comfort or occasion.
I answered by saying I don’t really think about being “happy” but am generally able to navigate life in a way that does not fluster me at my core. In other words, my overall evaluation of my existence does not depend on whichever way the wind is blowing. At this point in my life, I am grounded in and connected to who I am, surfing the unpredictability and chaos of external circumstances as they arise, experiencing joy and pleasure when appropriate, and mitigating the inevitable stress and sorrow with various tools and techniques I have gathered and developed to get me through when times are not so hunky-dory (there are plenty!). And I am grateful for it all, as I know in the end whatever is happening is for my greater good.
I do work that is immensely fulfilling and have relationships I value tremendously. I am constantly growing and evolving by overcoming challenges big and small, and I allow myself to rest and reflect until another cycle begins. I am human, therefore I strive to understand and accept everything that entails. I have my own issues and areas of growth and healing that call out to be addressed; I feel my feelings and give them the space, time and respect to inform me of what has to be confronted or released, either internally or externally in a particular situation, and then heed the call to the best of my ability. I pay attention to and take care of my needs. I go with the flow. I recognize and honor the fact that I am a creative being. I love and trust myself.
It was a long answer to what appeared to be a simple question. The next day, upon further reflection, I realized the simple answer: What I was saying was that I am at peace, which is far more profound. Or put another way, having a sense of inner peace = my version of being happy.
With all the emphasis and research in our current culture on “happiness” — an obsession only magnified and distorted by social media — you can be easily fooled into thinking you are somehow deficient in this department. The better question to ask yourself is “Am I at peace?” Happiness is great while it lasts, but that’s the point — it’s transient. Yet with awareness, practice and discipline over time, peace can be permanent.
Peace allows you to be the calm in the center of a storm, and the glow of joy in the midst of abundance.
Peace acknowledges that there are ups and downs and stresses in life, but it never lets you be affected by them in the deepest part of who you are.
Peace means even in times of anxiety or fear, you are just observing surface feelings that wreak havoc on your psyche until you recognize what they are trying to teach you — which is usually an exercise in love and acceptance of yourself and the here and now and/or what you can and cannot control.
Peace is the solid foundation that becomes integrated in every cell of your being and accompanies you with whomever and wherever you are.
As the great Mahatma Gandhi said, “Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.”
I often quote the song, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” It may be too hippy-dippy or cliche for you, but it’s true. As I say in my talks, we all have our individual spheres of influence, i.e., “happy wife, happy life.” We all know how it feels to be around someone in a good mood, who’s truly relaxed, maybe just back from a vacation or in love, or one of those rare folks who just embodies a sustained level of chill and contentment. Conversely, when someone is really down, toxic, or generally negative in outlook, we know how that can permeate the entire environment.
Emotional energy and good or bad vibes are contagious — especially to those of us who are highly sensitive. You must realize then that no matter who you are, you have more influence than you think you do. Who do you want to be: someone who brings peace, calm and/or joy wherever you go or in times of crisis, or the Debbie or Dougie Downer, the Negative Nelly or Neil, the one who poisons the atmosphere around you? Here’s where you don’t need a special superpower or fancy costume to be a hero!
Train yourself to be mindful of what you are putting out there or carrying with you; go inward to listen to yourself instead of automatically focusing outward to distraction or detachment. Express gratitude wherever you can in thought, word and deed. Bring your awareness and attention to every moment, to what are you thinking, feeling and sensing about the truth and reality of the situation AS IT IS — not as you are doomsday-ing it to be or wishing it was or regurgitating some imagined past version of a problem — because today’s realization is what creates tomorrow’s solution. The more you can Be Here Now, the more you can exercise that presence muscle, the deeper the well of peace you can draw upon when you need it most.
Want to get all aboard but not sure how? Give me a buzz, and I’ll be the conductor who puts you on the right track. We’ll fire up the steam engine and get you smiling on a regular basis, thinking about the good things to come!
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