We are among the most advanced species as we can think about all kinds of things, but it seems like we may have gone too far. With our thoughts we can create solutions, but we can create problems too. From stress to more serious mental health issues, many of our problems are caused by our inner battles. People of today have high standards for living yet we are becoming increasingly depressed, it’s almost like we need to learn to protect ourselves, from ourselves. That’s probably why inner peace, meditation and mindfulness have become today’s hot topics – we are trying so hard to feel more calm, stress less and understand where all that unease comes from.
What is inner peace?
It’s easy to feel at peace in your life when times are good and happy. However, when nothing seems to go right, you may realize you’re more easily disturbed than you thought. It’s unfortunate because at times like that, inner peace is most needed. If you’re sensitive to outside circumstances, it might be difficult to believe but you actually can create inner peace anytime you want.
To me, inner peace is like a mountain: something steady, no matter the weather. This is not to say that we could always be at peace no matter what horrible things happen in our lives, that would be inhumane in my opinion, but it might be possible to get over most of those situations when you’re not looking for peace and serenity from outside of you, but from inside. Why, you ask? Well, the storms in our lives have less to do with what actually happens and more to do with how we respond to the events.
But how can we learn to respond peacefully? Mindfulness might just be the key.
One day in the library I came across a book called Mindfulness for Life – How to Use Mindfulness Meditation to Improve Your Life written by Craig Hassed and Stephen McKenzie. It talks about meditation and why it’s important, but it’s not a book about how to sit in a lotus position and hum like a yoga teacher. It goes way deeper, explaining how important mindful living is and what kind of health effects and problems lack of focus causes. Spoiler alert: most of them, according to research. I’ll share my thoughts and favourite quotes from the book with you.
A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.
What is mindfulness?
Many think mindfulness means silencing your mind but that’s not exactly true. The book says it’s the practise of “– paying attention: knowing where our attention is and being able to choose where to direct it.” This means that whatever thoughts or emotions we have, we should acknowledge that they are there but that they don’t control us. No matter what we feel, we can still mindfully decide where we give our attention, time and energy. We also don’t have to react at all. It’s always a decision. We don’t have to be at war with our inner self, we can just observe what’s going on in there and accept it, and choose what we focus on every day.
How to do it
The book suggests a good way to practise mindfulness is through meditation: sitting down for 5 minutes twice a day before meals for example. How you choose to meditate is up to you but you could choose to focus on your breathing, on your body or your other senses. Whenever your mind wanders, gently direct your attention to the practise again. It won’t be easy at first but if you keep trying, it’ll become easier.
However, mindfulness can be practised anywhere as long as we are “conscious of what is going on but not in a self-conscious kind of way – so, paying attention rather than thinking about ourselves.” The point of this is to become aware about what is really happening inside and around you, training your ability to focus so that it becomes easier in your day-to-day life to see where your attention is and guiding it to where you want it to be.
Nothing worth having comes easy – not even inner peace
I’m well aware that meditation and slowing down doesn’t sound tempting to many. When I first found out about meditation and how it works, it sounded so very wise but difficult, even impossible, and from what I’ve heard, that’s the case for most people. Our heads are filled with distant thoughts and ideas every second of the day. If you can’t seem to find inner peace though, it’s very valuable to spend some time to find out what’s stealing it from you.
Mental chatter whether about daydreaming, reminiscing, worrying or being unmindful, anxious or depressed, is just a different form of what is sometimes called default mental activity. Default mode is when our mind slips into automatic pilot.
Living inside our heads can be the reason we have lost inner peace – and focusing on what’s really going on truly is important. From how I see it, you can use your focus both ways: when times are challenging, you can lean on to your ability to create serenity from inside, and when your mind gets carried away, you can remind yourself about the reality and what is really happening, and what is only imaginary, and should be let go.
My absolute favourite quote from the book is this one:
We may not be able to stop the trains coming, but we can decide which ones to get on, and the less we get on those unhelpful trains the less likely they will be to keep coming.
When we live mindfully, we realize that we are not the same as our thoughts and emotions. They don’t control us and we don’t have to control them. They are just a never-ending flow, like clouds on the sky, that we can just observe with curiosity – and we can let go of the pointless chatter that does not serve us, and we can focus on the things that really matter.
Whatever is going on in our lives, we can always choose what we focus on. The question is, do we want to carry on with our inside battles, or do we want to free ourselves by letting go?
What are your thoughts about mindfulness? Have you tried meditation? Tell me in the comments if you made it this far before losing focus! Haha. xx