by Janice Lynne Lundy -
Don't you just love it when life throws you a curve?
Just when you think you can rest on your laurels, or take a break from life's intensity, you are dealt another “something” to deal with.
Today, more and more people are being asked to face what may seem like insurmountable challenges: a diagnosis of a serious illness, job loss or a divorce, not to mention children who find themselves drowning in troublesome seas.
Add any one of those to the fast pace of our lives, multitasking a myriad of roles and responsibilities and we have a recipe for stress levels that can soar, taking us into the stratosphere of chaos.
Like many of you, I am fairly adept at the circus act we call life: juggling more balls than we can feasibly handle, all the while hoping that we are doing a decent job of it. It's when one more ball is thrown into our finely tuned balancing act and we are asked to maintain the same rhythm and performance as before, that trouble sets in.
For me, this manifested a few years back when I was feeling a bit under the weather, so I decided to pay my internist a visit. He gave me the surprising diagnosis of high blood pressure. This juggler had too many balls in the air and she was teetering, the balls were beginning to tumble to the ground all around her.
What was I to do? Medication was a probable solution to my situation but that would be addressing only the symptomatic part of the problem. This diagnosis felt to me like a wake-up call; a signal to find a sense of balance in my life so that I could return to a place of peace within me that had somehow disappeared.
How can we find peace amid the chaos?
I believe in order to relieve our own stress and make the changes necessary to have a life characterized by inner peace, we must first and foremost, have a passion for creating it. We must want it, crave it, desire it so intensely that we are unwilling to settle for anything less.
For most of us this desire comes only after we have hit rock bottom, like receiving an unwanted health diagnosis as I did and we have nowhere else to go but up. The choice to have more peace in our lives is just that—a personal choice. Since my diagnosis of high blood pressure, I am choosing peace. How about you? Could you be hearing that call as well?
Allow me to offer my personal findings on creating inner peace amid personal chaos:
Five important practices, which, if engaged regularly, can bring greater peace, no matter how out-of-control our lives may seem.
INNER PEACE PRACTICES
1. Take time for solitude.
Solitude, spending time alone, brings precious gifts. When we can slow down, even stop, and take time for ourselves without interruption, our thoughts can become clear. We are better able to tap into our personal reservoir of insight—“knowings”—that can emerge only in blessed silence.
When our mind is overly busy with trying to figure out solutions to our problems, the innate wisdom we possess may have a difficult time breaking through. In solitude, clarity can come, along with the answers we seek, all without exhausting mental struggle. Solitude also provides much needed moments of sacred rest; enabling our mind and body to be replenished for the hours and days ahead.
A sense of personal peace can be found by paying attention to our breath. Sit, take a few minutes to focus on your breathing. Slowly count your inhales and your exhales. Breathe deeply with positive intention and you will discover that your attention shifts and slows.
A sense of relaxed peacefulness may begin to wash over you. Because we can focus on only one thought at a time (and if that one thought is fixated on our breath), our thoughts cannot wander elsewhere into stressful nooks and crannies. A recommended pattern of breathing for relaxation is 8 inhales to every 10 exhales. Relaxation actually comes with the out-breath, so more of those are desirable.
3. Get up and move.
Exercise, movement in any form, allows the body to release pent-up emotion and tension. Robert Gerzon shares in his book, Finding Serenity in the Age of Anxiety, how stress stores itself in our cells and how movement can release it.
When we are feeling overwhelmed, the most helpful thing might not be to sit still, trying to relax, but to get up and move instead.
Our body’s wisdom may guide us toward mobility to free itself of anxiousness; physical exertion does help restore equanimity. Movement brings not only newfound energy, but serves as a wonderful release valve for an overtaxed body/mind.
4. Express yourself.
Many of us handle stress by holding it all inside. This can create an energetic circuit of obsessive thoughts, over-worry, even emotional paralysis. It is important for us to release what ails us.
Find a good friend to talk to. If no one is available to take your call for support, then give yourself support by writing your thoughts down on paper.
Writing, for me, has been a powerful release tool. In a world that moves too quickly to listen, writing allows me to speak my truth. As ink flows, the paper accepts my words and absorbs them. I have been heard.
Artistic expression is another way to set our emotions and worries free. My friend, Pegg, uses a large roll of newsprint and markers, and when she feels the need for relief, she draws (scribbles) her heart out on long lengths of paper. She assures me it works wonders!
5. Engage in diversions.
Who says stress must be a full-time occupation? Diversion is a wonderful way to remove yourself from the intensity of any situation and grant yourself moments of peace.
Even when things might seem intense, engaging in another, non-related activity can re-center us and nourish our spirit. I recall when my father was in the hospital for high-risk heart surgery a few years ago. It would have been easy to become overwrought by the duress of the moment with many hours spent by his bedside.
It was amazing how restorative a quick walk or a lovely meal in a nearby restaurant could be. Getting out enabled me to "get up” again, and operate from a more balanced and peaceful frame of mind.Each of the above suggestions, once implemented, can bring us to a place of greater peace within ourselves, even when outside circumstances may not seem to support doing so. Inner peace is a choice. It is not a gift bestowed upon us from above.
Inner peace is a state of mind, body and heart in a world that will always throw us curves—especially when we least expect them. It is up to us to be prepared for their inevitable arrival.
Mary Manin Morrissey writes in Life Keys,
"We can rest in the exquisite knowledge that the place of peace, the center of the hurricane is available to us in every moment."Yes, inner peace is a matter of intention and choice and I, for one, vow to make it more prominent in my life. Would you care to join me?