As a coach, whenever I ask clients faced with difficulties or conflict what they want, the response is always similar. The anxious presenter wants to feel calm. The mother with bickering children wants tranquility. The over-stretched employee wants some space to think. The divorcee wants to stop arguing with their ex. There are so many different situations that all come down to the same thing — the quest for inner peace.
Why does inner peace elude us so much? In principle, it seems so simple. Stop and be still and the bliss of this moment will reveal itself… won’t it? Apparently not!
Anyone who has ever tried to go from stressed out to stillness in one fell swoop knows it is doomed to failure. You may have been there before. You may be there now. And pity the poor helper who offers the well-meaning suggestion that you should just ‘calm down’. Note to reader: If you plan to use this advice, I strongly recommend ducking immediately the words have been uttered!
Even if we are not in the full-blown version of stress and anxiety, going from high alert to peaceful is still a really big ask. Those of us who have thought we can compensate for living on over-drive with a quiet massage or meditation know that we tend to spend the first fifteen minutes trying to quieten our mind and the next fifteen asleep.
So where does the elusive inner peace hang out? Is it the equivalent of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (known only to a Buddha-like Leprechaun)?
The clue is really in the label. Inner peace is exactly where it should be. On the inside of each and every one of us is a place of pure tranquility —unmoved and unaffected by anything occurring on the outside. We sometimes struggle to find our way there because the entrance is hidden behind some uncomfortable feelings that we would rather avoid.
Sitting still means getting to know yourself. When the meaningless distractions are taken away, it is just you and YOU. And if we haven’t been giving ourselves enough quality ‘me-time’, we will stand in front of our true self like an apologetic and inattentive partner. How will you explain your reasons for being absent for so long?
So here is your challenge: Take five minutes to just sit with yourself. There is no objective of this exercise other than to meet yourself exactly where you are. You may want to make yourself comfortable and close your eyes. Become the quiet observer noticing your thoughts and feelings as they occur. Let go of any judgments and simply allow whatever wants to be, even the mind chatter. Just watch yourself and your mind with interest.
What did you find? Perhaps you were able to immediately experience that space of connection and peace. But maybe you noticed something different. Quite often, our re-encounters with our true self can bring uncomfortable emotions – anxiety, loneliness, frustration, impatience or sadness and so on.
We aren’t taught to enjoy those feelings and so our natural tendency is to turn away or avoid. But when we make them welcome – as they are without the need to change or fix the experience — we often find that we drop through the discomfort. Beneath all of those ego-fueled emotions, we discover the truth that was hiding there all along — inner peace was never hiding from us, we had just walked away.
Any time we want to feel the full, spacious nature of our inner being, we simply need to stop, let what will be just be and let the doorway to the peace we seek simply open through our hearts.