What can we do to foster the growth of peace of mind?

Peace is not Gods gift to his creatures. It is our gift to each other (Elie Wiesel)

We dream of living in a peaceful world, but before we can do so, we have to discover our own inner peace. It is only after experiencing contentment that we can sow peace in our family, neighborhood, workplace, and community. What is peace of mind? It is not the absence of problems, a big bank account, or a beautiful home, but it is how we choose to feel about our present circumstances. That’s right; its a feeling, a feeling we choose to have.

How many problems have you experienced and what happened to them? Weren’t your problems resolved? Wont all future problems also be resolved? If you keep this in mind, it’ll be easier to maintain your peace of mind when you run into an obstacle. With practice, you’ll be able to dissolve any problem merely by looking at it. For when you look at problems closely enough, you will find they are opportunities in disguise.

Focusing on what we don’t have instead of what we do have is one of the main reasons many of us suffer from discontent. TV, radio, and print ads bombard us daily, and their only purpose is to convince us that we are not contented and need something else to be happy. No wonder we find it difficult to find happiness in ourselves, but be forewarned, you wont find it anywhere else. I guess they had advertising in ancient Greece too, for Epicurus wrote about the same subject: Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; but remember what you now have was once among the things only hoped for.

Imagine for a moment that you return from work and discover that your home or apartment has been robbed. All your possessions are gone! How would you feel? Meanwhile, the next day the police tell you the thief has been captured, and they return all of your property in perfect condition. Now how would you feel? Wouldn’t you feel great? Guess what? Everything has been returned, look around you and see for yourself. Now that you know it is there, enjoy it; be happy. Although its okay to enjoy possessions, we need to understand happiness, contentment, and peace of mind don’t arise from what we have, but from what we are. Our desires are insatiable. Possessions can never fulfill us. As soon as we get the object of our desire, we grow tired of it and want something else. So, the only way to be contented is to give up the desire for the things we think will bring contentment!

Instead of focusing on what we don’t have, we need to be thankful for what we do have. As Melody Beattie wrote, Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. Also, be thankful not only for every wonderful thing you have received, but for every horrible thing you have avoided.

Peace is not something for us to wish for, but something for us to make, do, be and give away. The part about giving it away is important, for as Shantideva, the renowned Indian Buddhist master (687 – 763) said, Whatever joy there is in this world, all comes from desiring others to be happy, and whatever suffering there is in this world arises from desiring only myself to be happy.

Do you want a simple formula for achieving peace of mind? Do what is right. Do what you ought, not what you please. Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, also recommended this philosophy, for he wrote:

Why not simply honor your parents,
love your children,
help your brothers and sisters,
be faithful to your friends,
care for your mate with devotion,
complete your work cooperatively and joyfully,
assume responsibility for problems,
practice virtue without first demanding it of others,
understand the highest truths yet retain an ordinary manner?
Nearly 300 years ago, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu expressed this same truth another way: While conscience is our friend, all is at peace; however once it is offended, farewell to a tranquil mind.

Our own negativity blocks the peace of mind buried deep within us. Once we free ourselves of our bad attitude, contentment will rise to the top and overflow. What are some of the harmful behaviors we need to stop?  Criticism and blame immediately come to mind. When you point at others, look at your own hand and you will find that three fingers point right back at you, so stop blaming others. If you’re a legitimate victim, you have a right to seek justice, but after doing so, get over it; move on; stop complaining. He insulted me, he cheated me, he beat me, he robbed me. Those who are free of such resentful thoughts surely find peace, said Buddha.

What else can we do to foster the growth of peace of mind? Accept others as they are; don’t try to change them. If you’ve been wronged, forgive others, but don’t judge them. If you wish to become a true peacemaker, its not your friends, but your enemies that you need to talk to.

When we replace the love of power with the power of love, we will have made giant strides in achieving peace. Frederick Buechner articulately described the power of love as follows, Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality — not as we expect it to be but as it is — is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love. Armed with these thoughts, lets go in peace.