When thinking about how to share what I’ve learned in regards to cultivating peace over the last five years and my tools as a functional stress management specialist I went searching first for the definition of peace. Google defines peace as “freedom from disturbance; tranquility”. From what I’ve seen and learned, I can’t fully agree with the first half of that definition. If peace could only be achieved in spaces apart from disturbance, I’d argue in our crazy world we couldn’t find peace anywhere. In this blog post, I’ll share tips I use both in my private practice and in my personal daily life to cultivate peace, even in our messy, disturbance-riddled world.
I know many folks won’t want to see this on the list because the reality is that mediation takes time and effort, but what I’ve found is that most of the actions we take to create peace are a little hard and full of heartfelt effort. Meditation has been proven in many studies to allow individuals to down-regulate the nervous system (shifting into the parasympathetic operating system of the ANS is arguably the physiological manifestation of peace in the body). Meditation also allows insights to arise that guide us in skillful, peaceful action and communication which often leads to less conflict in our lives. Finally, a key component I’ve found for peace is a certain kind of stillness; like coming across a quiet park in a busy city or the soft light of sunrise before the world wakes. Meditation allows us to recreate these gentle pauses more frequently throughout the day as we sink out of the noise in our heads into being fully alive in the moment. It’s peace on demand.
2. Define what is enough
Striving after things we are told that we “should” want but don’t need to feel happy will keep us always running on the hamster wheel of never enough. When I finally got very clear with myself about what makes me happy and what enough feels like, I was able to make a clear plan of execution and begin to trod slowly down it without getting caught up chasing after the proverbial squirrel and never having an opportunity to rest. When clients define what enough is from their closets to plates to their relationships they are better able to truly nourish themselves and create a life that is restful enough to make room for peace. It’s very hard to find peace if you’re always busy running after the next best thing.
3. Create scheduled moments to pause
This can be taking a walk every day at lunch outside, creating timers for our electronics, or having “stimuli-free” time zones in your day where you just connect with family or the outdoors. There are many ways that you can create moments where peace can enter in. This tip is closely linked to the previous one. Once you are not busy striving hard to get things you don’t truly need, you’ll have time to make space for peace to grow.
4. Start a gratitude practice
I don’t know about you but for myself, my clients, and the studies I’ve read it’s very rare to report feeling a sense of peace if you don’t feel content. Peace is not something that arises when there is a feeling of scarcity. Creating a gratitude practice is beneficial for the mind and body in many ways, but foremost among them is that gratitude is a gateway drug to peace.
5. Live Ahimsa (non-violence)
While peace may be able to exist in an environment with disturbances like loud noises or lots of people or movement, it inherently cannot exist in the midst of violence. Many people’s lives don’t regularly include the kind of violence that we see in action shows or video games, but there is a pervasive and malicious violence that often underlies many of our daily actions. This might be violence against another and it might be violence directed towards ourselves. True peace for me is only accessible when I release any ill will or judgment towards myself or others that I am in a relationship with. We can do this by practicing self-care or self-love towards ourselves, engaging in non-violent communication with our loved ones and those around us (this is the best resource ever if you want to learn non-violent communication skills), and living consciously as consumers and community members.
These are five of the ways that I plant the seeds of peace in my life through daily practices and big-picture mindset shifts. Ultimately, each person has to find the environments and approaches that open up space for peace and clear away barriers like anger, anxiety, depression, and fear. I believe, however, that these five tips are universal and create good soil in which peace can truly grow.