What IS inner peace?

The quick definition of inner peace is: Becoming a devout Buddhist; being completely passive, timid and reserved no matter the circumstances; quitting using Western medicine in favor of crystal-based healing practices; learning to surf and/or fly. Umm. No it is not. Come on, I joke because I care.

With all due respect to both Point Break  and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon inner peace has absolutely nothing to do with that stuff. But what DOES inner peace look like in our modern, fast paced world? That is what we are going to explore in this post.

Inner peace is not an externally recognizable state. Someone simply looking at you or observing your actions will not have any solid proof of your personal inner peace. Inner peace is an internal state of spiritual and mental balance. In a world of constant tumult, the state of inner peace allows calm. In a world of constant noise, the state of inner peace allows quiet. In a world of constant distraction, inner peace allows concentration.

Have you ever been faced with cleaning up a room or an area that seems completely out of control; where the task of organization seems nearly insurmountable? Well that room is our messy modern minds. Inner peace gives us the ability to understand why we threw stress and anxiety all over the floor of our mind and lets us clean it up. With so many dealing with mental health issues, drowning in work, moving away from traditional religion and spirituality, inner peace gives us the chance to take a step back and calm down for a moment.

True inner peace is achieving happiness through the reconnection with yourself. It is becoming a fuller version of yourself by rediscovering all you have to offer. It is the ability to shed the superficial pains and worries that weigh down your mind. It is accepting yourself for who you are, where you have been and where you are now so you have the ability to truly change for the better.

“But I still get angry!” I have heard this a thousand times as people explain their frustrations at reaching for inner peace. And my answer is always the same: “Good! That means you are still alive!” Listen, peace is not defined by a lack of anger. Anger is a perfectly reasonable, healthy emotion. Just like love or compassion. So why do we feel the need to suppress our anger? Society has taught us to look on the bright side, push our anger down and lock it away. But the truth is that, in order to fully embrace all that makes us unique, we need to meet, recognize and deal with ALL of our emotions; the positive and the negative. Anger can be righteous. Anger can be petulant. But either way, we feel it. So the only thing it cannot be is ignored. Instead, use it. Turn anger into motivation. Turn anger into energy to fuel yourself and your transformation. Take charge of your anger and make it a productive force in your life instead of suppressing it and allowing it to destroy you from the inside.

Self improvement and betterment is a lifelong process. There is no “finish line” where you becoming some glowing, shining example of cosmic oneness beyond reproach. We are all just trying our best to swim against the tide of social guilt and depravity. The key is to never give up. The big secret is to just keep trying. The journey towards inner peace is much like a game of Chutes & Ladders. You may rise, you may fall, but the game is not over as long as you keep playing.

Inner peace is not instant pudding, it is cook and serve. Many people think of inner peace as a radio frequency they can tune into and right the wave. But it is much more of a methodical process. It takes time. It takes a degree of patience. It takes a desire to be better to and for yourself and those around you. Introspection, the core of inner peace, can be difficult, even unpleasant. You are facing not only the good and bad within yourself, but also the reasons those parts exist. That means reviewing, re-examining and re-living the most tragic and/or painful moments of your life. The heavy stuff. The skeletons in our closet. But it is worth it. Those are the moments that make us who we are. They need addressed. So throw open that closet door, let the bones fall where they may and start dealing with them. Inner peace and self-acceptance are inexorably linked. You can never experience true happiness until you stop blaming yourself for your past and treating yourself as the victim. We need to meet our past, examine it, accept our role and the circumstances, and move on.

Finally, we MUST stop chasing perfection. Perfectionists train their mind that anything less than perfect is failure. As such, they tend to only pursue tasks where perfection is either assured or at least confidently attainable. It becomes an excuse for not trying things that they fear or do not understand at the outset. We are humans. Homo screwupicus. Relax. It is normal to not be perfect. At some point, we will all fall short of our own perfect expectations. Inner peace comes not from eliminating our weaknesses, but from learning and accepting both our strengths AND our weaknesses. That is how we grow.

Hopefully this helps to explain what inner peace looks like in our modern world. Remember, the most important word in “inner peace” is “inner”! You are doing this for you. It is your inner world. It all comes down to you.


Taking A Soul Vacation

Tired. Worn out. Over it. Beaten down. I have been there. Have you? Are you there right now? Have you ever felt like there is just too much going on around you to handle; like there is so much noise that you can’t think? It sounds to me like your soul needs a vacation. Just some time to rest. Lets talk about meditation.

Don’t roll your eyes! Yes, you do have time for it! With just 5 or 10 minutes, you can give yourself the greatest possible gift. You can give yourself a break. Meditation is the quickest, easiest way to rest and re-center your soul in times of stress…and a great way to maintain connection with yourself in times of joy. Prayer is when you talk to God and the universe. Meditation is when God and the universe talk to you. It is the settling of your soul and your mind.

“Meditation is a vital way to purify and quiet the mind, thus rejuvenating the body.” – Deepak Chopra

For the beginner, meditating can be a difficult and slightly confusing undertaking. You may even question whether you are doing it right. Relax. You can do this. Meditation is not about the amount of time you spend meditating, it is about the frequency. You wouldn’t expect to become a great marathon runner just by hitting the treadmill a few times. You need to be devoted to training and strengthening the appropriate muscles for something like that. Meditation is no different. Early on, it is about being dedicated to training yourself and strengthening the appropriate “muscles”; those of concentration, calm and insight. Here are 5 tips to get you going in the right direction:

1. Position – If you are sitting in a chair, keep your feet flat on the floor with your back straight. If you are sitting “indian style”, use a cushion to keep your knees below the level of your hips. Be comfortable! Relax your shoulders and arms. Put your hands on your thighs or let them rest in your lap.

2. Breathing – Don’t worry about trying to calm your mind. Instead try focusing on the sensation of your breathing. Savor the sensation. If your mind starts wandering, recognize that you are thinking and return your focus to the sensations of your breathing.

3. Eyes – Before starting, decide what you are going to do with your eyes; either closing them or keeping them open. If your goal is rest, introspection or body-based, close them. If you are trying to feel more comfortable or anchored in your space, keep them open.

4. Emotions – Long term meditators show increased size in brain regions associated with emotional regulation, leading to their ability to cultivate positive emotions, maintain emotional stability and engage in mindful behavior. Do not be surprised when the emotions come, because they will. Just acknowledge them and let them fade away as you focus on your breathing.

5. Mind – Do not worry about emptying your mind. That will come easier with experience. For now, just try to quiet your thoughts and focus on the sensations of your breathing.

Start out with 5 or 10 minutes every day. If you can swing the same time each day, great! If not, fine. Just find a quiet place to be and get started. It is worth it. You are worth it. The path to joy, happiness and a calm strong soul runs directly through meditation.

There are many excellent books on meditation and mindfulness, but two of my favorites are The Miracle of Mindfulness, by Thich Nhat Hans; and Wherever You Go There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn. These are both great reads and present information from two very different perspectives.

So keep your soul calm, serene and rested. Joy grows much faster in a well tended field than in a chaotic bramble.

Symmetrical Privilege?

When you initially meet a new person, I assume you look directly into their soul for your first impression, right? Of course not. We all, as a species, make broad assumptions based on a myriad of glaring and barely perceptible cues when we first meet a new person. Some of those assumptions may be correct, but most are probably dead wrong. Evolution has led us to some strange places, but this may well be the least necessary in today’s world.

It is not sex, age, or race that we use first to start placing labels on strangers. It is symmetry. The beauty of a face comes down to symmetry and ratios of distances. Beauty is quite literally a math problem, solvable using The Golden Ratio (or the Fibonacci Sequence). So, in many cases, how you are treated in our society is determined by the symmetry of your facial and body proportions – hence what I call Symmetrical Privilege. Fair? No. Shallow? Yes. But please remember, for all of our advancements, we are animals. We have animal brains and animal instincts. However, we do harbor the ability to overcome those instincts. But how?

Well, first we need to realize that we are souls wrapped in meat, not meat with a soul. The difference is that our sentience is not constrained to our body. From astral projection, to out of body experiences, to near death experiences, there are many examples of our sentience being free of its meat suit. If our soul is the true essence and sentient center of the person why does it matter whether the angles of the triangle formed by our facial features are 60°? What we consider traditional beauty seems very arbitrary when held up against the mind-blowing possibilities of an eternal soul.

An eternal soul. The part of you looking out of your meat suit right now and reading these words. The “you” that no cosmetic surgeon can alter. The good and the bad that make us all individuals. The “you” of which there has never, and never will be, another. That is the true seat of beauty in a human being. That is how we are separated from our animal predecessors. We are more than what we see. Actually, we are what we can’t see! The breaking news here is that, with practice and a change in our thought process, we can learn to pick up on the soul signals from others just as automatically as we pick up on pheromones. When we reserve our snap judgments, when we hold our lizard brains in check and allow our soul to meet the soul in front of us, then we have made a true stride.

Got a face built for radio? On that new “see food” diet? So what! Change it if you want. Decorate your meat suit however you want. But do not get sucked into the belief that you are defined by it. You are so much more. It is your soul, your sentience, that vibrating indestructible energy that makes you beautiful. True joy begins with taking the time to meet yourself; shaking hands and preparing for the hard work ahead of learning about “you”. You may just find that beauty has nothing at all to do with meat suit symmetry.

Organized Religion vs. Truth

Have you ever felt like a one-eyed man at a 3D movie? Like you are living in the same life as everyone else, but you are missing part of the experience? If so, you are among friends. Today’s world can feel rather underwhelming. You have been doing what everyone expects, and yet you are not fulfilled. You work hard, are in debt up to your eyeballs, are raising a family, attend church every Sunday, put your money in the plate so all your neighbors see you give, pretend to love all the right things and to hate all the wrong things. So why are you not actually happy? Could it be that you have been sold a load of crap!

The issue lies with organized religion and its relationship to a truly joyful and fulfilled individual. That relationship is very similar to that of a pharmaceutical company and a sick patient. Organized religion is BIG business. The last study of the revenue generated by the “faith industry” was in 2016. In 2016, organized religion was profiting $1.2 trillion within the United States alone. Not worldwide! $1.2 trillion per year in the U.S. alone! And that business depends on individuals continuing to seek its service, not on individuals who it has healed. Just as maintenance medications and not cures are what keep pharmaceutical companies generating revenue, it is a maintained individual and not a healthy community that keeps the religious coffers full. This is true of brick and mortar “churches”; online religious communities; religious authors and everyone who feeds the machine. No organized religion can safely claim that they are exempt from this narrative. The Catholic Church; the Christian churches and its multitude of splinter groups; Wicca; Judaism; Hinduism; Scientology; Buddhism; Satanism – all of these organizations generate huge amounts of money. But at what cost to the product they sell? The underlying message of every organized religion is, “You are not good enough. But we hold the key to being good enough and we will give it to you…for a price.” So…you buy in. You give what they tell you to give. You do what they tell you to do. You internalize what they tell you to internalize and you lock your logical questions behind a wall of “belief”. And you wait to be handed your happiness and fulfillment. But that is the secret folks. Your “product” never arrives. Your “good enough” is always just out of reach – one more pot luck away; one more ritual away; one more fasting away. And in the meantime, remember to keep giving. It is not financially responsible or advantageous in any way for an organized religion to give its adherents the keys to true happiness; joy; fulfillment and acceptance. Once an individual is at peace, they no longer have a need for the organization. Once an individual is at peace, they no longer have a need to keep emptying their pockets into the coffers. Once an individual finds truth, they no longer have a need to keep paying to be told the truth is coming.

Organized religion is a business based on taxing the seekers of truth for a product/service that they have no intention of actually providing. That is not to say that all of the teachings found in organized religion are faulty or untrue. There are parts of every organized religion that are absolutely wonderful and can be used to reach a fully realized and joyful state. And that is why each religion will tell you that ONLY their teachings are to be studied or believed. But lets save that discussion for another post.

In conclusion, do not allow organized religion to sell you a promise that they will, intentionally, never fulfill. They are businesses pure and simple, to the tune of $1.2 trillion annually. The truth is out there to be found and together we will discover it, if we are willing to listen and be brave.