Rediscover your peace of mind
In response to a former column, a reader wrote: “…you never told us how to get ‘peace of mind.’” Indeed, peace of mind seems to be unattainable for most people in this everyday world.
A peaceful mind is absolutely essential to physical health. Mental health and physical health are inextricably bound together. You cannot have one without the other. When we are physically ill, we suffer mentally. When we are mentally disturbed, our bodies are always out of balance.
The demands of living in our society almost guarantee an imbalance in our mental and emotional life. Constant stress, unemployment, dysfunctional family relationships, environmental pollutants, pressure to perform, anxiety and depression, all seem to characterize our common lifestyles. How can we possibly take the time to have peace of mind? We often don’t have the time to eat right. How can we possibly have “balance in our bodies?”
Physician, Dean Ornish, most well-known for his research demonstrating that heart disease can not only be prevented, it can be reversed, has said, “…peace of mind is not something you get, it’s something that you have already if you stop disturbing it. In general, poor health is not caused by something you don’t have; it’s caused by disturbing what you already have. Health is not something that you need to get, it’s something you have already if you don’t disturb it. So the goal is not to find the pill that’s going to make you healthy or an operation you can undergo to feel better, rather the goal is to discover how you can identify what’s disturbing your peace and your health and stop doing that.”
How do we stop disturbing our natural state, a peaceful mind? It is not easy in today’s world. Here are a few suggestions however.
First of all, learn non-reactivity. This means that you do not have to react to everything that happens around you. Even if someone asks you a direct question, you are not required to answer it directly. Politicians know that very well. When we are children, we often feel very anxious if we do not react to parents in the ways they want us to. We often grow up believing that we have to react to everything others ask of us in order to feel safe in the relationship.
The good news is that as grown-ups, we are safe in responding from within and by conscious choice. When we orient our attention to what is happening inside our minds and bodies and respond to outside stimuli from within that inner awareness, our minds are not disturbed by events or conditions outside our skin. The result of learning to respond from within rather than react to outside events, is that we are able to maintain our inner balance even when outside us chaos reigns.
A second skill useful in getting back to a balanced, therefore peaceful, state of mind is to modify the content of that constant chatter within our minds. We are usually so used to mentally talking to ourselves, we rarely experience a moment of mental silence. Our minds are constantly engaged in thinking or imaging (mental pictures without words). We never seem to give it a rest.
When we change our mental chatter to thinking and imagining pleasurable events, memories, positive self-talk, consideration of anticipated enjoyment, our bodies begin to respond to these mental activities. When the content of our thinking is peaceful, our bodies are much more likely to be peaceful.
Learning the skill of meditation is probably the most widely accepted method of stilling the mind, stilling the body, and modifying the content of the mental chatter and imagination. So one very powerful skill we can practice in developing peace of mind is: meditation.
Ornish gives an example of creating balance in our bodies when he writes: “Heart disease is a good example (of disturbing our bodies). It is a disease of excess—too much fat, too much cholesterol, too much stress, too many cigarettes. If you simply stop creating this excess, your body often has the capacity to begin healing itself. You must give it a chance, but we often don’t do that. Three or more times a day we eat more fat and cholesterol than our bodies can get rid of, so it tends to build up in the arteries.
Likewise, our usual mental state is loaded with excess. Too much disasterizing, too much worry, too much fear, too much angry thought, too much to think about, to much to respond to. When our minds become filled with unnecessary thought, we and ask our bodies to respond in kind. Perhaps what we need to do is some “mental housecleaning” in order to facilitate more peace in our minds.
“Peace of mind”…that seemingly elusive state, is in fact, our natural state. Don’t spend any time looking for it. Rather, spend some time identifying what you are doing to disturb it in the first place. Then develop your skill at stilling your mind, or filling it with content that is peaceful. Somehow, we seem to have a rather large capacity to disrupt and disturb our natural state both mentally and physically. I am sure we were born with peace of mind and body.
Today, the trick is to discover our way back to our natural state.
When we do this, peace of mind will be rediscovered.
Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D. has 30-plus years experience as a life coach and licensed psychologist. He is an author, speaker, and life coach.