#39 Finding Inner Peace

I got out of bed at 3:30 am to the smell of fire. I walked outside of my balcony and noticed the sky had a pinkish hue. Falling down were bits of debris. I felt ash on the wooden ledge but couldn’t see any evidence of a fire. I proceeded to the internet and saw that Napa and Sonoma counties were currently experiencing forrest fires. My heart is with them.

This was an extremely unsettling week for me. I was not affected personally, but those close to me were.

A friend’s brother committed suicide, another friend was close to Mandalay Bay during the Vegas shooting and nearly lost his life, a few friends and family members are going through rough patches in their life that I cannot comprehend even if I tried, and another close friend opened up to me about his father committing suicide while growing up with a mother who was an addict. If that wasn’t enough, the friend that was present during the Vegas shooting was shot with inches spared that would have paralyzed him for life.

These are real problems that those that I love experienced and although my problems are not the same, they’ve been important in fostering my spiritual growth.

Today I wanted to share some ways to find, cultivate, and practice inner-peace. My reasons are all through direct experience. They are authentic and every bit a part of me as my heartbeat.

Meditate — First off, meditation is not a session that you do once in a while, it’s a state of mind. It’s NOT to recount past lives, reduce karma, or touch some unknown cord that is beyond the empirical senses. That is nonsense. Meditation helps clear the noise in our head and make room for mental clarity. It is a practice to think about nothing. The reason it is simplistic and profound is because all the noise we have in our head is of the past and future — both of which are not here. Meditation helps us hone in on this moment. It is only through attentive and consistent practice that one can find inner-peace, even in the most dire of situations.

Tip — download Headspace — It’s a meditation app with a free trial period. I have not gone beyond the free trial because I’m at an intermediate level of meditation, mainly through my practice with Vipassana. Headspace is awesome for beginners. Please take advantage.

Reminding the self — When anxiety, worry, or any feeling of unease presents itself, I literally tell myself, “there is nothing going on in the world except where I am right now.’ I know I’m just stating the obvious, but it’s easy to forget that the noise in our heads are just clouds in our mental sky. Even if you want to think about the past and future, you can only do it now. Allow this moment to be your entire world. This is not new information, but just like water — we constantly need it to replenish our spirit. To live in the past and future robs us of energy, but being in the present facilitates a path for more of it.

Listening to others — Many people confide in me. I listen. They tell me personal things. I listen. When they ask for advice, I ask them, “What do you think you should do?‘ I’ve come to a place in my life where my best vehicle to heal another is through listening. My problems can never be someone else’s, but by listening I am letting another vent and they are healing. The very act of doing this is service. You feel alive when you help others and subconsciously you are healing yourself. When Mother Teresa was asked, “’How can I change the world?’” She said, ““Go home and love your family.”’ There is no shortage of people in our lives that can use our ear. Give them all your attention — unencumbered with the slightest notion of advice. All advice is predicated on our experience. It’s as if you’re trying to give directions to someone, when they’ve already Google Maps’d it. Check out this article I wrote for Elephant Journal earlier this year for more context on this.

Listening to what is — When what you see becomes what you hear, then true freedom, healing, love, and growth take place. Think about this statement for a second because it’s rudimentary in nature, but unlocks huge potential for us. As you go about your day, be completely attentive in what you are doing. As I’m typing these words I am completely engaged and a sense of euphoria is over me that is hard to explain. This feeling is available to all of us. To reduce the chatter of the mind, you must practice inward contemplation for the monkey brain to subside. Unfortunately, many are content with the endless chatter in their minds. It’s a sad way to live when turning the light switch off is very easy. Practice active listening by being fully aware in the most mundane activities of your daily life. Enjoy the taste of your food and savor it. Try to drive home without the radio on and completely focus on the act of driving. When you get home to your family, put away the phone and be engaged in meaningful conversation.

You can’t help anyone — You can be a tool to guide others in their healing, but you cannot walk the path of another. This can be hard because we want those we love to be okay. Although we are experiencing life collectively, our journeys are alone. We can only be a lampost for those we love. Smile because you don’t own their problems, but also smile because you know you can help them without taking on their baggage.

Take care of your body with diet— Inner-peace has a lot to do with diet. I practice a plant-based, pastured-raised diet. Although I’m not perfect, eating this way about 98% of the time has its benefits. Our bodies pH hovers around 7.35–7.45. Water’s pH is at 7. We must be as close to water as possible for the body to run efficiently. Since fruits, veggies, and grass-fed meats are comprised largely of water, they help the body maintain a state of homeostasis. Eating this way makes the heart work less. Take care of your health today. Don’t wait for tomorrow. There will never be a perfect time to start. Just start.

Anicha — This word means impermanence in Pali — a language that’s dead now, but was spoken 5,000 years ago. If you learn nothing else in this lifetime, please learn anicha. If more people understood that every feeling or sensation you feel will come and go, more would be in better mental health. The knowing that all things are in constant flux helps you yo detach to any one feeling for too long. The four seasons are a reminder of this. Even if we are attached to spring, the winter will force us to feel the cold. We might rejoice in the anticipation of summer, but it will give way to autumn. However, if you can love each season for what it is, then no matter what time of year — you will not be dispirited.

Breathe — Although we all breathe, when we are in our minds and thinking about events that are not in the present, our breathing patterns change. They become shorter, less oxygen comes into the body, which means blood flow is restricted and the heart works harder. Closing your eyes and removing yourself from the world temporarily and taking deep breaths will help. Closed your eyes and breathe deeply for about 1 minute right now. Count your breaths and focus on how the air comes in and out of your nasal passages. How do you feel?

I sincerely hope some of these tips help you. Our world is full of beauty and turmoil — and although everyone complains about the turmoil — if you can see it with a certain amount of beauty, this life that you’ve been gifted can become more enjoyable.

You are your thoughts, but also the entity looking at the thoughts. Your thoughts are the clouds, but the limitless sky, beyond the veil of blue into the infinite cosmos, is you as well. We all have the capacity to understand this.

With Love,

Anand Swamy

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