A positive state of mind is within your control
The most elusive thing in developing inner peace is realizing that conditions in the outer world do not have power over your state of mind.
While we may have little control over what goes on around us, we always have complete control over how we react to events. Although the commercial world seems to conspire against that truth, as it conditions us to consume, desire, fear and compete, the deeper truth is that we have the ability to make our own reality and not fall prey to all the culture’s pressures.
Every one of us has the ability and the power at all times to create our own state of mind. Given a lifetime of conditioning that makes us doubt that ability, it isn’t always easy to do, but even modest success begins a process that builds our confidence for developing further control over our inner state.
Another obstacle many of us put in front of ourselves is that we like having a tumultuous, emotional, roller coaster of an inner world. For us westerners particularly, we secretly think that the person who has achieved inner peace must live a life that is dull. Without having passionate displays of emotion, it seems that we can’t imagine such people being truly happy.
Happiness seems to be the goal, and isn’t that an emotion? But the happiness we see in someone who has just won the lottery isn’t what we imagine. It’s a temporary state that comes from allowing external events to dictate our lives.
In reality a person who has gained inner peace has a life that is vibrant, alive and profoundly fulfilling, one that can’t be taken away by some turn of events. And that comes from understanding two things: 1) our words, thoughts, and especially the pictures and images we hold in our consciousness have creative power, and 2) the real world is far more extensive and mysterious than the limited world we perceive with our five senses.
The first one, the creative power of words, thoughts and images, does not mean you can sit and picture piles of money and wake up the next morning to find that money on your doorstep. Using this power successfully requires some self-knowledge, a sense of timing, and most importantly a perceptive ability to know what your world is ripe for, what developments would allow opportunities for good to be accomplished. When a door opens you have to recognize that and be willing to act, to follow up, to bring the opportunity to fruition.
Helpful techniques you practice could take a variety of forms, from the use of archetypal symbolic language (read Carl Jung on this subject), to ritual practices, to structured programs like the Course in Miracles. All of these methods depend to varying degrees on the function of the subconscious mind as a mediating, creative link between higher self and the material world.
The second understanding, that the real world includes much more than our senses perceive, seems to fly in the face of our modern, technology-driven world. Science and rational thought are great, but as Hamlet says to his good friend Horatio, “there are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
Rational thought will never explain all of life’s mystery. One must allow truth to include some things that are not subject to what we call cause and effect. Until this greater truth has been embraced, it is difficult if not impossible to access and fully utilize the creative power of the mind.
Inner peace is positivity without naiveté. It’s a positivity born of the knowledge that your state of mind is within your own control. Inner peace does not make you into an idealist. It heightens perception and gives you the clarity to see the world as it really is. It promotes the ability to make good decisions. It also helps you focus on the present moment rather than dreaming of the future or dwelling on the mistakes and misfortunes of the past. All of this serves to lessen fear in our lives, fear that we are not good enough, and fear that we can’t cope with life’s demands. Once these fears subside, we can change life for the better.
Avram Chetron is a retired high school math teacher who’s involved in making vocal and instrumental music, teaching courses through OLLI, and learning how to enjoy his life a little more every day. Email 600- to 700-word articles on all aspects of inner peace to Sally McKirgan at firstname.lastname@example.org.