Peace is an inner state of mind, or state of being, which means that its experience isn’t dependent on any outer circumstances.
And so it follows that we can achieve that state at any time, in any place and under any conditions.
However, we often perceive the lack of inner peace to be triggered by something outside of us. In reality, it is our response to the outer event, so we may have to consciously exercise some inner muscles in order to regain that sense of calm.
I didn’t always believe that I had the power to do this—to bring myself back from a state of anxiety, annoyance or inner chaos—without anything outside me needing to change in any way. But over the last 10 years I’ve learned a trick or two that have opened my eyes to this possibility—and to my own power.
Allow me to share two simple things I’ve learned that are particularly powerful when combined:
Our breath is incredibly powerful and by deliberately altering it in various ways, we can improve our sense of well-being—both in the moment and in the longer term. My favorite tool to use in times of crisis is the pranayama exercise of Dirgha, also known as “Complete Breath” or “Three Stage Breath.”
This breath involves consciously filling three different areas of our lungs, starting in the lower chambers (filling up our bellies), moving up through the middle thoracic regions (feeling expansion in the ribcage) and finishing in the upper region (where our breath is often confined during times of stress).
When we fully breathe in this manner, we make better use of the oxygen we inhale, and we also cleanse our lungs more completely when we exhale. So it cleanses the body, but it also seems to cleanse the mind somewhat, as a few rounds of this breath can really help to calm things down. The best thing is we can apply this breath pretty much anywhere and anytime.
There are lots of free tutorials available online—it’s quick and easy to learn and quick and easy to practice.
I can choose peace instead of this.
A favorite lesson from the book A Course in Miracles is: I could see peace in this situation instead of what I now see in it.
Whether taking things personally, making assumptions, or judging people or situations harshly for any reason, the internal disharmony we’re feeling is a result of how we’re viewing things.
And we always have the power to readjust our lens. When I catch myself getting wound up about something, I use this lesson as a mantra. Combined with some deep belly breaths, I recite it to myself several times until I feel a sense of calm being restored.
The beauty of these two steps is that they can bring us back into a peaceful state in a matter of moments. Next time you find yourself caught up in anxiety, stress or irritation, I invite you take a deep breath and choose peace instead.