It’s a nice dream, isn’t it…. finding peace in the present moment.
I mean, who wouldn’t want that? If you could find it in every present moment you’d be a zen master and life would be a breeze….. I assume.
But is it really possible? Is peace in any (or every) moment really attainable.
Life is so very peace-less, so much of the time. Just in our day to day existence it can be wildly unpeaceful, let alone finding peace in a world where the environment is doomed, war is looming all over the place, the poor struggle to survive, we’re killing off animal species with crazy speed and violence, anger and tension between humans are so very common place.
Peace seems like a bit of a pipe dream.
Why try to find peace in the present moment?
There’s something intrinsic in us, I believe, that kinda knows peace is a better place to spend time than any of the alternatives (i.e. anxiety, anger, fear, stress, depression, sadness, loneliness, overwhelm).
But so many of us are so far from a state of peace that it also seems wildly foreign and (if we’re honest) kinda scary and weird.
It’s the domain of monks, hippies and woo-woo new age crazy people.
Yet, I also hear people, over and over, talk about peace like it’s a dream state they yearn for – they don’t really believe in it but they would really, really like it to be possible.
We want peace, on some deep and fundamental level.
And I believe that is because peace is actually how humans (like all animals) are meant to spend most of their time. As my all time favourite life coach, Martha Beck, puts it, “Peace is our home. So go home.”
The reason she, and I, and many, many other people believe peace is our “home” – our natural state – is that the brain is built with two primary states in which it lives…the sympathetic nervous system, which is our stress response state of being, and the parasympathetic nervous system, which is our relaxation response state of being.
When we are in the stress response state of being, everything in our body is focus on fuelling and supporting the parts of the body required to ensure our survival. I’ve written about this in more detail here.
When we are in the relaxation response state of being, everything in our body is relaxed and functioning in ways that keep us healthy, happy, rested and engaged in loving relationships.
The body was never meant to live in the stress response state of being for long periods. Never. But modern life induces it constantly. Humans live with hundreds of stress response triggers each day, and most of us never switch it off fully. This chronically triggered stress response will make your body breakdown. I’ve written about that here.
So finding peace in the present moment means you’re spending more time in the relaxation response state of being, which is good for your health, happiness and life enjoyment.
That’s why it’s worth learning how to do.
What does finding peace in the present moment really mean?
I believe that to find peace in any given moment means we suddenly lose connection with fear, anxiety, the need for doing or achieving, our insecurity and worry, our swirling negative thoughts…..all these things are unpeaceful.
Instead, when we find peace, we have a gentle sense of things – we are gentle and kind to ourselves, gentle and kind in our thinking and acting toward others and we have a gentle and kind approach to the world.
In short, we find love.
To me, peace and love are almost synonymous.
So to find peace in the present moment means that you find yourself in a gentle and kind state internally, with regard to whatever the present moment contains. It’s an acceptance and a dropping of resistance to whatever reality is, at that moment.
And it feels beautiful.
How to find peace in the present moment
There are two ways people approach finding peace, and I’m learning in my peace-seeking journey, that one works a whole lot better than the other, mostly because it uses a peaceful practice to do the finding (and it seems counterproductive, when you think about it, to use a non-peaceful practice to find peace).
The non-peaceful way is to try and “get peace” by pushing it in to your mind, your schedule or your feelings. Adding peaceful thoughts, peaceful practices or things that feel peaceful.
And these thoughts, practices and things that feel peaceful can work at increasing your sense of peace in the present moment. No doubt. I do such things and encourage others to do such things, precisely because they do work.
Let’s say you find yourself in a traffic jam. People are stuck in their cars, getting frustrated. You’re one of them too. But you can’t turn off and try a different route, you’re stuck. That’s reality. It’s easy to spend that stuck time thinking how stupid you were to drive instead of take the train, or to choose this route. You can get annoyed at poor government investment in roadways, or irresponsible drivers who cause accidents that slow traffic, or just get frustrated that so many people exist and want to drive around.
The mind loves to get on cycles of ever-increasing stress, tension and anger.
So, to attempt to find peace in this situation using the non-peaceful method, you might try to create a more peaceful atmosphere by “pushing” some peace into your mind, such as repeating a peaceful mantra, putting on peaceful music, thinking of people and things that make you happy. All of these can work and are worth trying.
But I’m learning a second way, which I’m finding much more organic and powerful. It approaches finding peace in the present moment by starting with a peaceful approach.
The peaceful approach to finding peace is to simply accept and allow the present moment to be what it is.
Our frustrations, anger, stress…they’re all signs we are resisting reality in some way. You are stuck in that traffic and can do nothing, in that moment, to change that. A moment lasts only a second. And when that second arrives, reality is what it is, it can’t be changed.
Learning to look around you, at reality as it is, and accept it and welcome it, begins the finding of peace with peace.
If you find the situation you’re in too difficult to just “accept”, then take it back a step and accept your anger and frustration, your sense of injustice and your inability to accept the situation. Accept whatever is, in that moment, even if what is, is your own non-acceptance.
Try repeating something like this: I accept this situation, as it is. I accept the traffic. I accept the frustration. I accept the loss of time and activity. I offer no resistance to this situation. Reality, you are welcome here because you are my life, in this moment.
The benefits of finding peace in the present moment through acceptance
On top of the benefits discussed earlier, to your health and happiness, when you turn off the stress response and turn on the relaxation response, you’ll also just feel better. Peace feels good.
In the traffic jam, you will arrive at your destination late but calm, happy and bringing a positive energy into whatever you’re doing. That’s all a huge benefit, not only to you but to those around you.
But on a deeper level, accepting reality can have far greater reaching effects that not being so stressed about traffic.
Learning to accept reality can allow you to accept that people behave in ways you would rather they didn’t. This can help reduce tension in relationships and avoid rifts that can divide friends, families and nations.
Learning to accept reality can have profound affects on your health, when you accept your pain, your illness, your depression or your symptoms. For encouragement at how effective this method of self-healing can be, read Kris Carr‘s story of how learning to love and accept her stage four cancer was what it took to start seeing healing taking place (and hers isn’t the only story I’ve heard of cancer being healed through this method of finding peace).
Learning to accept reality can work miracles. Try it in your own life and see what happens when you extend a loving acceptance and non-resistance to things you do not like, such as a job you hate, a task you despise, a challenge that you’re scared of.
Perhaps most delicious and precious of all is that cultivating and acceptance and non-resistance to reality, in any given moment, helps grow our acceptance of who and what we are. Self love continues to be one of the hardest mountains to climb, specially for modern western women, and learning to lovingly accept what is, rather than always seeing what “should be different” and wishing it were so, cursing that it isn’t so, hiding that it is so, pretending that it isn’t so or going to huge effort to try and make it not so, can have profound effects on how your life feels to live.
And as you know, I love to help women create lives that feel beautiful to live.
Let me know how it goes! I’d love to hear your stories of finding peace through peaceful means.