Finding Peace in the Present Moment
It's a nice dream - 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.....
But is it really possible? Is peace in every (or any) 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 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.
What is peace, really? How do you know if you’ve found it? Is it really possible to find peace when everything around you is in chaos?
Peace seems to be 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 to be operating in one of two states...either the sympathetic nervous system is active or the parasympathetic nervous system,
To de-jargon that, either we are operating in stress mode or relaxation mode.
Stress Mode and Relaxation Mode
When we are in the stress state of being, everything in our body is focused on fuelling and supporting the parts of the body required to ensure our survival when we’re under threat.
When we are in the relaxation 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 is not built to live in the stress state of being for long periods. It can’t do so and remain healthy – the stress state of being turns of digestion, immune system function and restoration activity. That’s a recipe for developing health issues.
But modern life induces the stress mode constantly. Anything that feels at all like a threat (which may mean an actual threat but can also happen when we’re thinking things that worry us, or when we watch something tense or unpleasant on tv, or the traffic has us worked up, or work is stressful, for the kids are driving us crazy) can induce the brain into stress mode.
Humans live with hundreds of stress triggers each day, and most of us never switch out of stress mode fully. The chronically triggered stress response will make your body breakdown.
So finding peace in the present moment, which is the only moment we ever actually have, means making the space you need to do restful and calming actions so your stress response switches off, meaning your relaxation response kicks in.
That’s where health comes from – enough time spent in relaxation mode. And that's why learning to find peace in the present moment (whatever that moment might hold).
What does finding peace in the present moment really mean?
To find peace, even for a moment, means losing connection with fear, anxiety, the need for doing or achieving, our insecurity and worry, our swirling negative thoughts and any other internal activity that isn’t peaceful.
These things are all preventing a peaceful state inside your head.
When we manage this disconnection and find peace, we experience 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.
To find peace in the present moment is to find yourself open to love at a much more broad and deep level. You’re in a gentle and kind state internally, with regard to whatever the present moment contains.
It's an acceptance, a dropping of resistance, to whatever reality is, at that moment.
And it feels beautiful.
How to find peace in the present moment
When starting out on the journey of learning to find peace, it’s important to recognise that there are two ways to approach it.
One works a whole lot better than the other.
Firstly, there’s a non-peaceful way. This path to finding peace aims to "get peace" by pushing it in to your mind, your schedule or your feelings.
Adding peaceful thoughts, peaceful practices or things that should feel peaceful.
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.
Here’s an example:
Let's say you find yourself in a traffic jam.
People are stuck in their cars, getting frustrated.
You're one of them.
But you can't turn off and try a different route, you're stuck.
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.
You repeat a peaceful mantra,
put on peaceful music,
think of people and things that make you happy.
All of these can work and are worth trying.
But there’s 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.
It simply requires that you “accept and allow” the present moment to be what it is.
Notice your frustration, anger, stress. See them as indications you are resisting the reality of the moment you’re in, in some way.
You are stuck in that traffic and can do nothing about it, in that moment. When a moment arrives, reality is what it is, it can't be changed. So accept it.
Learning to look around you, at reality as it is, and accept it, begins the process of you bringing peace to it.
If you find the situation you're in too difficult to just “accept”, then take it back a step.
Accept your anger and frustration.
Accept your sense of injustice.
Accept you’re your inability to accept the situation.
Try repeating something like this:
I accept this situation, as it is.
I accept the traffic.
I accept my frustration.
I accept the loss of my time.
I offer no resistance to this situation.
Reality, you are welcome here because you are my life, in this moment.
What about situations you really want to change, not accept?
Note: Many people feel if they do this much accepting of a situation they don’t want, that they’ll never make things better. They feel that improving their situation requires exactly the opposite – not accepting the crappy situations.
But here’s why that thinking is flawed.
It’s only when we have a full and calm knowledge of a problem that we can find the best and most effective solution to it. While we’re flapping around in panic or fear or anger we can’t see things clearly and make good decisions.
So accepting reality like this, even when reality is not something we want to leave unchanged, will actually land us in a better mental and emotional place to make changes that will actually improve things.
First peace. Then action if/when necessary.
The benefits of finding peace in the present moment through acceptance
On top of the benefits to your health and happiness, when you turn off stress mode and turn on relaxation mode, 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, to yourself and those around you.
Learning to accept reality can also allow you to accept that people behave in ways you would rather they didn't. And you can’t control or change other people. (And trying to do so never ends well, for you or them, so stop trying and learn to accept them as they are).
This kind of acceptance can help reduce tension in relationships and avoid rifts that can divide friends, families and even nations.
Learning to accept reality can have profound effects on your health, on top of simply giving your body the calmness it needs to do healing work.
When you accept your pain, your illness, your depression or any symptoms it can generate rapid and miraculous healing. 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 and love for the illness).
Learning to accept reality can work miracles.
Try it in your own life and see what happens.
For extra credit, try extending 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 an 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.
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 finding peace through accepting the present moment goes!
I'd love to hear your stories of finding peace through peaceful means.