Times are crazy right now, huh? Like cray cray crazy. So many of us are chasing peace and falling just short of it. If there is one I’ve learned about peace is that it isn’t found in a face mask, the media, a vaccine, or anywhere else like that. Can those things be useful? Of course. But peace isn’t something we obtain and then put on the inside of us. True peace is a presence of heart and mind that we cultivate through disciplining our focus regularly. But how exactly do we do that? What goes into disciplining our focus? How do we strengthen our hearts and minds to overcome what is happening around us and experience that ever elusive peaceful living? I have some thoughts on this subject, so keep reading.
First, let’s talk about what peace is not…
1. Peace is not an emotion.
Emotions are fickle. They come and go with what our five sense are experiencing at any given moment.
2. Peace is not something we strive for.
Striving, by definition, involves fighting for something in an effort to obtain it. Peace cannot be obtained like money or influence. Any peace that you have to chase or fabricate is not pure and will only lead to further issues.
3. Peace does not exit left in the midst of a challenge.
Just because we don’t feel peaceful doesn’t mean we aren’t. Remember, peace is not an emotion.
So now that we know what peace is NOT, what, exactly, IS it?
Peace, by definition, is calm, tranquil, and orderly; a period of time when war has ended or there is freedom from civil disorder.
I think I may know what you’re thinking right now… “Amy, all of those things are dependent upon circumstances.”
Well, maybe. Or maybe not.
When I think of peace as calm, tranquil and orderly, I think of it in terms of the state of mind and my response to challenges. In short, I can feel afraid but choose to respond from a place of quiet confidence instead of from my feelings.
Think about it this way… When fighting a fire, I would imagine that a firefighter feels a lot of things – hesitant (to say the least), afraid, and full of doubt. However, he is trained to rise above those feelings, take courage, run into a burning building and get that fire put out.
While we may not be the one to put out literal fires, we can do much of the same thing in the fires of our own lives. Through daily meditation, mind renewal and focus, we can learn to face any circumstance with clarity of mind and heart.
Developing these skills does come with some sacrifice.
First, we’ve got to turn off the TV, put down our devices and practice being present in any given moment. For me that looks like taking ten minutes to sit very still, with my eyes closed, breathing deeply and quieting my mind and body. From there I pray and give the Holy Spirit time to speak.
When I first started it was impossible to sit still for one minute (let alone ten!), but I kept practicing and re-centering my mind when it began to wander. As time went by, one minute turned to two. Two became five and now taking ten minutes each day to silently meditate is crucial for me.
Here’s the thing, because I’m developing the habit of focusing on the peace that is on the inside of me, when challenges (along with my blood pressure) start to rise, it is much easier to take a step back, quiet my soul, and respond, instead of react, to what is in front of me.
It’s also so very important to fill our heads and hearts with positivity.
Please don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean naiveté. I mean positivity. There is a HUGE difference. Naiveté denies that there are challenges. Positivity sees challenges as opportunities for growth and service. It empowers us to look inward and work on areas that need maturing. It also encourages to look outward and find ways to meet the needs of others. Once we can use the “stuff” of life to mature us and help our communities, we’ve come to a place where peace will find us.
And finally, I really want to talk about focus.
What we focus on we get more of. If you are struggling with fear, anxiety and depression, spending hours watching news channels, reading articles, and listening to the latest breaking stories, will not help. I am not saying that we should not be aware of what is happening in the world, I’m simply posing a new way of doing things. Read, watch and listen to enough of the news to stay knowledgeable, but spend even more time with your focus on things that build you up. After all, if you are a wreck because of all that is happening around you, how can you help be a positive catalyst for change?
Y’all, living a peaceful life takes effort. It means constantly re-focusing our thoughts and feelings and using the junk to make us better humans. But once we understand that peace is found on the inside of us, we can suddenly begin to live empowered lives that aren’t so drastically affected by what is happening around us.