Inner Peace is Free; Get Yours
Here's how to remove everything keeping you from feeling at peace
If you're interested in the philosophy and mechanism of inner peace (and lack of it), all that is just below this foreword.
If you don't care about any of the philosophy of inner peace and just want the daily routine that'll get you there, here it is:
1. Meditate on a vision of clouds passing across a sky (whatever color sky you like) for 15 minutes, twice a day - once in the morning after washing and stretching, but before eating, and once in the evening before going to sleep.
1. a) Whenever a thought arises in meditation that you would normally assume to be true, ask yourself this one question: "Why do I believe this thought?" If you devise an answer to that question, ask it again, this time of the answer. Repeat every time you come up with an answer. You'll be sick of asking and answering yourself, and that's the point. Keep at it for every belief until you've given up believing it.*
*Warning: don't go too deep in one session with this questioning practice. Giving up all your identities all at once without proper guidance or an already flexible sense of self can be existentially disorienting, and that state of is far from peaceful. Don't be scared of being no one, but don't lose yourself completely and immediately.
1. b) If you find yourself starting to ruminate or get distracted by thoughts, emotions, or your surroundings, remind yourself to be the sky, not the cloud. Clouds are the contexts and details of this life - sky is the awareness in which clouds condense.
2. Stretch several times throughout the day, especially if you sit a lot. If you need reminders, your phone has a calendar - leverage the tech.
3. Keep a glass of water in your field of vision wherever you'll spend the most time that day.
4. Say something nice to yourself, then to someone else. It must be true.
Ok, now that we've covered the house keeping, here come the concepts.
The human blueprint - why we’re unhappy
We humans have an innate desire to control our lives - like a compass built into our subconscious mind, pointing us to higher sense of well-being and life satisfaction. The conscious mind decides the details of that state and charts a course for getting there, but emotions are the engine that get us moving .
We follow a powerful emotional blueprint: pleasure  (for long-term goals, like eating and making more humans) and fear  (for short-term goals, like outrunning danger). In other words, emotions drive us to either move closer to what we want, or further away from what we don’t (spoiler: fear is stressful).
*Tangent: media companies are very aware of this, and some use it to keep you tuned in to perpetual fear, and zoned out in artificial bliss.
But threats to public health in the 21st Century aren’t dysentery and bears, but heart disease, reckless stupidity, and economic corruption, yet we still use the same emotional blueprint. The events are superficially different, but the stress is the same - there’s a risk of losing (or not getting) something you’re attached to.
Stress is no more than a psycho- and physiological response to the world - it’s how our minds and bodies protect us from danger. When we apply this emotional blueprint to modern life, our emotional experience of stress becomes divorced from reality. We end up overreacting to things out of our control, distracting us from what we can control - our attitudes .
Cycle of stress - how we make ourselves unhappy
Below are the four simple steps that spiral endlessly into your personalized hell. I like the physical metaphor here: it's easy to move from step to step, with each one giving you more momentum, moving you faster down the spiral.
Here, the more stressed you get, the more stressful life becomes, solely because we act to relieve the emotion, rather than to be responsible for our role in creating the circumstance. Relive emotion feels good, while owning up to your shit pains your sense of self, because it implies the admission that there’s nothing to blame for our unhappiness than our own (in)action.
Every time you complete a loop, life gets a little worse for you and those around you.
Most humans to have ever been born (myself included) are taught growing up that their feelings are real and true - that they exist (which they do), and that we should believe them by default (which we shouldn't).
Yes, you'll feel how you feel, and it's good to accept that your emotions are an expression of your being. Your response to life is a reflection of you, and it's best to embrace and be kind to every possible self you could identify with.
No, your feelings are not always flawless depictions of, or necessarily justified responses to, reality. Life sucks when we forget this part, and when something happens to remind us of it, we get defensive - of course we do - emotions are physiological investments of energy into the reality described by your thoughts, feelings, and senses. That’s life.
Questioning the ego's reality is a threat to its existence because that reality is a synthesis of your experience and your reaction to your experience. No person's identity comes predefined, resisting change is as painful as change itself.
Philosophizing changes our criteria for belief - we entertain more possibilities before settling on one “truth.” By intellectual scrutinizing and holding ourselves to higher standards of belief and behaviour, we modify the cycle or circumstance.
Cycle to inner peace - how to be happy
I like the physical metaphor here: if the downwards spiral is easy to fall into, the upwards cycle requires attention and effort. The more steps up you take, the more decisions (implemented ideas) you can automate in your behaviour (provided you remain open to alternatives). Two of these steps “just happen,” and two require a conscious decision to proceed. We meditate to notice those pauses.
Our problems are easy to complicate, but resolving them is mere waste removal: don't believe everything you think and feel. It sounds simple because it is, but the practice takes more patience, analysis, and acceptance than fits in the scope of this essay.
Moving fluidly between observing an emotion, decrypting your assumptions supporting it, and acting on the resultant idea takes practice. First, undermine your obsolete models of the world to make room for new understandings (you can't fill a cup that's already full). The process of emptying your cup can be painful, but the pain is relative to your degree of attachment to reality as you’ve described it.
There's the adventure and the adventurer (a false dichotomy from the universal perspective, but I’m writing this as person with a story). We have limited power over the journey we're on, but unlimited control over how we travel. As you become more proficient at distinguishing between what’s in the world and what’s in your head, comfort comes more readily, and disturbance more hesitantly.
After clarity comes love: the less you love one, the less you'll love the other, and the more you love one, the more you'll love the other.
By transforming how we process the happenings of life, we change our response to those happenings. We find the ability to inspect our emotions before feeling them fully. In doing so, we refine the voice we allow to guide our vision and creation of the life we want.
But there's a caveat.
Peace doesn’t make life suck less
We ruminate over lived discomforts (like cancer, or bankruptcy, or injustice, or stubbing your toe) because we've come to associate cognitive exertion with problem-solving. And rightfully so. There's no other way to solve a problem until the process becomes the problem.
As the process becomes the problem, it becomes clearer that action and problem-solving aren't always the same. Thinking can negate world hunger and put life on the moon, but it'll never make you comfortable with uncertainty.
Inner peace won't directly change your circumstance. Instead, the process transmutes your relationship to life. This internal change will lead you to identify and follow through with doing the right things at the right time, and those actions are what make life suck less.
You wouldn't pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get on with life from a pit of despair if you identify with the stories about the shit that happens to you.
To me, life is too short to carry around your circumstances’ emotional and cognitive weight. That energy is better applied adapting to those happenings and envisioning an outcome and plan of action. Or just consciously relaxing - that’s important too.
There's the adventure and the adventurer.
From the adventurer's perspective, peace is the stubborn decision to accept reality as it is press on with your chin up no matter how bummy life may get.
From the adventure's perspective, everything we do is done in service of being at peace, even when we get lost in our attitudes.
From the universal perspective, there’s no separating you from your life, because both - and everyone’s both - are continuous movements of that non-dual something that becomes something else once we try to name it.
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