Well, here we are! Coming up to the end of a huge year, one that will go down in the history books. What a time to be alive hey? There have been many challenges and blessings that have come our way. And while yes, it’s shown us that we are truly all connected and how valuable those connections are, it has also been a year that has brought a lot of separation, changes and shifts. Many things have come to the surface to be seen (both within ourselves, and externally). With that, there may have been feelings of fear, anger, frustration, disbelief, and confusion – all of these sometimes causing more division amongst us, than togetherness.
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, this time of year can get us thinking about endings and beginnings and I believe that Jesus’ true soul message was ultimately one that is the same as mine: Peace on Earth - love, compassion, joy, peace, and harmony for all beings. So, coming up to the end of this year, perhaps we can ask ourselves - how can we take on this message, and move into the new year together? How can we cultivate more peace on earth? One place to start is by cultivating peace within ourselves and this in turn, cultivates peace around us.
From Buddhist philosophy to Mahatma Gandhi and the Dalai Lama, they have all been strong proponents of inner peace. For many of us, finding inner peace can feel like it’s quite challenging, especially when we are surrounded by circumstances that may be intense or out of our control. So, how can we live in peace within our circumstances, and in peace with others?
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra (Patanjali is considered the father of modern yoga) that talks about how to find peace says:
1.33: maitri karuna mudita upeksanam sukha duhkha punya apunya visayanam bhavanatah citta prasadanam
This can translate to something like: Loving kindness and friendliness towards the happy, compassion for the sorrowful, joy or delight for virtuous others and equanimity, or being undisturbed, not drawn into judgement or contempt for ones who wish to do harm are the four attitudes that will allow us to maintain peace of mind.
I think the first two are much easier to live out than the last two. It’s not so hard to feel friendly towards those who are happy or compassion for those who are sad, right? But can we be truly joyful and delight in the successes and happiness of others, without jealousy or envy? And (one that I’ve found this year has really highlighted) can we find a place of indifference when others act in an unkind way, or do something that we don’t agree with? Can we, instead of getting involved in the things we can’t control, know ourselves and trust ourselves enough to find our own truth and stand in our own power, without being influenced by others, yet while allowing others to find their own way, without judging or needing to control them, or even reacting to what they say or do? Can we just BE, during all that happens around us? If we can find a way to do this, then perhaps we can indeed, find inner peace.
“The pursuit of inner peace is more important than the search for happiness or success.” - Chris Shea
What are some ways that we can practice cultivating Peace within?
Getting out into Nature
During this year, many of us have been spending a lot of time indoors. And while in lockdowns many of us became aware of the value and effect that just one daily walk can have on us. A simple walk outside, in nature if possible, can offer a chance for not only physical exercise, but recharging the energy, reconnecting with mother nature and for me – some mental “time out”. Walking can be quite meditative, offering a moment of peace to go within, and literally step away from everything for a moment, if you’re in nature, maybe you’ll find a reminder of the simple beauty in your surroundings. And of course, just 20 mins without sunscreen early morning or evening can help top up the Vitamin D levels, which is essential for our health.
I’ve mentioned this one in previous blogs but adopting an attitude of gratitude is one way of helping to cultivate more peace in our life. I think this can be helpful in navigating through the 3rd point in the Sutra too – finding delight in virtuous others. If we can focus on the things we are grateful for then we might realise that we have more than our share, and so much to be happy about. If we find that fulfilment and contentment within ourselves, then we may just have no reason to be jealous of others.
A gratitude journal or a jar is a simple and effective way to practice gratitude. Just grab yourself a pretty notebook or empty jar, and at the end of each day write down 3 things you are grateful for, either in general or what happened that day. It doesn’t need to be a long task and the benefits will be worth it.
Meditation & Reflection
Spending time in meditation is pretty much a given here. But what about reflection? My grandfather recently told me that every night when he goes to bed, he lies there, reflecting on all the things that happened that day and asks himself what he could have done better. He thinks deeply about his conversations with others, his words and actions during the day and contemplates both the things that worked well and those that he may change next time. I think this is a beautiful practice to do as in our reflection we can acknowledge where we are and where we can change or grow to move more in alignment with the vibration of love, and the 4 attitudes mentioned in the Sutra, and ultimately towards then, that sense of peace.
Yoga, of course
Practicing Yoga can help us to go within ourselves. To question and make inquiry, to change things if we choose. It gives us a chance to embrace and become aware of ourselves – our thoughts, our emotions, our fluctuations, our habits, our actions, our reactions. It really helps us to see ourselves as we truly are, especially in the times of practice where there is stillness, and space to feel. It teaches us things like kindness, compassion, non-judgement and acceptance of ourselves and others, wobbles and all. It gives us the ultimate opportunity to practice reflection and is truly a pathway to cultivating inner peace.
As we find peace within ourselves, we can then shine the light of peace out to others around us. This can be done intentionally – through simple things like smiling at others, an act of kindness or loving kindness meditation, but becoming peaceful in ourselves changes how we are around others, and may even just have a ripple effect, without us even needing to try.
“We need to take action to develop compassion, to create inner peace within ourselves and to share that inner peace with our family and friends. Peace and warm-heartedness can then spread through the community just as ripples radiate out across the water when you drop a pebble into a pond.” – Dalai Lama
So, this holiday season, what can you do to cultivate more peace within and without? Try some of these ways or let me know if you have something else that you do to find peace. I would love to know!
Take care Chair Yogis!
And don't forget to Get Fit Where You Sit!
PS. I hope you enjoyed this blog, please feel free to share with your friends.