Do you have peace of mind? Are you at peace with the world, with others, and most of all, with yourself?
Today, we commemorate the International Day of Peace. And peace, as we’ve been often told, begins within ourselves. One way of achieving inner peace is through meditation.
We tend to think of meditation as a kind of esoteric discipline guided by rigid rules like proper posture, position, or breathing. But meditation is simply the exercise of calming the mind for a few minutes in order to connect with the present moment.
The present moment involves all that is going on inside you and around you, pleasant or unpleasant. And normally, we react to things instinctively and emotionally. Life experiences and situations can easily rouse us to anger, fear, sadness, or excitement.
Meditation helps you become aware of your present reality without engaging in it emotionally or reacting to it instinctively. In a state of mental and emotional calm, you learn to simply observe and acknowledge things as they are.
Without the emotions and the instincts getting in the way, you learn to look at things with more clarity. And with clarity, you gain a better perspective on life and the world, yourself and others. This translates to concrete ways of finding inner peace in your daily life.
1. You become less overwhelmed by pain and other unpleasant emotions.
How do you deal with unpleasant emotions? Are you a bottler, a brooder, an escapist, or an explosive?
Fear, sadness, regret, shame, anger. All those troubling emotions can rob us of our inner peace. Meditation can keep us from getting easily overwhelmed by these emotional disturbances.
We can get some inspiration from Gregory Stabile, an Italian expat who works as an analyst at the European Parliament. Gregory recently went through a crisis that forced him to face past unresolved issues in his life, particularly his problems with his family. He says meditation helped him find inner peace by showing him a healthy way of dealing with his emotions, issues, and life in general.
Meditation teaches you to sit with your emotions without panicking and without judgment. And by doing so, you learn to face them and accept them. Acceptance puts you in a better position to understand them. And understanding those emotions can lead to important realizations about ourselves and about life.
The problem with happiness and other pleasant emotions is that you don’t learn much from them. All they can do is make you feel great, but they don’t really teach you anything.
Pain and unpleasant emotions can provoke you into asking questions. Why are you angry? What is the cause of that
frustration? Where is that sadness really coming from? And by asking questions, you start looking for answers. And
those answers could lead to useful information that will help you grow and become a better person.
Italian expat Gregory Stabile narrates how meditation turned his crisis into a life-changing journey
2. You learn to accept life and the world as they are.
How many times a day do you complain? How often do you get frustrated or disappointed?
Inner peace comes from the ability to accept things we can’t change, and the willingness to let go of expectations and embrace reality.
There are many things, big and small, that can easily upset us as we go about our day. Horrible traffic, that insensitive remark, the awful weather, you name it. Whining is just one way of dealing with them.
Meditation teaches you another way. Through the practice of disengaging or stepping back from situations, you learn to just let things be as they are. No demands, no resistance. As Gregory explains, meditation is about knowing how to respect instead of imposing your own standards.
We can only hope that life and the world will get better as we get older. But if they don’t, we can always become wiser, stronger, and better at dealing with whatever comes our way. There are things we can’t change, but we can always tweak our attitudes and our perspectives.
Gregory speaks of being in harmony with the world through meditation
3. You become more grateful.
How grateful are you for the blessings that come your way? Are you even aware of them?
It’s often easier to remember those awful experiences and to forget those many, little wonderful moments like the thoughtfulness of a friend, the patience and understanding of a colleague, or those five minutes of sun in Brussels. All you remember is the rain!
Meditation helps you recognize every side and aspect of reality. And in case you’ve forgotten, reality includes all those beautiful, inspiring incidents we often miss or take for granted because we are too focused on the negative.
According to Laurent Horanyi who organizes walking meditations every Wednesday at Parc Léopold, meditation can help us become mindful of the many blessings we have. Even a simple chore such as washing the dishes can remind you that you have able hands or that you just had a good meal or simply, that you are alive.
Walking meditation practitioner Laurent Horanyi explains how mindfulness can lead to gratefulness
4. You remember that the world does not revolve around you.
How thick is your ego? How often does it get in the way of your relationship with others?
Being too full of ourselves can prevent us from being more sensitive and understanding toward the needs and situation of others. And failing to understand others will cause much discontent and frustration.
With meditation, we become attuned not only to ourselves and our issues. We also become more aware of our surroundings and that includes, most of all, the people in our lives.
Gregory talks about letting go of the ego through meditation
5. You become more gentle and compassionate with yourself, and with others.
How patient and forgiving are you toward yourself? How patient and forgiving are you toward others?
The way we treat ourselves often translates into the way we treat others. If you’re unforgiving toward yourself, you will be more inclined to be unforgiving of others. If you are kind toward yourself, it will be easier to practice kindness toward others. You can only give what you have.
Meditation opens you to a world of self-awareness and self-understanding. When you understand yourself better, you become less judgmental and more compassionate toward yourself. And when you realize that others are just as human and as vulnerable as you, then you learn to extend that compassion to them.
Laurent talks about walking meditations as a path to inner peace
Spiritual practices like meditation do not usually appeal to modern Europeans compared to Eastern cultures where spirituality is considered a way of life. Most Europeans tend to be on the rational and pragmatic side. They come, after all, from the continent that gave birth to rationalism, pragmatism, and logic.
But in an age beset by alarming issues like rising populism, intense political divisions, climate change, terrorism, and Donald Trump, perhaps a little meditation is what Europeans need to make more considerate, thoughtful, and humane decisions.
The benefits of meditation will not come overnight. Like most things, it will take practice. But if each one of us would try just a little bit of meditation every once in a while, then maybe this crazy world will become a more peaceful place for humanity.
Peace to one and all!