Seven Steps to Inner Peace

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Inner peace is the most valuable thing that we can cultivate. Nobody can give us inner peace, at the same time it is only our own thoughts that can rob us of our inner peace. To experience inner peace we don’t have to retreat to a Himalayan cave; we can experience inner peace right now, exactly where we are. The most important criteria is to value the importance of inner peace. If we really value inner peace, we will work hard to make it a reality.

These are some suggestions for bringing more peace into your mind.

1. Choose carefully where we spend time.

If you are a news addict and spend an hour reading newspapers everyday, our mind will be agitated by the relentless negativity we see in the world. It is true, that we can try to detach from this negativity. But, in practise ,we will make our progress easier if we don’t spend several hours ruminating over the problems of the world. If you have a spare 15 minutes, don’t just automatically switch on the TV or surf the internet. Take the opportunity to be still or at least do something positive. The problem is the mind feels insecure unless it has something to occupy it. However, when we really can attain a clear mind we discover it creates a genuine sense of happiness and inner peace.

2. Control of Thoughts.

It is our thoughts that determine our state of mind. If we constantly cherish negative and destructive thoughts, inner peace will always remain a far cry. At all costs, we need to avoid pursuing trains of negative thoughts. This requires practise. – We cannot attain mastery of our thoughts over night. But, at the same time we always have to remember that we are able to decide which thoughts to follow and which to reject. Never feel you are a helpless victim to your thoughts.

“If you have inner peace,
nobody can force you to be a slave to the outer reality.”
- Sri Chinmoy [2]

3. Simplify Your Life

Modern life, places great demands on our time. We can feel that we never have enough time to fulfill all our tasks. However, we should seek to minimise these outer demands. Take time to simplify your life; there are many things that we can do without, quite often we add unnecessary responsibilities to our schedule. Do the most significant tasks, one at a time, and enjoy doing them. To experience inner peace, it is essential to avoid cluttering our life with unnecessary activities and worries.

See: Benefits of simplicity
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Basic Steps for Learning Meditation

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In many of my articles on self improvement, I often suggest meditation can be an invaluable aid to alleviating many of our daily problems. I don’t look upon meditation just as a problem solver, I meditate because I enjoy the consciousness of meditation. But, if we can gain real peace of mind through meditation, there is no problem that cannot be helped in some way. These a few preliminary steps for learning how to meditate.

1. Location.

Firstly, find a suitable quiet place for meditation. If it is very hard to find somewhere quiet, use some meditative music to drown out background sounds. If possible keep a corner of your room reserved just for meditation; this will help build up a meditative vibration in that particular part.

2. The Basics.

  • It is important to meditate with a straight back. (If you try meditating whilst lying down, you are more likely to fall asleep, than entering into a high state of meditation.)
  • Don’t meditate after eating a heavy meal – you will feel lethargic and sleepy.
  • If possible shower and wear clean clothes before meditating.
  • Try to switch off. If you try to meditate straight after work, you may be still thinking about the day. Try reading some books on meditation to help make the transition from work to meditation.
  • If you have difficulty creating time see: Finding Time for Relaxation / Meditation

3. Relaxation.

To meditate it is important to relax and switch off. Tell yourself that for the next 10-15 minutes, you don’t have to think about the past or future – just concentrate on the present moment and your meditation. Let go of any tension in your body and try to be fully aware of the present moment. This stage of relaxation is a preliminary stage to meditation; but, it is worth emphasizing that meditation is more than just relaxation.

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Winning, losing and happiness

Over the past decade, I’ve been competing in cycle races across the UK. In those 10 years, I’ve finished in just about every position from first to last. As an athlete there is always part of you which is striving to win; but at the same time as trying to win, I’ve tried to learn the art of being happy and cheerful whatever the outcome (harder in practise than theory.)

Sri Chinmoy offers the supreme philosophy.

He is the great winner
Who wins.
He is the greater winner
Who is the cheerful loser.
He is the greatest winner
Who gives equal value
To victory and defeat.
He alone is the real loser
Who separates
Defeat from victory.

- Sri Chinmoy (1)

This is a lofty philosophy, and I wouldn’t say I have been able to manage such a sense of oneness with the winner of races; I still prefer to win! But, it is a potent reminder that there is more to a race than winning. The hardest test for a human is to remain cheerful whatever the outer circumstances. If we can remain happy, despite outer disappointment, that is a great achievement.

Some things I have learnt from 10 years of competing

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Cheerfulness helps performance. I remember once hearing Sri Chinmoy tell runners in the 3100 Self-Transcendence mile race that if they smile more, they would run faster. I took this lesson to mean that if we can be cheerful and remember to smile, it can help us to be in a better frame of mind, and when we are in a better consciousness we can do better. Cheerfulness helps many aspects of performance. When we get angry and disappointed with ourselves, the opposite happens, we can lose our determination, confidence and enthusiasm. Maintaining cheerfulness helps us to be positive and determined. More subtly, a cheerful attitude helps us to get into that elusive ‘flow’ of good energy.

Dealing with disappointment. There isn’t any athlete who hasn’t been disappointed with their performance at some time of their career, if not every year. We are striving to do better and make improvements, but the body doesn’t respond in the way that we hope and expect. From a practical point of view it is important to be realistic and remember, this is an inevitability of life and physical performance. It may be a bit of cliché, but we never make progress in a straight line, it is more like a corkscrew, sometimes we have to go down as well as up. Remembering this inevitability, helps to prevent needless introspection and loss of motivation. Another cliché, often rolled out – is the fact that defeats are just as important as the victories. It maybe clichéd, but it is also true. With disappointing results, firstly we have to keep things in perspective; this creates a sense of detachment and balance which helps us to move on.

Enjoy the experience. The joy of winning is fleeting at best. You get to lift a trophy and a moment’s fame, but this joy is transient. A much better approach to sport is to try and enjoy every aspect of training, and racing. In one sense, racing on the limit is physically painful, but it gives a sense of satisfaction that you can’t get from sitting on a comfortable sofa. If we can remember to enjoy the exhilaration of performance and competing, we will get a much more lasting sense of fulfilment, that isn’t reliant on winning. Sri Chinmoy once said something like a marathon is torture for the body, mind and vital, but joy for the heart (unofficial quote from my memory)  I think all athletes can relate to the paradox of physical and mental pain, but at the same time getting some kind of joy from the whole experience.

Self-transcendence. Self-transcendence is simply our effort to better ourselves. This can be on any level – physical, mental and spiritual. We may not have the greatest natural talent, but we can always try to beat our previous bests or the best for our age category. Self transcendence means we are not comparing ourselves with others, but competing with ourself. From a practical point of view, it is very beneficial to only concentrate on your own performance and not think about other athletes. When you start wondering what your competitors are doing, you will lose focus. We cannot always transcend our physical capacities, but even if our time is disappointing, we can still try and transcend our approach to victory.

Detachment. Related to self-transcendence and the goal of competing with ourselves, we need to cultivate the capacity to have detachment from the result. Detachment doesn’t mean not caring. It just means we try to maintain equanimity whatever the outcome. Rather than seeing ourselves as a failure or success, we can just focus on what we achieved. As long as we have given everything, then we should seek satisfaction from that, and not the outer result.

The past is dust. Another great mantra, is ‘The Past is Dust’ Perhaps one performance or one season was disappointing. If we dwell on this, we bring a lot of negativity into our mind and this will only adversely affect our future performance. It is always better to concentrate on doing what we can at this present time, and just let go of any unfortunate experience. Just take a very practical approach, whatever position we are in, what is the best thing we can do from this situation? Continue Reading →

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Overcoming negativity

It can feel the world is awash with negativity. If we are not careful we can allow this negativity into us and it will cloud our view of life. Never underestimate the power of negativity and positive thoughts.

Each positive thought
Has the atom-bomb-capacity
To destroy the negative in us.

Each negative thought
Has the atom-bomb-capacity
To destroy our whole world.

- Sri Chinmoy [1]

To overcome negativity in ourself, in other people, there are many things we can do.

negativitiy-poem

Don’t cherish negativity

Often we unconsciously cherish negativity. We get a subtle temptation to enjoy gossip and complain. This may start off as an innocent joke, but it can grow and we become more and more negative because we focus on it. Sometimes, we need to be aware that negativity is a trait we can consciously hold onto. If we first become aware, we can change.

The mind is like blotting paper

Sri Ramakrishna once observed that the human mind is like blotting paper – it absorbs whatever it is dipped into. If we surround ourselves with a negative environment, then this will seep into us. For example, if you find yourself reading newspaper comments section, internet forums, you expose yourself to vast quantities of negativity. This seeps into your mind, and you start subconsciously picking up on all the negativity yourself. It’s impossible not to be affected to some extent. However,  if you spend time in a very different environment, where there is a positive energy, you will definitely feel the difference – enabling you to feel positive about yourself and the world.

Get out of ruts

Negativity is often the result of getting stuck in a rut – getting stuck in a bad habit. If we have the same routine, the mind gets into a rhythm of complaining. Sometimes, we need to work hard to get out of a rut. Do something out of the ordinary, and break your old habits. This breaks the cycle of negativity and gives a sense of newness. In this newness, you can much more easily get out of your negativity.

But, the problem is other people….

If you feel that the problem is always other people, you can be assured it isn’t. It is true, we need to avoid unnecessarily negative situations. But, ultimately, we have to be aware it is only ourself who can choose to be negative or positive. Other people will always have failings, limitations and degrees of negativity. But, that is not an excuse for us to accept their negativity. Just because other people are enjoying negativity, doesn’t mean we have to. Continue Reading →

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How to be honest with yourself

Real happiness and genuine spiritual progress requires an ability and willingness to be honest with ourselves. We could call it self-criticism, but I prefer honesty. If we can be honest about our motives and actions, we will learn to cultivate a more self-giving attitude and keep our ego in check.

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This self-awareness and personal honesty, doesn’t mean we have to be overly critical of ourselves. We are not trying to make ourselves feel guilty; it is not about confessing sins, but a willingness to understand our true motivations and be aware of our shortcomings. If we always live with an attitude of self-justification and feel we are always right, we will struggle to make any real progress and will be more prone to pride and insecurity. But, if we can be honest and aware of our shortcomings, we can become the person we really want to. It may be a little hard work, but it will pay off in the long run!

These are some exercises we can take to make sure we are not living in a bubble.

1. Motive. Before undertaking an action what is the motive behind it? If we are undertaking an action, why are we doing it? Would we still do it if nobody was aware of it? It is not wrong to welcome appreciation of others. But, if our action is only motivated by the desire to please others or show off, then we are only feeding our ego and it can cause problems. A pure motive helps us to transcend the ego and we gain satisfaction from extending our sense of oneness.

2. Criticism? Do we put other people down to make us feel better? There is a part of us that tries to bolster our self-esteem by feeling better than others. This can make us critical of other people. We may not even be aware we are doing this, unless we can be really honest about our motives. Instead, we should feel our self-esteem can be built by encouraging and being sympathetic to others. It means avoiding the temptation to jump onto a train of gossip. It means we need to cultivate more self-belief and self-confidence.

3. Do we spend too much time making excuses?

It is human nature to try and blame our misfortune on other people and outer circumstances. But, shifting the blame onto other people is often a clever way of hiding our own shortcomings. Sometimes we think that only if we can move away from people who make life difficult for us, everything will be OK. But, when we do move somewhere else, we find the same problems are just as prominent. This is because the weakness is stemming from ourselves. We only see the our limitations reflected in other people.

“The only devils in this world are those running around in our own hearts, and that is where all our battles should be fought.”
- Mahatma Gandhi

If we are prone to anger, we can always blame the situation and the actual trigger for our anger. But, this will never deal with the underlying problem. Instead, we should make a conscious decision to overcome anger, and bring peace into our system. Here honesty is helping us to become aware of our shortcomings and helps us to realise that it is up to us to decide what will causes us to lose our inner peace. Continue Reading →

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How to overcome insecurity

We often cherish insecurity without being fully aware of it. Insecurity about what people think of us is quite common and it can lead to unnecessary problems. When we are insecure, it tends to make us more suspicious, it makes us try harder to impress. Because we are insecure about ourselves, we lose the self-confidence to be true to our real nature.

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A oneness-heart
Cures
Insecurity-fear.

- Sri Chinmoy [1]

These are some steps to overcoming insecurity.

Recognise the problem and make an effort to overcome

The first thing is that people may not realise a lot of their anxieties, worries and fears stem from a sense of insecurity about ourselves. We worry because we are insecure about our standing in society and amongst friends. When we are aware of a misplaced insecurity, it becomes much easier to try and overcome it. This requires an awareness and honesty about our motivations and actions.

Don’t be overly critical of other people.

If you spend time criticising and judging other people, you will subconsciously fear the same treatment yourself. Invariably highly critical people have a deep seated insecurity themselves. The motivation to criticise comes from a need to make themselves feel superior to other people. However, the attempt to make yourself feel better by putting other people down will never work. At best, we get a temporary false sense of security, but it never lasts. If we want to create a genuine sense of self-belief and self-confidence, never base it on being superior to others. In fact it is the opposite, if we can have a sympathetic and empathetic attitude, we will feel better ourselves. Continue Reading →

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Don’t forget to smile

Sometimes, we get caught out by the simplicity of life. Our mind, which tend to prefer complexity, forgets that the simplest of things can make a big difference to our state of mind and happiness. Why is it so important to smile?

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Choosing happiness

Life throws many things at us – both good and bad. But, if we can respond by offering an outer smile, we are trying to respond in a positive way. Our smile is our conscious decision to try and remain happy, whatever the circumstance. From this initial positive choice, we can build upon this beginning to cultivate happiness. If we refuse to smile, we are more likely to cultivate emotions of self-pity, wounded pride and unhappiness. If we have difficulty cultivating happiness, then trying to smile at the world and our mind, is a positive step we can take.

Offering something positive

If we can sincerely smile at others, we can give something without even speaking.  When we smile, we are offering our good will to the world and other people. We don’t need to be a millionaire to give something to the world, in many circumstances, a soulful smile can be more beneficial than any amount of words or material aid. To make the effort to smile at a stranger or friend, is to sympathise with their plight and offer some encouragement.

We disarm our enemies

Our face can reflect the emotion and thoughts that we wish to share. If we wish to make enemies, we can scowl and look miserable. But, if we smile at anyone, it can create an atmosphere of goodwill and harmony. By smiling, we create a climate where others can feel more at ease. When people feel happier, they will be more inclined to be tolerant and open-minded. If we smile and put others in a good frame of mine, we will be more likely to get what we want.

Don’t forget to smile at your enemies – You can take the motivation from the wit of Oscar Wilde:

“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”

Or we can take the more spiritual approach of Abraham Lincoln:

“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

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The best time is now

When giving meditation classes, a common issue is people find it difficult to find the time to set aside 15 minutes of the day for meditation and a period of quiet reflection. We all know it would be good to meditate, but to actually make sure we do it can be quite a challenge. Similarly, we can have the best of intentions to change some of our bad habits and wrong attitudes, but we think maybe it will be easier or better at a later stage. For any progressive change in our nature or worthwhile practise, the best time to start is always now!

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We might think there will be a better time in the future, but in the spiritual life, the best time is always this present moment. If we wait for outer circumstances to be more favourable, we will always be delaying and procrastinating. And before we know it, we will have given up completely.

These are some tips to value the present moment and take each opportunity.

Valuing meditation

The first thing is we need to always remember the value of meditation and spiritual practise. If we see meditation as some hard discipline we need to endure, our mind will always find an excuse to avoid doing it. However, if we can focus on the benefits and joy that we will get from the practise, we will always be motivated to keep trying. Here we need to use our wisdom, we need to convince our mind that we get more joy from meditation than we would wasting our time on some inconsequential other activity. Don’t feel when we meditate we are making a great sacrifice. Our reward will not be in heaven, it will be from cultivating a genuine sense of happiness here and now.

Change attitude to difficulties

If we wish to start a practise of meditation, there will be innumerable obstacles. For example, we may find it is much noiser than we like. One option is to say, ‘it’s too noisy’ let’s wait until its quieter. The other option is to say, “I’ll take this outer noise as a part of the meditation practise. I shall try incorporate the noise into the meditation – learning to allow the sound to wash away.” If we can meditate with noise, it will make our meditation practise much stronger. It’s like a runner training on hilly terrain. When he finally reaches the flat terrain, the challenging hills made him stronger.

Learn to say no!

Sometimes, other people can take advantage of our good nature and encourage us to take on more jobs and responsibility. But, we have to learn to say no, and put our spiritual practise first. If we can lose our feeling of indispensability, we find the world doesn’t end, just because we spend 20 minutes early in the morning learning to meditate.

Live as if it was your last day on earth

If it was your last day on earth, how would you spend it? Would you really worry about paying some telephone bill? Would you waste it in meaningless gossip and chat? If it was our last day, we would concentrate on the important things in  life. We would suddenly be very clear what is important to us. Material possessions lose all meaning – they are merely passing things; but our inner practise, our inner faith and inner peace become all important.

If we don’t take this opportunity, we won’t have it again

A spiritual life means:
It is now
Or never.

Sri Chinmoy (1)

Every moment is an opportunity – either we take it or lose it. In one sense, we have eternity to achieve realisation. But, if this is our laid back attitude, we will progress with the speed of an Indian bullock cart. If we get an opportunity to meditate or change our attitude – then we should take it now, whilst we have the aspiration. If we miss out, perhaps in a few days, we will lose any enthusiasm or willingness to change.

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The punishment is compassion

This is an inspiring story about the power of forgiveness and compassion. It shows that sometimes we can get extraordinary results by going against our instinctive human nature. The story also shows that forgiveness is a sign of real strength and can have tremendous power.

 

Sunrise

The story is from Illumination-Experiences On Indian Soil, Part 2, by Sri Chinmoy

“In India there was once a Muslim mendicant who had a certain amount of occult power. His name was Bajit Bastami. In Chittagong there is a special place where many Muslims worship him. Even the Hindus have tremendous love for him.

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Humility means giving joy to others

Humility is a wonderful quality. People are definitely attracted to humility and often repelled by the opposite. If we can learn to value humility, we will gain real joy and improve our relationships with others tremendously. But, what is humility? What does it mean to be humble?

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Giving joy to others. This is a striking definition of humility. We simply choose and attitude that helps to give joy to other people. It means avoiding meanness and jealousy, but seeking to help others to be happy.

“…True humility is something totally different; it is the feeling of oneness. Humility means giving joy to others. If you have not established or cannot establish your inner oneness with others, then you can try to make them feel that they are as important as you, if not more so. “

- Sri Chinmoy “Does humility mean taking a back seat” – A God-lover heaven-life part 1

Bringing others forward. Real humility will make others feel good. It requires us to always value the achievements and contributions of others. Even if they have unfortunate experiences or less talent, we will still try to bring them forward and make them feel valued. This is very important because when we try to sincerely value others, we reduce our own feelings of self-importance and ego.

Modesty. Taking a back seat is not necessary humility. Sometimes, we make a big fuss of taking the back seat – almost unconsciously, we are wanting to show others that we are being humble; we try to make a display of our humility. But, sometimes, it might be necessary to stand in the limelight. The important thing is not to see it as a show of superiority. We can feel part of an integral team,  but with someone having to be the figurehead. Humility means we are willing to play many different roles, each role with the same detachment and modesty.

Real tests of humility

  • Be equal in your affection. It is easy to bring people we like to the fore, but humility means we need to be equally fair in our treatment. We need to be willing to bring anyone to the fore, even those who we may not instinctively like. Remember the test of humility – can you give joy to others – that includes those whom you really might not want to. Continue Reading →
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