Peace of mind, defined as “a feeling of being safe or protected,” is not something that is bestowed upon us when, say, all our ducks are in a row, or external circumstances are calm and harmonious. Peace of mind can be cultivated in the most turbulent times; amidst the most turbulent emotions. It is a continuously cultivated quality. One breath at a time.
Meditation teacher, Pema Chodron, says, “Inner peace begins the moment you choose not to allow another person or event to control your emotions.” In order for choice to happen, a pause is required.
Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankel, said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
My meditation practice has been key to helping me cultivate the space – that ability to pause, and take a deep, breath, which creates the necessary space between my awareness and whatever is happening.
When I sink back into my observer perspective, “the witness,” I can simply watch, like a movie on a screen, the stream of thoughts moving through my mind, the stream of emotions flowing through my body, and the physical sensations constantly morphing and changing.
And from that calm place, can then make the choice to not let outer circumstances affect my inner peace. I can simply notice the thoughts, emotions, and sensations arising – triggered by a situation. And choose to not blend with those emotions, attach to those thoughts, get tangled up in all of it.
This practice has been instrumental in helping me to constructively navigate the many moments of difficult emotions, like fear, anxiety or sadness, which have normally surged during the inevitable rapids of my life – The Great Recession, a divorce, a career transition, and single parenting.
When I focus on my breath, whatever is flowing in that moment will eventually pass on through. In this way, I have come to view my breath as a surfboard. I can surf peacefully through the ups and downs of life by staying anchored into the stability of my breathing. Peace is always there. And I can access it one breath at a time.