Each one has to find peace within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
As I prepared for teaching my Wise Women class, I came across a short article, “An Inner Choice,” I had printed out in 2010 from the online site the “Daily OM.” The first line was in large type and immediately brought me up short: “There cannot be peace in the world until we have it in our own hearts and minds, our own families and neighborhoods.” It grabbed my attention because I, as I know many others, had been struggling with the news of war and violence, the images of children dying, the anguished voices of loss and hopelessness. If you are attentive to all this, it is hard to feel peaceful inside, and easy to feel powerless.
This article, however, was a realistic reminder that how we live our own lives – whether it is with anxiety or calm – has an influence beyond just ourselves. Because this is a choice we can make, we are not powerless. When we feel the turmoil of the world’s chaos and conflict, we need to look within ourselves. We need to ask ourselves: What is our own sense of peacefulness?
We all experience busy minds and conflicting emotions. It is in our nature as humans. The difference between those who experience peace and those who do not has to do with how we invest our energy, not who we are. As the article explained, those people who feel at peace do not invest their energy in disturbing and disquieting thoughts and feelings. Instead, they allow the thoughts and feelings to “rise and fall like the waves of the ocean without disturbing the deeper waters of peacefulness within.”
The Yoga Sutra defines yoga as the ability to stop the mind’s busyness and distraction so it can be still or silent. In yoga we have tools, such as postures, breathing techniques, chant, gestures, meditation, to help us calm the mind and emotions by creating space.
As we begin to create space in our bodies, minds and emotions, we also can pay attention to those things in our lives that create obstacles to feeling at peace. How is our diet? Do we get enough rest? Do we have too many commitments or commitments that feel burdensome? Do we have habits that create uneasiness or agitation? This self-observation or svadhyaya can bring awareness to these obstacles so we can seek positive change, giving us more space in our lives.
With a feeling of space, the turmoil of our minds and emotions can recede, and, in its place we can glimpse, if not connect to, the peace within ourselves. This peace is available to all of us. It is within us already. Even if we are distracted by the ruffled waters at the surface of our lives and in the world, we can set an intention to work toward getting in touch with our own peaceful center. This is the real power we have.