More than in the past, people are recognizing the value of having inner peace. This represents a shift away from an earlier value system that put the highest priority on consumerism, career success, competition, and unending distractions. But wanting inner peace is only the first step.
Actually having inner peace as a lasting experience involves a journey inward. This can be accomplished through the following four goals, which are challenges that cannot be met passively.
1. Locate Peace Inside
The first item, locating peace inside yourself, can be accomplished by anyone through meditation. By simply going inward and transcending the constant activity of the mind, one experiences a deeper region of awareness, called the zone of peace. Here, silence and stillness become a real experience. More importantly, peace begins to be valued over other experiences that we have been conditioned to value in the past.
2. Return to the Place of Peace at Will
Returning to the place of peace at will means that you actually want to be at peace when the situation around you is in a state of non-peace, marked by stress, obstacles, resistance, ego drives, and negative emotions.
In the tradition of Yoga, the quality of complete non-violence is Ahimsa, and, although the word came to be identified with political nonviolence in the era of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, the full meaning implies a state devoid of anger, anxiety, envy, and resentment. To be at peace any time you want to be at peace isn’t possible if you find yourself struggling against insecurities and negative emotions to get there—that’s why the third challenge, letting go of all aspects of violence, is so important.
3. Let Go of All Aspects of Violence
Letting go of all aspects of violence is critical because you cannot fight against non-peace in order to have peace. The result of such a struggle will only be that your adversary—such as anger, resentment, or envy—goes deeper underground. Letting go happens when you shift your allegiance away from the ego, with its built-in insecurity and negative emotions, to the true self. It turns out, in moments of peace during meditation, we are actually encountering a completely new self that has no need for non-peace. Its very nature is peaceful, and once we become accustomed to meeting this peaceful self, we start to absorb it until, in time, the true self is simply the self.
There is no war with the ego to make it let go. As we meditate, Ego values quietly weaken, become less enticing, and eventually fall away. Many people, from both the East and West, are intimidated by the prospect of letting go, because without the ego and its focus on “I, me, and mine,” what kind of self will they have? This isn’t a question that can be answered in advance. The true self, also called the higher self, is extolled in the world’s wisdom traditions as the source of truth, love, beauty, evolution, creativity, and peace. Yet until you begin to absorb those values personally, they remain at a distance from the everyday self you are used to.
4. Expand the Experience of Peace Every Day
The fourth challenge, allowing peace to expand every day, is the same as saying that you make choices every day to follow the silent voice of the true self instead of the loud voices all around and inside you. Silence can co-exist with the thinking mind. Peace doesn’t make you passive and dull. In fact, the very opposite is true. Once you stop wasting excessive psychological energy on anger, resentment, insecurity, and the other baggage of the ego, more energy is left over for love, inner growth, and creativity.
With this brief overview, you can see why achieving inner peace has been considered so desirable over the centuries, despite the outward appearance of humankind’s taste for war, rivalry, crime, and hostility. The zone of peace is real, and if you want it to be your home, the way is always open.