In recent months, I've had many realizations after going through periods of doubt, sadness, frustration and impatience - mostly around work. But only last week have I begun writing things down as part of my daily journaling practice.
The results of this daily writing have been incredible. Not only have I begun feeling greater ease within myself, I am also finding clarity about larger life principles that feed into that sense of ease and inner-peace. And I'd like to share these with you so that you too can benefit from contemplating these ideas and insights. Hopefully, they bring you inner-peace and a calm mind as a result.
5 Life Lessons That Bring Me Peace of Mind:
This insight and understanding that I've gained through my moments of doubt can be laid out as 5 life lessons. These are as follows:
1. Learn to be in the present moment:
Just to preface this life lesson - it is a deep learning and to master it may take a lot of practice, as I am finding out myself. But every moment you are in the present moment, serves as a stepping stone towards deeper peace.
Being in the present moment is all about being fully focussed on the here and now. Bring your complete attention to what you are doing right now. Whatever that may be, be completely dedicated to that one thing. As if you were nursing an ill animal back to life and your entire being is required to help it make it through. You will drop everything else and just be fully there for it. (Replace "animal" with any loved being in your life - child, husband, friend, mother, etc.)
So you are completely "with" that other person or being. If there's no one with you then you are being fully present with yourself. Being there with your complete attention. Like the teacher and monk, Thich Nhat Hahn reminds us to say, "Darling, I am here for you". Taking that idea towards yourself.
This is not an easy task as thoughts come in from all directions. But don't try to get rid of your thoughts. Just be present with them as well. You are experiencing thoughts from the past - be with it. You are experiencing thoughts about the future - just be with it. It's completely allowed. And that in itself is the key. Allow them. Allow them to just be instead of wanting them to not be. The side effect of this approach often turns out that the thoughts quiet down. But even if they don't that's fine. At least you were present to them. You showed up to your own party, so to speak! You were the witness to your own life and that's enough. Really. That's good enough.
Being in the present moment = being witness to what is.
I am continuously learning to be in the present moment. And the more I realize I am here, now, the easier it becomes to "tackle" life. How so? Well, then I only have to deal with that which is in front of me, not the barrage of goals, tasks, aspirations and dreams, problems and struggles of my entire life. No, I am present to just this, just this that's in front of me. This one thing. And I CAN handle this one thing. Easy!
2. Focus on being helpful
This is absolutely powerful. Once I begin to bring this guiding principle into my focus, things tend to change. As soon as I say to myself, "Focus on being helpful", then all the pressures of being perfect, successful and the rest just fade away for me. Try it in your own life. When things start to get frustrating or overwhelming or in any way difficult, just ask yourself, "How can I be of help in this situation?"
That shifts your focus from you and your problems to how you can be of use, of service to others. And don't get me wrong this is not about taking away attention from your problems or ignoring them. Not at all. It's more about shifting your focus to solutions and being of service instead.
If we bring this idea into our daily focus, not just on those days when we are having a hard time, then we begin to make this a part of our way of being. We cultivate it as a habit and it becomes a part of who we are and you begin to think of yourself as someone who thinks of how he or she can be of help.
This self-image is very conducing to mental peace. Why? Because you consider yourself in a positive way. Too often, we have a harsh, negative perspective of ourselves - often too harsh! But when we begin seeing ourselves as somebody who is helpful to others, you inadvertently begin to like yourself a bit more. You then learn to be kinder to yourself and can bring more compassion and patience towards yourself. So even though having the focus of helping others is a wonderful virtue to cultivate for its own sake, it has an immense positive effect on us and how we view ourselves. Then this positive view gives us peace and positive outlook for solving our own problems.
You see - this is how the golden rule works! You help others and as a result you begin to help yourself.
3. Love what you do
This is an antidote to all the confusion that's caused by the sayings "Find what you love " and "Follow your bliss". In themselves these are great sayings that give guidance to many. But to some, including myself, these statements have caused confusion and even frustration. What if I don't know what I love? What if I don't know what is my bliss?
I've felt this many, many, many, many times in my life as I took upon very different things as my work. From being a United Nations Tour Guide to a meditation instructor to working in an office (very short time) to online marketing consultant and so on.
I'd feel excited for these things for a bit and then over time - sometimes years, sometimes months and sometimes only after a few days, lose complete interest. Part of the reason is because I completely immerse myself into something and then get burnt out. I would ask myself, "If this thing that I am completely immersing myself in is supposed to be my bliss, supposed to be my "calling", then I could never get burnt out. It would keep fueling my interest and my energy because after all, I've found my thing, my purpose! But this way of thinking was not helpful because inadvertently, I did lose all steam for that one thing. I'd lose my drive, interest and enthusiasm. And may be it's just be being a Sagittarius or may be it this way with many others - if I am not interested or excited about something, I just cannot be involved. I've got to get out of there. If there's nothing that pulls me to be engaged in something, I will voluntarily withdraw myself from that endeavor.
So this way of being caused a lot of stress, uncertainty and even sadness because I could no longer be certain that what I do next will hold my attention for any set period of time. I was painfully aware that it could disappear or fade away anytime. So what to do?
First, I had to learn to let go of the notion that there is one life purpose. I had to let go of the idea that there's one thing that I will be doing all my life. That's just not going to work.
Instead I had to learn a new approach: love whatever I am doing now.
Loving whatever I am doing now has a lot to do with knowing the big picture. If I can be aware of why I was doing something, what was the purpose of it and what is the end result I am working towards, then I could more easily learn to love what I was doing. That connects back with being in the present moment and focusing on being helpful. Those two are the building blocks of this third life lesson. It helps to know the big picture - the why. That brings me to the fourth life lesson - Focus on the end results.
But before I share about that fourth life lesson, there's one more thing I'd like to share about loving what you are doing. When you take the approach of loving what you are doing, you remind yourself that this thing that I am doing has a purpose, a reason and some benefit. I remind myself of the benefit this action brings to others. And even if you can't find yourself to love it, remember that only when you are content with what is, can you break free from it and move towards the new reality you want to create. You begin to create a new reality as soon as you are detached from it and accepting of what is currently happening so that you can begin to take conscious, inspired action out of presence and detachment and not out of a negative mind state of resistance, frustration, anger and such.
4. Focus on the end results.
This is something that you may have read or heard from many a new age book or personal development guru. The idea has certainly been made popular by the book and film, "The Secret". The idea that simply resonates with us - visualize the end result. Most recently, I heard Mike Dooley talk about focusing on the end result in his book, Playing the Matrix.
I too have found from personal experience that focusing on the end result is very helpful in my day to day life - I will explain more below. But before I share how that is helpful, I've got to share a word of caution.
Visualizing the end result alone is not enough for the everyday person.
There are countless stories of mystics and saints who have instantly manifested things and situations and healings just by visualizing it. They create an image of what they want to see and instantly it comes into being. You can thing of any of the famous saints, nuns, monks, zen masters, yogis, sufi mystics, shamans and so on, in every corner of our globe where miracles have come to pass.
These individuals demonstrate to us the power and potentialities that each human being has within her/him. They embody mastery of mind over matter, the power of visualization. They were also very advanced meditators - someone who could go into deep states of stillness.
But most of us are not that far advanced on that path. That means, although we too can visualize and work with the still, quiet mind, it is not enough to quickly bring into reality that which we want to create just with the use of visualization alone. We need something more - which I will talk more in detail in the final life lesson below - taking consistent action.
That's why visualizing the end result alone is not enough for those of us who are not very advanced in using our mind's powers fully. That's why we need all these other life lessons to work in sync with visualization.
So now that I've gotten that out of the way, let's talk about visualizing the end result.
Why is it important to know the end result? There are tons of reasons for this. The most obvious one is this: so that you know where you want to arrive at and so that when you take action you can assess whether you are moving toward or away from your desired end result.
But focusing on the end result also does one magical thing for you - it frees you from the nitty gritty reality. What do I mean by this? You see, when you focus on let's say inner-peace, or financial well-being, you keep your eyes set on the big picture. You keep your focus on how you want to experience life. And it frees you from the nitty-gritty of the "how" your end result manifests.
See, one of the great miseries on the path of realizing one's dream comes from our being too attached with how something happens. Let's take for example, Sunita's vision. Her End Result is "living in a state of inner-peace". Now does it matter really if she experiences this through following Christian teachings or Buddhist teachings? Does it matter if Sunita experiences deep inner-peace by going for walks in the woods everyday or by meditating every day? If the end result she experiences is inner peace, it doesn't really matter "how" it came into being, does it?
Take another example. Say for example Alex wants to experience the freedom of being able to write for 5 hours a day. That's all he wants to do and wants to be sustained sufficiently - meaning, he wants that all his material needs are easily fulfilled. So what if now, as he focuses on his end result of being able to write every day for 5 hours, his wife's, Tanisha, online business takes off. She is now, single-handedly, making the income of a two-person household with plenty left over to save for retirement. Tanisha is overjoyed that she can help her husband live a fulfilling life of a writer with her successful business. This leaves Alex the freedom he was envisioning to be able to write for 5 hours a day and not have to go get a day job. Nor does he have the pressure of having to create a New York Times best-seller. All he has to focus on is writing every day.
So now does it matter whether Alex achieved his end result through the financial success of his wife? The same end result could have been achieved in a gazillion different ways:
he gets a huge inheritance,
his real estate investment that he made 10 years ago is suddenly providing a monthly income that pays for all his and his wife's needs,
he gets a book contract which leads to a big success securing his future financial needs,
he gets a part-time job as an editor that pays all his bills and leaves him 5 hours to write daily,
his YouTube channel earns him a monthly income that covers all his family's needs,
and on and on.
It doesn't matter how the end result manifests, as long as it does. And when we focus on the end result (while taking action and doing the other things I mentioned in Life lessons 1-3), then we are able to be detached as to how our dreams manifest. We give life an opportunity to make things happen with greater freedom.
It's like the story of the drowning man. Do you know this one? I've heard it a long time ago so some details I have added in to make the story understandable. So here's the story which goes something like this...
Once there was a big flood that filled the streets of a residential area. A lot of people were rescued or were able to flee in time. But there was this one man who got stranded on the roof of his house. This man was a man of faith. He had faith that he would be rescued. He knew that in his heart.
Soon, a rescue team passes by. They are in a small canoe rowing their way through the streets. The spot this man and offer him to jump into the canoe. The man says, "No, thank you. I have faith that I will be rescued". Surprised, the rescue team moves on to find others to help.
Then, a speed boat passes by. They, too, notice the man and offer him to take him to higher ground. He says the same thing. "No, thank you. I have faith that I will be rescued." Stunned, the guys move on.
The man continues to hope and pray and visualize him being rescued.
Next, a rescue helicopter come by. They spot the stranded man and hurl out a hanging ladder for him to climb up. Again, the man refuses. The helicopter team flies away, astonished.
Unfortunately, to make a point in this story, the man drowns.
The story, of course, doesn't end yet.
The man goes to heaven. He meets God. The man is shocked that inspite of his faith and belief and all the visualizing, he still drowned. So he asks God, "Why didn't you come to rescue me, God? I had so much faith in you and I visualized being rescued so clearly."
God nods and then says, "Boy, I did come to rescue you! I first sent you a canoe, then a speed boat and then even an expensive helicopter. But did you climb on? No! You did nothing!"
The man realizes his error. He did not take action. No matter how clearly he visualized his being rescued, the final step - taking the action to step on the rescue vehicle - was all his job. Plus, he was attached to the "how". I have no idea what exactly this man visualized. But it certainly didn't look like a canoe, a speed boat or a helicopter. Because it didn't match his very specific End Result Visualization, he didn't accept the help that did come his way.
How often do we do that? We don't take action. We just visualize. And we fail to see the help that is right in front of us. We imagine some complicated, struggle-filled, hardship-entailing solution when the simple answers are right in front of us. Do you relate? I certainly have done this and every time I fall into this old trap, I try to remind myself: "Don't judge what is in front of you as not good enough. You never know, this may be your canoe, your speedboat, your helicopter!"
And that's why visualizing the end result and then letting go of "how" that end result manifests, is very helpful in my every day life. Because it is freeing. Because it helps free up the infinite, gazillion ways of how that end result could manifest for us. And isn't that wonderful? Why be attached to how something unfolds when another way may be easier, faster, happier, more splendid and marvelous than what we could have carved out for ourselves?
So let go of the how, and simply focus on the end result, and then take action. More on that next.
5. Keep Taking Action
This is the final life lesson which I've mentioned in the last section - keep taking action. Taking action - any "good" action is helpful to you on your path moving forward. Even if you take a misguided or "wrong" action (I don't thing there's a wrong action, only a misguided action, perhaps), you can recognize your ways and make adjustments. It is important to take action.
For instance, last summer, I volunteered at my local real estate association to facilitate a six-week mastermind group for 10 or so committed professionals who wanted to make inroads in their real estate investment goals. My job along with my husband who was the co-facilitator, would be to gather interest in the program, set up the application process to find the most committed people - people who were committed to show up each week, organize the meetings, recruit speakers who were advanced investors and facilitate the flow of each meeting. This turned out to be a lot of fun but also a lot of work. Every participant benefitted immensely - they made new best friends, got partners for their investment projects, got valuable information and mentoring from experienced investors and most of all, the built a sense of confidence in themselves and found encouragement from each other to go ahead.
As a facilitator, I learnt a lot - both about real estate but mostly about myself, my skills, areas to develop further, dealing with nerves while speaking to a group which were all older than me. ( I am working on dissolving this mental pattern of "I am younger than them - what can I offer them"). But most of all, I learnt that I don't want to immerse my time in the subject matter of real estate. I loved facilitating and organizing the mastermind and the results of success that each participant felt because of joining the group, but I didn't want to be surrounded by the topic of real estate - that one thing became clear.
As much as the subject matter of real estate is interesting to me (I am interested in a lot of topics), and I love to learn about it, I just don't want to spend all my time in that topic. This I would not have known, had I not gone out there and volunteered my time to create this mastermind. It was an idea that I followed through on. I took action. But then I realized I needed to recalibrate.
The important lessons I learnt from that summer is priceless and I know it will help in my next endeavor, whatever that may be. But I had to take those steps. So starting that mastermind was not a wrong action, not even misguided - because it was guided by the intention to help others and learn by experience the art of facilitation. In the end, I realized I needed to move on.
I am sharing all these details to demonstrate that we don't have to know the right steps. We just need to take the next steps with the best intention and the best of our current knowledge and understanding. Then we can recalibrate.
This reminds me of airlines and how pilots are constantly course correcting. They start off at New York in the general direction of Atlanta. They are headed South but enroute, based on the new information they receive, they adjust their course. Finally, they land at Altanta airport precisely as desired.
Similarly, we've got to have an end destination in mind (Life Lesson 4). Then we've got to start the engine and move forward. Assess what's happening and then based on the best information we have at the moment, course correct and adjust our actions. In the end, we will arrive precisely as imagined, even though the path taken may have been unclear and nebulous!
So, my friends, I hope that these five lessons are insightful to you as they have been for me. I wish for you to have a peaceful, happy, life - a life that you want for yourself. If you'd like to discuss any elements that I've shared here, please make your constructive, helpful comments below.