Back in 1971 John Lennon wrote the song Imagine. The lyrics are just as pertinent today as they were those 50 years ago.
Which begs the question: if we've been seeking peace since 1971 (and probably before), is it actually achievable? And is meditation the answer?
I would argue that meditation, although extremely helpful, is not a panacea for life's ills. Rather, I pose that examining our inner lives is the key. Meditation is certainly a pathway to seeing things as they really are, but I am becoming more convinced that we need not sit in stillness in order to reap the benefits.
Whenever we seek answers to life's big questions – such as, is peace really achievable? – we can find the truth in Nature.
Nature is changeable. Seasonal. Windy one day, sunny the next. The tides bloat and shrink. The earth revolves and is part daylight while the other half rests in peaceful darkness. Our minds are just the same. We have joy and we have sadness. We have overthinking and we have moments of peace. Sometimes the mind is depressed, at other times it's light and free.
Inner peace then, requires us to abandon the idea that every day should be 22º, mostly sunny with a gentle breeze, and come to the deep awareness that we are natural weather storms and our changeability is perfect as it is. Rather, it is the concept of total and complete stillness that we should look to regulate.
Expecting to be able to sit in stillness when we're hauling around our 'griefcases' (aka baggage) is unhelpful. I'm never surprised when people come to my meditation classes and struggle to find rest. The first stage of meditation is like Spring. It's windy and wild. When the temperature of our hope is cool/mild but our current mental state is agitated/fiery then the initial coming together creates a pressure system that blows around much like a wild sky.
It doesn't matter that we think our stress is due to today's events/this year/COVID. Truth is, we're bursting at the seams with pain, hurting from god know's what. Feeling hurt creates a stress response and is not the forerunner for kindness and compassion. It's an inward spiral that causes us to act out our unhealed past in wildly unconscious ways.
Oftentimes, we don't even realise we're hurting, let alone acting out. We very quickly become blind to our actions, instead focusing on how other people are treating us badly. People might tell us we're hurting them, but we find it hard to listen when our insides are screaming with unprocessed sadness. It's a constant and vicious cycle.
But it can be repaired.
Unhealed pain is the real barrier to inner peace, which, in a way is good news. Why? Because if the work required to be more at ease is internal, then we each have the ability to start right now.
The question is, how?
The how is by diving right in to the depths of our heart, soul and psyche and looking around. We also need a framework which can lead us through our pain and draw us out the other side. In addition, we need to understand that this will take time, energy and immense amounts of patience.
Healing, as a pathway to inner peace, operates on its own timeline. It doesn't abide by the clock and it cares not if you have a looming deadline, dinner to make, bills to pay or a desire to uphold the status quo (read: stay in a cycle of socially conditioned success).
Healing arrives just when it should and will leave once we've done the work.
In saying that, there are things we can do to assist the process.
In its therapeutic form, journalling is referred to as Expressive Writing which basically means you write down any traumatic thoughts or irritating experiences in an uncensored way.
You literally throw the words on the page. Don't worry about spelling, don't even worry about typos. Grammar … who gives a F.
Just spew your thoughts and feelings down on a page and let the floodgates open wide. Dig right into the pettiest most painful memories you can find and let it flow.
You might cry. You might get angry. You might feel an intolerable intensity that makes you want to scream or run or kick and punch. This is your body's natural intelligence working itself out.
We hold memories in the body and somatic release is vital for healing. So let it come out (the gym or the great outdoors are the arena for this, not projecting onto other people). Grunt and groan like you mean it. Cry, wail, walk, run, swim, dance, box, sprint. Allow the pain to move right through you.
Journalling might seem like an intellectual endeavour but when we do it from our wildest heart it can very quickly become a moving meditation. By inviting old misery to the surface we get to transform the things we were calling 'petty' and realise they are patterns that lead us into the forest of a truer life.
I couldn't recommend it more.
2. Talk to someone – preferably a professional.
Therapy is not for the fainthearted. It is for strong and brave people who are ready to get better and live better. If you're stuck in repetitive patterns and don't know why – seek assistance. Ask yourself what's really stopping you from going within? Fear? Pride? Money? Whatever your reason just do it.
If you want to find inner peace, find someone to talk to.
In the past two decades we have become so obsessed with binge-watching, scrolling and swiping, that taking time out is no longer restful.
We think we're resting when we take a moment to peruse social media but when we do that we are igniting dopamine receptors in the brain that simply create a short-term reward mechanism that wants to be constantly fed. And we all feel the addictive pull, amiright?
The more we scroll, the more we want to scroll. The result? We've become a global collective of hyperactive stimulation addicts with the attention span of goldfish.
The antidote therefore is to … Stop.
Stare at the ceiling.
Do that until the thoughts stop racing. If they don't stop racing, stay there.
If this sounds like an oversimplification (and you're silently telling yourself you don't have time to do nothing), take a moment for a reality check. Ask yourself, why are you so unwilling to rest? Are your reasons really reasons, or are they excuses?
Choosing healthy and real down time is 100% imperative if we want to experience inner peace. Our bodies and minds are desperate for rest. We need to relearn what that means.
We must welcome the boredom. Creativity is birthed from that space. Constant scrolling is detrimental to our brains and our hearts. What we need is more time in Nature, less time in front of screens.
It's simple but true.
We need to stop all this incessant doing.
Take a moment now to rest in your breath. Give yourself credit for every microsecond that you are able to remain in that spacious stillness. You are doing an amazing job and you are a good and whole person. We have just become distracted by consumerism and capitalism. It's OK. We are not bad and wrong for that. But we are stressed. We are burnt out. And we deserve to feel calm and safe.
I believe in our ability to turn the tide back towards our heart and I believe our future is calling us to make that change.
And if we are willing to pause for just a second and become curious about the possibility of evolving into a world where there is "no need for greed or hunger", maybe, just maybe, we'll learn to live into the truth of a better life. Just like the one John Lennon imagined some 50 years ago.
We've got this.