Four Ways to Practice for Peace


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1. Make time for practice. We all want things to be fabulous right now. And who can blame us?! But that can make us a wee bit impatient. Or we want things to be great now, which causes us to push away all that is perceived to be or feels unpleasant.

Think of meditation time as the time you take your medicine. I’m guessing here, but you probably wouldn’t think of going to the doctor, getting a prescription and then not taking it, or following through with the prescribed actions, like going to physical therapy. You’d still be sick and who could be blamed for that? Not the doctor.

We have to make time for our practice. It’s just that simple. Often we claim we don’t have time. But think of the time lost to panic, disordered thinking, feeling, mind-wandering etc. Hmmm. Studies indicate that on average we humans spend 49% of our time in mind wandering, which is associated with general malaise, unhappiness, depression, anxiety etc. Not to appealing huh? (Personally, I vote for happiness, flourishing and kindness.)

The thing is, if you make the time and in the beginning that might feel challenging but…schedule it, put it in your planner or phone or whatever you use to keep track of what’s what and when it’s time to practice, like Nike says, “JUST DO IT.” With time, you’ll notice there are moments of peace, of opening, of space between the 10,000 thoughts and emotions in the stream of life. And it will feel good to experience those. Some will be just fleeting moments but with practice, that feeling of greater calm, peace, inner stability, focus will become longer and more stable and life will become a bit more fabulous, one moment, one breath at a time.

Schedule that time. Start with what you can manage. Can you do 15 minutes..30? Is morning your time; lunch, evening – or some combination of those? I like to bookend y day with a little practice. Just about always, I practice in the morning, 30-45 minutes because that sets up my whole day and makes it go better; more mindfully, more generously – more awake to what is actually happening instead of being in the trance of imaginings. Whatever your amount of time is, just sit and be kind, curious, loving and determined. Drop those expectations. Just sit, breathe. Invite the border collie of the mind to come, sit, stay. Repeat. Repeat. Oh, yes – and SMILE, even just a little.

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2. The Body Scan. The scan is great for checking in with the body to feel where our emotions are dwelling moment by moment. Many times we can feel an emotion arising in the body before we notice it in the mind. If we can bring awareness to that, sense that and relax the body…well, that’s a game changer because now we’ve just slowed everything way down and can see/feel the emotions and mental states, we can wake up to them sometimes, before we do or say something not so fabulous, harmful to ourselves or others. Yey to that!

The scan is also a great way to ease into sleep if the mind is running here and there, everywhere. Scanning with intention to relax, usually, I’m asleep before I get half way done. Keep in mind, that scanning for awareness as a mindfulness practice is one thing and scanning to relax and drop away to sleep is another. Mindfulness is about awakening to what is, right here and now.

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3. Saying “Yes.” Suffering arises when the heart and mind resists what is. Saying “yes,” as a practice instead of saying, “no,” is about opening to what is unfolding for us, as it is and just letting it be. Not running away, suppressing but leaning into whatever it is with a sense of, “okay, this is going on now. That’s cool. Yes,” and just being with that. And of course, any time something feels like it’s really too much, you can always come back to the body, to the breath as a home base, a safe anchor and you can always seek extra support as you need it: the counsel of a good friend, a therapist. Saying yes, doesn’t mean we allow shitty things to just happen to us; mis-treatement of any kind and so forth is not cool, but we can say yes, to the feelings around that, which we usually reject; guilt, shame…

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4. Three Gratitudes. Our poor lizard brains always want to highlight the negative in our experience. (sigh) But we can re-train the lizard to chill out and see the good in our lives. The more we do that, the happier we are. We can actually savor the good stuff, even the little moments.

So, try this for a week (at least.) Take ten minutes at the end of each day, and write down three things that went well in the last 24 hours. These can be things which happened to you or others, people you know or don’t know. Nothing is too big or too small. (Like breathing. The fact that we awoke and got to breathe all day is pretty damn amazing when you get right down to it. Even when that breathing is challenging for one reason or another…here we are after all, still alive.)

a) what went well?

b) what contributed to that happening?

c) how can I get more of that good stuff?

People who do this daily are happier. Check it out for yourselves.

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Author: Hillary Johnson

Improvisational documentary and fine art photographer.

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