Monday, March 30, 2009

Don’t worry, Be Happy! Lessons on Finding our Own Inner Peace!

This week we are studying the concept that “nothing can bring you peace but yourself”. While this is attributed to the great Ralph Waldo Emerson, spiritual masters have taught this principle since the beginning of recorded history. I believe it might be one of the most difficult concepts to incorporate into our own lives with any level of consistency. This may be especially true in today’s society, in which we are bombarded, 24/7 with more information than we know how to process. Finding inner peace requires the ability to instantaneously tap into the unlimited “kingdom of your mind” and to rise above the negative influences around us. Ego-centric emotions like vanity, worry, judgment, self doubt block our access to inner peace. Around my house these days, “worry” seems to be the most disruptive emotion, so I’ll focus on that for purposes of this essay.

As human beings, we’ll go to great lengths to distract ourselves from anxiety and worry. We create schedules and routines designed to “fill up” our lives. We engage in repetitive mindless tasks that create a false sense of “certainty.” We wile away countless hours on pointless activities, or we partake of the “digital noise” designed to “entertain” us. We become experts in denial and blame. We may even try to dull our senses using alcohol or pharmaceuticals. These learned habits distract us from the practice of “turning within” to find peace.

For about 10 years, I have been an occasional practitioner of meditation. As I get older and wiser, and the world gets more chaotic, I am now beginning to understand the importance of daily meditation. It breaks these destructive patterns and forces us to clear our mind of distractions so we can connect to the deeper intelligence and intuition that we all possess. I believe this is critical for human beings of any age, including children.

An important milestone to attaining inner peace is to realize that worry serves no purpose in our lives other than to temporarily immobilize us and keep us from realizing our optimum potential. I have often turned to the very popular “Serenity Prayer” by Reinhold Niebhr when worry creeps in. I have even gone so far as to have my children memorize and recite this poem on a daily basis hoping that by “osmosis” it will become embedded in their subconscious minds.

I am sure you have heard it…

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

And so it eloquently continues. I heard some very sage advice on worry recently that has given me an even deeper perspective. I will paraphrase… “Don’t worry about what you can’t control because you can’t control it, and if you CAN control it, there’s no need to worry about it, because YOU ARE IN CONTROL.”

I love this quote. Its humorous irony brought back memories of a lush tropical paradise where I was drinking margaritas while dancing to the popular song, “Don’t worry. Be happy”. Arguably, I was “tuned into” some version of “inner peace” in my intoxicated state, but this type of temporary escape wasn’t really strengthening my “inner peace skills”.

These words, in a different context are very powerful and lend themselves perfectly to introducing to my children to the power of the peace that lies within us. “Don’t worry”, I will teach them, “because worry is a pointless waste of time”. As so eloquently stated in the Serenity Prayer, we must ACCEPT what is beyond our control and instead focus our thought energy on finding the COURAGE to change those things we can change.

WISDOM is found in the next phrase-- “Be Happy.” I believe this is one of the most powerful and underrated phrases in the English language. Happiness is a choice. When faced with lesser alternatives, we can simply choose this positive state. To be happy suggests the present, and the present is a place we should all strive to spend more time in. As my friend and intuitive counselor, Tricia Brennan often says in her guided meditations, “Let go of the past. Let go of the future. Be still and present in the moment.” In other words….just BE and do it with happiness!

If you think about it, the quality of our lives isn’t created in our past or in our future. It is created in “the present.” If you can be happy in the present, life will be good, worry will subside and we will learn that in spite of events around us, or things happening to us, a better place is immediately available if we tap into the power of our mind.

“Don’t worry. Be Happy!” is the new mantra in my house. I introduced it last night during an opportune moment at the dinner table when my son was pointlessly obsessing about something. In a very low tone, I began singing the words, repeating them about every minute or so until it broke his state. Before I knew it, he was laughing hysterically and singing along with me. I wasn’t even aware my children knew this song.

Going forward, when we are having a “worry emergency” I will use it as a catalyst to help us break our negative state and regain control by taking a moment to “self sooth” and find our own inner peace.

1 comment:

  1. That's why I love the joy I have as a Christian! Happiness is circumstantial, but true joy is based upon the truth that God is in control and I don't need to worry.