Don’t let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace. ~ Dalai Lama.
Many of us are feeling stressed — with current events in the world and our own personal challenges and responsibilities, not to mention the overload of media and technology — it’s no wonder that we are feeling overwhelmed.
Finding the time to take care of ourselves can often feel like just another thing to do. Yet it is during busy times that it is most important to prioritize breaks for ourselves, to remember to “be” rather than to “do” all the time, to actually be present in our lives, to pay attention to and nurture our inner worlds with just as much attention as we do our outer worlds, and to carve out some quality, self-nourishing time for silence and stillness.
There are many benefits to doing this, not just for our mental and physical health and well-being but for our relationships with others and our effectiveness in all aspects of our work and lives.
But how do we begin? Lately, I have taken the opportunity to read teachings of a variety of leading thinkers about these issues. Some of their simple yet effective strategies on how we can avoid burnout, reduce stress and prioritize our health, happiness and well-being have resonated with me. I hope you too will find their words of wisdom helpful and inspiring.
Take Good Care of Yourself
This means making your own self-care a priority, including getting enough sleep, eating healthful foods, exercising and taking quiet time to relax and unwind.
Redefine What “Success” Means
It’s time society made a shift from being overworked and money-driven to valuing well-being and making positive change in the world.
Set Boundaries with Technology and Other Inputs
If we don’t set clear boundaries on our relationship with technology, media, and other inputs, we’ll never be able to achieve the balance and inner peace we so desperately need.
Find a Daily Practice that Works for You
This could be gratitude journaling, mindful breathing, yoga, immersing yourself in art, exercise or various forms of meditation.
Spend Time in Nature
When you are feeling disconnected or overwhelmed, going outside and being in nature can be very grounding.
Turn Inward to Find Happiness, Strength, Clarity and Peace
We need to remember that all of these things — true happiness, strength, clarity and a sense of peace — come from within and not from external sources. We just need to slow down enough to make the time and space to turn our attention inward.
Here is a story from the life of Buddha that highlights the importance of a calm mind in achieving inner peace and harmony:
Once Buddha was walking from one town to another town with a few of his followers.
While they were travelling, they happened to pass a lake.
They stopped there and Buddha told one of his disciples, “I am feeling thirsty. Please get me some water from that lake there.”
The disciple walked up to the lake. When he reached it, he noticed that some people were washing clothes in the water, and right at that moment, a bullock cart started crossing through the lake. As a result, the water became very muddy, very turbid.
The disciple thought, “How can I give this muddy water to Buddha to drink…?”
So he came back and told Buddha, “The water in there is very muddy. I don’t think it is fit to drink.”
After about half an hour, again Buddha asked the same disciple to go back to the lake and get him some water to drink.
The disciple obediently went back to the lake.
This time he found that the lake had absolutely clear water in it. The mud had settled down and the water above it looked fit to be consumed. So he collected some water in a pot and brought it to Buddha.
Buddha looked at the water, and then he looked up at the disciple and said, “See what you did to make the water clean. You let it be…. and the mud settled down on its own – and you got clear water. Your mind is also like that! When it is disturbed, just let it be. Give it a little time. It will settle down on its own. You don’t have to put in any effort to calm it down. It will happen. It is effortless.”
When there is peace inside you, that peace permeates to the outside. It spreads around you and in the environment and helps you make better decisions.
Conversely, you could be in very peaceful surroundings, where everything is wonderfully beautiful but if your inside is disturbed, then that beauty is of no use to you.
For you to be peaceful, peace has to be generated from deep within you – from your being to the mind, and from the mind to the environment.