Thich Nhat Hanh’s book “Peace is Every Step” begins with an invitation to open to the opportunities present in every day – every 24 hour period. “What a precious gift!” he says. “We have the capacity to live in a way that these twenty-four hours will bring peace, joy and happiness to ourselves and others.”
And although it seems that some people are able to find more joy a day than others, the truth is that everyone has the same 24 hours…and every morning we wake up we have another opportunity to choose how we want to spend it. Now I know some of you might be saying, “Well I don’t have a choice I have to work at this job I really don’t like. Or, “I have to get up early and make my kids breakfast and pack a lunch and drive them to school, then come back home and do loads of laundry. I have to do that, that’s not my choice.” Or is it?
In New Thought we know that on some level every circumstance in our life is our choice. And certainly how we experience those conditions /situations is most definitely our choice. We can either choose to be miserable, frustrated, board, unhappy, etc. Or, we can choose something else. In this post we’re going to explore that “something else.” We’re going to explore how we can all choose to participate in the abundance of joy, peace and love that is all around us right now and within us right now…no matter the circumstances of our lives. And when we can do that…the circumstances begin to shift and take on the shape of our new-found joy.
We, as a culture, spend a great deal of time planning for the future, or working toward some goal that we think will give us a better experience in the future. But we don’t spend much time in the now, enjoying life right now in this present moment. You know, when we get to that future that we had planned and worked so hard to have, do we enjoy it as much as we thought we would? Do we ever finally “arrive”?
So, below are some ways we can really grab life for all it has to offer, and share with life all we have to offer, and live fully as we do…to live from a place of amazing joy and extraordinary peace!
- The first way we might accomplish that is to start the day with gratitude. This means that before you get out of bed in the morning, think of one thing…just one thing…you are grateful for. It could be as simple as the sun streaming in your window, the fact that you had a good rest, or even that you’re alive…you woke up! Then, as you’re getting ready for the day, continue to think of things to be grateful for…a fresh cup of coffee…clean clothes to put on…indoor plumbing…a warm shower, etc. When you start your day this way it reminds you that you are truly blessed…that you do indeed live in a friendly universe.
And really celebrating those things….not just “oh that’s nice”…but feel every fiber of your being celebrating that warm shower, the beautiful songs of the birds outside your window. Let that gratitude vibrate to your core. You can’t help but smile. And the smile sends waves of relaxation throughout your body and sends healing hormones into all your organs. Having a regular proactive gratitude practice has been proven over and over to have a ton of physiological benefits, from an analgesic effect on the body stimulating the release of the brain’s own morphine-like substances, to better heart functioning, to better sleep, to less depression, to increasing the antibodies in our nose & mouth – which are our first line of defense.Perhaps more importantly though, practicing proactive gratitude shifts our perception – how we look at the world. We begin to live joyously and open-heartedly and in the present moment. And that shift can change everything.
- Another way we can begin to live more fully and become more peace-filled individuals is to engage in what I call “Conscious Living.” This begins with becoming more conscious of our breathing. Breathing more slowly, more deeply and more consciously helps us to be in the present moment…fully. The breath connects us with our heart and with that place within us where we are connected with the Infinite…where the Divine breathes forth life through us and as us. That one Divine Breath (in Aramaic it’s referred to as Ruha) is the same one we share with everyone else and with everything else on this planet.Now, let’s take that idea a step further and combine our breath with our footsteps as Thich Nhat Hanh suggests in his writings. “Although we walk all the time, our walking is usually more like running. When we walk like that, we print anxiety and sorrow on the earth. We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the earth…We walk a little slower than our normal pace, and we coordinate our breathing with our steps. For example, we may take three steps with each in-breath and three steps with each out-breath.”This is a great tool to use and a great image to keep in mind as you walk really anywhere in your daily life. Our walking to our car in the parking lot has the potential to become a meditation. So does our walking to the mailbox, or from our car to any destination. If we consciously coordinate our breath with our steps that will pull us into the now moment…into the peace of the now moment. It will also help us to feel that connection with Mother Earth. And our every step can be as a “kiss upon the Earth.”
Another way we can become more fully present and hence more peace-filled people during our everyday lives is to eat more consciously. Most of us, when we eat, most of the time we’re either chatting with others while we eat or watching TV or working (I’m guilty) and we so we don’t even taste the food we’re eating. So we get to the end of a meal and we’re not satisfied. Well then we need to have desert – maybe that intense load of sugar will get our attention. We are a multi-tasking culture. I’m not against multi-tasking per se. Sometimes (particularly if you are a mom) you need to do it. Isn’t that what MOM stands for? Master of Multi-tasking. But what if we just took one thing and brought our full attention to that thing? What if we slowed down and were really present to what we’re eating? Well, we’d develop a healthier relationship with food, that’s for sure. And we’d be spending a good chunk of time in the present moment – fully enjoying our life.
In fact, you can have an experience of that right now. Take a grape. One grape is all you need for this exercise (make sure it’s a good one and not a squishy one J). And hold that grape in your hand. Close your eyes and think about the vine the brought that grape to fruition. In your mind’s eye see the vine growing from a little sprout to a full grown vine. See all the cycles that contributed to the growth of that vine: the days of sun and the days the rain came to nurture that plant and bring it to fruition. See now tiny little buds beginning to sprout. Again the days of sun and rain help to ripen and sweeten the fruit until it is finally ready for picking.
Think about who picks those grapes for a moment – probably migrant farm workers. They work so very hard to support their families. You may want to send a silent blessing to them right now.
Now, place the grape in your mouth and, before you bite into it, feel the roundness of the fruit in your mouth…the smoothness of the skin. Now bite into it and feel the juice being released. Is it sweet? Is it tart? What is the ratio of sweetness to tartness? Feel the difference in texture between the skin and the inside. How does it feel going down your throat?
Okay open your eyes. But a grape never tasted so good! Now, no one would ever have the time to do this with every morsel of food they eat obviously. But it does give you an idea of how you can slow down, appreciate the food you are eating and be present to it all when you eat.
- The 3rd way we can live more fully and be more peace-filled people is to open to the Infinite Peace within us and give it to others. If you are a unique emanation of the Infinite One (which you are,) and this Infinite One is the essence of Peace (which it is,) then you are, in fact, Infinite Peace in expression. It is your very essence. You may not be experiencing it right now, or at other times during the day, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t what you are. It means you’re just not connected with it at that moment. The quality of Divine Peace is at your core and the more you connect with it through Spiritual Practice the more often you will experience it in your day to day life. The more that peace will carry you through difficult times. Then, when you’ve established a connection with that Peace the charge is to live it – share it with others. To “be” that peace for others. We must establish it within ourselves first and “be it for others.” Be a loving, peaceful presence for others. We do that by consciously connecting with it and through setting our intention to be that. Set your intention to actually peace the presence of peace for others.
That intention will undoubtedly lead you to being of service to others in some way. And as you are of service to others you want to remember to do it from a place of inner peace. You want to serve from an awareness that the Infinite Peace of the Universe flows through you in order to share with the world. It starts at your center and spirals out to others and the world around you. In this way, you can experience peace in your every step and truly become a “Peace-makers.”
Try some of these ideas for a week. Really integrate them into your daily life. You will begin to see some very real shifts that originate in your inner being and then out into your experience.