What does inner peace look like? To many, it would be a serene spiritual figure – the Virgin Mary, Gandhi, or White Tara.
Can we imagine becoming that?
Probably not, and it’s not what I mean by “inner peace.” Inner peace is not an endpoint, it’s a waypoint. It facilitates our growth be reducing inner resistance to change.
To understand how that works, we’re going to take a round-about journey, first looking at peace in the daily world.
In the daily world, most obviously peace is an end to conflict. From the history books, it doesn’t seem to be a natural condition. When peace is interrupted by conflict, nations restore it only by dominance – one side wins the war, and the loser submits to regulation.
But is the loser at peace? “Free will” is often argued against by scientists, but in the original political sense it recognized that the loser’s mind was not restricted from turning toward liberation. You might force a man to work for you, but you could expect him to seek freedom at the first opportunity.
Sometimes that liberation appears in unusual ways. MLK Jr. spoke of being “taken up to the mountain” and having “seen the promised land.” This echoes the testimony of African American theologians born in the early 1900’s. They said that their grandparents had everything taken from them – even the flesh of their flesh – and so turned inward in prayer, discovered a presence of infinite love. That knowledge gave them the psychological strength to turn the tables on their tormenters.
Is this a strange way to start a search for inner peace? Considering the world’s religions, perhaps not. The antics of pagan deities reflect the turmoil present in human nature and thus the individual mind. That private conflict was recognized in monotheistic religions, with adherents cautioned to follow the Golden Rule. (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”) From there it was carried into the theory of psychiatry, with the mentally ill often seen as being at war with themselves. As documented by Anne Harrington (“The Mind Fixers”), psychiatrists were thus given dispensation to wage war against the demented part using isolation, labor, self-recrimination, surgery, and drugs.
We should naturally reject all such models in our search for inner peace.
A more suitable model is the family home. When conflict arises and dialog fails, we send the parties to their rooms. Mature members remain to craft a plan of reunion, while their wards contemplate the cost of isolation.
Taking the home as our example, inner peace only separates conflicting thoughts until they are ready for reconciliation. This is what I mean by inner peace: to recognize when mental conflict originates from tension in our thoughts, and to have the patience and discipline to reorganize our thinking so that the conflict is relieved.
Creating inner peace is difficult in the combative arena of the working world. That is why philosophers and religious seekers are often described as “retiring from the world.” But it also suggests that retirement is a great time to take up this goal.
The journey begins by learning to monitor and manage our level of physical agitation. The body exists to serve the mind, and when the mind is agitated, that comes with elevated blood pressure, restlessness, and even twitching. When we learn to calm those reactions, we can use them to monitor our progress in reducing mental conflict.
Hypnosis is an invaluable aid in that journey because it removes reaction delay. Common techniques include methods that improve tolerance and resilience, and specific types of discovery journeys.
As described thus far, inner peace seems to be mostly an intellectual journey. For those seeking spiritual deepening, however, it is an essential gateway. Spirituality, the negotiation of boundaries between “I” and “we,” begins in community. In group sessions, personal inner peace is extended to others.
Eventually inner peace does lead to profound spiritual awakening. Only those with the discipline to smother conflict are allowed entry to the parts of the spiritual landscape cultivated by our religious avatars. The elements of those landscapes have been shaped, honed, and precisely joined. The avatar’s will squeezes out dissonance.
Fortunately, the goal of every religious avatar is to see flowers bloom in their garden. Step softly and their realm thrills to the addition of the notes of your personality.