Spirituality is self-mastery–not mastery over the world but mastery within ourselves so that under all circumstances we try to remain as equipoised as possible. —Swami Chinmayananda
Peaceful living is living with the wisdom that life and all things are impermanent. In the midst of this impermanence there is one thing that is permanent, and that is the Self—spirit, your essential divine nature. This real you is changeless and never touched by the ever-changing, transitory world.
Life is meant to provide us with the opportunities to bring out our spiritual shine from within. How well our mind can remain balanced in the face of changes and challenges, big and small is the real test of our spiritual maturity.
There are three broad areas of life that upset our inner peace:
- The appearance and condition of our body and mind
- The people in our life
- Things and circumstances.
Peaceful living calls for knowing how to deal with the issues that stem from these three areas. Looking at life from a spiritual perspective helps to diffuse most of the challenges that we face.
How to relate to the appearance and condition of your body and mind for peaceful living
You have a body; you are not your body.
Our body and mind are instruments for gaining experiences and performing actions. We are spiritual beings using these tools to interact with the world.
The problem is that we take our instruments to be who we are. And since the instruments are constantly changing and aging, we feel that we are also changing and aging.
As our bodies age, outer beauty naturally diminishes.
But we can cultivate inner beauty by consciously developing noble character traits such as love for others, humility, patience, acceptance, forgiveness, and kindness.
This is where real and enduring beauty lies. Nobility of character outweighs superficial beauty.
Sometimes, instead of feeling insecure about our appearance, we feel just the opposite. We feel proud of our appearance and our bodily strength and abilities.
It’s important to remember that these are temporary and will dwindle as we grow older. Placing too much importance on the appearance of our physical bodies and abilities is a sure recipe for stress and disappointment.
Instead of only caring and pampering our bodies, we must remind ourselves that they are gifts from the universe that are not only for our own use but are also meant to be used in the service of others.
Actions done for the benefit of others without hankering for any personal rewards help to quieten the mind and break down the ego and selfishness.
When it comes to the mind, our identification with it carries us along on a roller coaster of emotions—happy, sad, disturbed, joyful, excited, angry and so on.
This happens because we have a tendency to readily identify with the very first thought that comes up. We take it to be true and act on it. Stopping to observe the thoughts and questioning whether they are true or good before accepting them and then deciding what to do will help us maintain inner equanimity.
Peaceful living entails that we shift our identification from the appearance and condition of the body and mind to the inner witness, the eternal Self that knows the changes.
How to relate to the people in your life and promote peaceful living
Our relationships with people bring us great joy but they also pose the greatest challenges. This is especially so with our family, close friends and colleagues at work.
The two relationship spoilers are ego and attachment. They can be summarised as “I-ness” and “my-ness” respectively.
The ego or sense of “I-ness” always wants to assert itself over others, insisting that things be in a way that pleases it. “My-ness” refers to a sense of attachment or possessiveness. The ego and attachment are the root of all stress and conflict not only in our relationships but also in our life in general.
Holding on to our ego or sense of “I-ness” in relationships is wanting to be right and asserting our point of view. It is putting ourselves above our relationship and the ones whom we love.
I remember reading a beautiful saying: If you have to choose between being kind and being right, choose being kind and you’ll always be right. Wise words to live by that can diffuse many arguments and conflicts.
We often superimpose “my-ness” onto our partners, parents, children and close friends, and get attached to them.
Attachment is love with strings. When we have certain expectations of those whom we love, and they don’t live up to them, we feel hurt, disappointed or angry.
Being able to give love freely without expectations is a wise strategy for peaceful living. There are no hopes that it be demonstrated by others in particular ways or even it being reciprocated at all. Our relationships would improve because others won’t feel any undercurrents of expectations and pressure to give in return.
We are all souls on an evolutionary journey through lifetimes. Our relationships are meant to enable us to gradually learn to love all beings. When we rediscover our true spiritual nature, the Self in meditation, we will gain the highest happiness by seeing the oneness of all creation–the truth of the one Self in all.
Attachment to our loved ones often holds us back from focussing on our real spiritual goal of seeking oneness with all. We pour out all our love to a special few people only to leave them all behind when we die.
No worldly relationship is permanent, no matter how long it lasts. Even a marriage that lasts sixty or seventy years eventually comes to an end.
Relationships have a higher purpose. They are mirrors that show us what we have inside of us and so, they help us improve ourselves.
Our journey back to the bliss of our source starts with learning how to love and nurture a relationship with one significant other in our lives. Then we have a family, and our love grows to embrace our children and extended family members. We then gradually identify with people outside of our family and thus enlarge our circle of concern.
As we continue expanding our hearts to include more and more people, we learn and grow inwardly. Evolution is the real goal of life.
As we evolve, the “I-ness” and “my-ness” begin to thin out. In this evolutionary journey, relationships play a vital role in providing us the opportunities to bring out the beauty of the Self.
Spiritual master, Adi Shankaracharya has written more about relationships in his book, Bhaja Govindam.
How to handle things and circumstances to promote peaceful living
We need to cultivate the right relationship with our possessions. When we give them undue importance, pegging our sense of self-worth and happiness on them, we lose our inner poise and become unhappy.
Material things belong to the world and nothing really belongs to us. Accumulating and hoarding things serve no useful purpose.
Being souls having a human experience, we use things for a temporary period of time. When we leave this world, we leave everything behind.
We are meant to share our wealth and possessions with others. By sharing them with a feeling of gratitude, we uplift not only their lives but also our own. Doing this cultivates humility and promotes peaceful living.
When it comes to circumstances, it’s also unwise to get attached to them. For example, we get attached to our jobs, our lifestyle and certain activities. When they change or are no longer available, we get upset.
Remembering that all things come to an end can help us maintain our equanimity. Then we will be able to remain detached, enjoy, appreciate and be grateful for the circumstances that we are experiencing while we have them.
The key to peaceful living
Life becomes beautiful when we accept and live fully, even whilst remembering that everything is impermanent.
Constant change and impermanence remind us to live with grace, detaching from our sense of “I-ness” and “my-ness” and seek out the permanent within us.
Freeing ourselves from our ego and attachments helps us to grow inwardly, gain greater equanimity of mind and is the key to peaceful living.
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