Practical Steps Towards Inner Peace

With respect to my post yesterday – choosing to see peace instead of conflict and anguish – I think it is fair to say “okay, but how?”

It is nice when somebody says “I am no longer going to relate on terms set by the world. I am no longer going to follow its confused and endless paths to nowhere. I am no longer going to accept its empty assurances of joy and peace and love.”

But what does that mean exactly? Anybody can say it but what does it look like?

So I want to try and show how it might play out – how it plays out for me anyway. It might be different for you – probably it will be – but maybe this will still be helpful.

Let’s say that somebody angers you. That’s a big one for me. Somebody does something and it completely upends us psychologically. There is a big effect in us. This anger becomes all we think about – whose fault it is, what it does to us, how to get rid of it, how to get revenge and so forth. Maybe you are familiar with this!

If we are going to really toe the ACIM line, what happens next?

We have to create a sufficiently large space to see what is going on. That’s first. We have to be able to observe our feelings and thoughts: see how they rise up, how they linger, where they go and all of that. We have to see the whole big picture of it as it is happening.

So right away, rather than freak out or act out or react to the situation, we are doing something different. We are simply paying attention to what is going on in an interior way.

There is a lot of peace in this step alone. I am not saying it always works, but even a little, it can be very calming. We start to see how much of what bothers us is actually internal. There is the external influence but then our interior goes all wonky. The thoughts and ideas and feelings just take off!
So just seeing that is a good start.

Next, we pay close attention to what our brain – or our ego, if you like – tells us to do with respect to the situation. Maybe it wants us to lash out physically. It says, that person would not treat me so bad if I whacked them upside the head more often. I really want to smack them.

We can see that impulse clearly and then say, okay, that’s one choice. But that’s a worldly choice. So I am not going to do that. We don’t berate ourselves for feeling this way or having this fantasy of revenge or retaliation. We just see it and pass over it.

Maybe next you see that you want to get drunk and forget all about your feelings for as long as they’ll stay stuffed in a bottle. And you say the same thing. That’s one way to handle this but it is a worldly way so I am not going to choose it.

A sort of rhythm emerges, right? Every solution that the ego proposes, we give it some consideration – enough to see that it is the same old same old – and we say, no. That’s not it. The ego is going crazy – get drunk! Throw a punch! Sue somebody! – but at the deeper level we just calmly watch it. This is what it means to see with the Holy Spirit. We don’t attach to the egoic drama. We just patiently say no thank you.

When we do that consistently, we are in essence telling ourselves that there is another way to live. We are saying, okay, the miracle isn’t here yet but I am okay waiting for it. I’m not going to listen to the world’s terrible advice. I am going to wait for God to reveal a new way. I know it’s there and I’m holding out for it. I’m tired of hell and so I’m just going to wait on Heaven.

When we have the attitude of “I-will-do-this-for-a-thousand-years-if-need-be” then what happens is that this way of thinking – this new way of seeing – becomes a habit. We start to realize that all our ideas and strategies are losers. We may not yet have anything better to take their place, but at least we are stepping off the ego’s insane merry-go-round of bad, badder and baddest choices.

And then, at some point, the voice of our healed mind rises above the din. It can do this because we aren’t so invested in the ego’s voice any more. There is some space, some room for the Holy Spirit to be heard. When it is, it is be the most familiar voice you ever heard! And once you’ve started to track it, you’ll get better and better. Really, the ego doesn’t stand a chance. It never did.

So this all begins simply with observing what is going on internally and having a little faith that there is another way. When we hit a bump, instead of reacting, we give it the space in which to observe. We pay attention to our thoughts and feelings. We pass over the familiar bad ideas and eventually – quite unexpectedly – we stumble into the miracle. We stumble into the Truth. In a very real and tangible way, we see that we knew all along how to be peaceful and harmonious and holy and joyful. It’s what we are. It’s so simple!

This is all very natural, by the way. It is a lot easier to see oneness than to see fragmentation and separation, but we’ve had a lot of practice pretending otherwise. If you have ever given anything up – smoking, heroin, booze, sex, chocolate, whatever – that is kind of a rough model. We are actively choosing to see things differently. It’s tempting to go back. Sometimes we will. But if stay the course – and the Course – then sooner or later, the longing for misery ends. The patterns of death and scarcity end.

It is worth the wait, and worth the work, both.

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Jeanne Scofield May 22, 2013, 4:34 pm

    Bravo Sean!
    When I have difficulties, typically I get so impatient and want the answer now. Sometimes I get to the ego’s option #3 and decide that I need to act. Bad move on my part. Then the ego let’s me know that I made a bad decision by kicking me several times. Gosh, the ego really is the devil, damn if you do and damn if you don’t. It gives you bad instructions and then punishes you when you take them. LOL

    The good news is that it is still not too late to listen for the Holy Spirit even after you have followed the ego hook, line and sinker.

    Your blog entry is a very good reminder to me that it is worth the wait and the patience in order to get the sane instructions. For me, the key factor is to calm down. The part before that is the confusing part. Observing my anger freaks me out and makes it worse. How do you do that without losing yourself in your emotions? Do you make a conscious decision to let the “observer” observe rather than the ego? Thanks!

    • Sean Reagan May 24, 2013, 6:32 am

      It is a good point that it is never too late to switch to a Holy Spirit perspective. Nothing that happens under the ego’s rule is permanent. All of it is healed instantly.

      In terms of making space for observing anger – or any other difficult emotion – it is a practice, and some days are better than others. I consider Rules for Decision very helpful. If at the outset, we set our intention to decide with the Holy Spirit, from the healed mind, then we are more likely to remember that when the storm hits. It is not just in the morning I do this, but throughout the day. In the end, there is really nothing but a sort of stubborn determination: I am not going to do this in the old way anymore.

      It gets better with time, and easier. Some clarity emerges that what is “you” is not the “feeling.” Or a better way to say it is perhaps that it is all one: one movement. As Krishnamurti (and countless physicists) noted: the observer is the observed.

  • jeanne Scofield May 22, 2013, 4:35 pm

    *

  • zrinka May 22, 2013, 6:08 pm

    Dear Sean, beautiful article, loved reading it. Yeah, addictions and escapist habits. So much of our life is – given away – to someone, something – just because we don’t know what and how to do with it.
    Through time, I had given up many things, all sorts of addictions – smoking, drinking, painful thought patterns, (many) unbalanced relationships, anger, self-pity, sadness, broken heart, broken mind, self-criticism,despair, depression etc you name it, I have it all, good and bad :). The seed and the fuel for all this unvirtuous habits was surprisingly noble and beautiful – it was an Idea, as it always is. So, the hardest and most painful thing for me was to give up on my idea of – Love. Not on Love, but on my idea of it. It was my oldest and sweetest dream. I dreamed of a world where people love and accept God, and celebrate Him in each other, treat each other like gentle flowers. I really wanted to live in that world. I needed it. I needed the world to play that specific role in this (Life) dream of mine. I felt as if I had to live it – the dream– with the world, with the people, or else I would die. For how could I do it alone, when the point is in doing it – together? Now I know that love and acceptance of God (in Life) are my mission, my dream, not necessarily the world’s dream. It is my choice. So I dream of God alone. Some days it can be really hard. And really easy to go back to familiar ways of thinking and doing. For me, the thing that helped me not to look back (at least most of the times) was the moment when I realized that If I was ever to be free, I have to accept – the loneliness. And helplessness, as Neil Young sings it.
    So I accept it:)

    • Sean Reagan May 24, 2013, 6:45 am

      This is so important, Zrinka. We come to that space where we see that all of it has to go – even our dearest and purest ideas – and then what? It is such a frightening place. I turn away from it constantly – perhaps for lifetimes I have turned away. In the end, we have to see that we don’t really want to be awakened, don’t really want to remember God. Clarity about our resistance is so necessary! And then when you finally say – hesitantly, quietly, a whisper in darkness – okay, I will do this . . . It is like the darkness takes you up on it! Okay, let’s do it! I feel often in this space like a child trying to do a big person’s work. Trying to be brave, to hold to the trail, to trust there is a light just ahead . . . You know, the story I think of often is Hansel and Gretel. It is the dearest of all fairy tales, to me anyway. What courage the children need, how frail they are in the big woods, how great the hungers are – theirs, the witch’s – and how weak and helpless the father whose job it is to protect and save them. What loneliness resembles theirs? It feels like that to me – this journey – or this part of it. Yet I remember too that the two lost children helped each other – and Neil Young of course is singing to or with or for somebody (baby!) – and so perhaps in our helplessness and loneliness we might at least take note of a fellow traveler: offer a hand to hold, or perhaps a bluet, or even just words, like yours and mine.

      • zrinka May 24, 2013, 8:53 pm

        At the End of the World, there is no land to walk on. Just abyss in which we fall and through which we travel.
        Then what? I really don’t know, although I read whatever I could, to find out 🙂 But I’ll tell you what I believe 🙂 In imaginary situation, if I was falling through abyss, the best thing I could do would be to close my eyes, calm my heart, breathe and enjoy the fall:) Because if I was to fall forever, I want to relax myself, or I will die of heartattack and panic before my time 🙂 Of course, I would hope that this way I would find a way within, in a situation where there is no way out. But before I come to that conclusion, I would scream, try to fly clapping, wave with hands and legs, use some flashlight to see where I am, take a nap, take a drink, take a prayer, – in short – take my time to do all sorts of things in endless Time and endless Space.
        So, I believe that when all the masks (thoughts, feelings, ideas) fall, what is left is Essential and raw, vital in every sense. I always come back to – Silence Within- and – Breathing (we all do:)). They are my true guidelines, my teachers, divine landmarks of Being.They are tangible proof of miracle of Life. They can give us faith, they show us who we are. After everything I read, thought, felt, practised, visualized etc., this is what I always come back to. These are the basics of Spirit*Body alignement, as you know from your own experience. Spirit*Body alignement (Heaven and Earth together) is the only thing we have to do, the only thing we CAN literary do with ourselves – to create Heaven on Earth. To breathe, not to think to much:), enjoy in sweet inner emptiness and feel good. Yes, God loves us:) But it never seems enough (challenging for the mind) so we spend our days in search of ‘better’ understanding of what we should do, when the answer is obvious yet so simple that we lose interest in it quickly. In reality, this Breath, this empty vast Heart in our chest is all we truly – have. What more is needed to bring a smile on our face? 🙂 In my case, I’m like a sleeping bull. Impressionable, but slow to change in fundamental beliefs. It took me long time to realize that my ‘good’ values can cause sadness. And even longer to imagine life without values. But the good side of being stuborn, is being stuborn:) And the same will and determination with which I defended my ego Life, now gives itself in service of just – Life:) Determination will lead me home eventually. What else is there to do?:) Every day is a leap of faith.
        Thank you my fellow traveler for flowers that grow from your words!*

  • Jeanne Scofield May 22, 2013, 8:55 pm

    Zrinka, That makes me sad. : ( Do you really think we must give love up? Perhaps our idea of what love looks like. But the Course says again and again and yet again, that if we see the Christ in our brothers and hold nothing against them (look past error) we will create heaven on earth. That is what I am holding out for. Like most people, I have horrible nightmares happen to me on this earth. Usually that sends me into despair and sobbing, then eventually I stand up, dust myself off and I vow to do better, to choose once again. Then being the optimist I am, I dive right back into the Course, knowing that there is Truth here.

    • zrinka May 23, 2013, 9:09 am

      Dear Jeanne, thank you for your caring response 🙂
      I agree with you that if we see the Christ in our brothers and hold nothing against them (look past error) we will create heaven on earth. But to do that, we must first hold nothing against ourselves.
      Having proscrastinating ideas is kind of like – holding something against yourself – isn’t it? Imagine it literary. In my case, it was like I pointed an arrow to my own heart. I was mixing Love with Pain- out of romantic belief, like in a beautiful Oscar Wilde story ‘The Nightingale and the Rose’. I had a lot against myself, many ideas storming in my being. My – idea – of Love, which I imposed on myself, made me suffer. The idea, not Love. Ideas can be and often are, like cages for Spirit, if one clings to (any one of) them.
      That is what I mean when I say that it was vital for me to accept loneliness/separation, in all its forms. Yes, I know that separation isn’ t real. I always knew it. But I was impatient and yearned for others to see it, so that we can consciously share it (Love), together in body and spirit. It was hard for me to accept that the others – I love – still – believe in separation. Obviously what was happening is that, I attracted my own unconscious fear that separation is real, which manifested through people and situations. So my conflict was in that I (my ego) was trying to – prove it, the power of Love. So I went in situations where I -struggled – to create what I believed in. In the end I felt completely fake. I lived in my Illusion so passionately, believing I was serving God, while – in Truth – I was relying on my impressions and desires. Finally, I had to let go of my Fear – of loss and lack of love – and lovingly accept that for me there is nothing to hold on to, no Idea, no Life, no Relationship, no Escape. Just being (here), with God. Relying on God for all my needs.
      Choosing Truth is Beautiful, which I am yet learning to witness, in all its abundance. But sometimes, it can be lonely. But only for my playful, impression-oriented mind:) Soul always rests in peace.
      Do I think we must give love up? NO, I would never give up on love 🙂 Even if we wanted to give up, we couldn’t. Love is who we are, Love is God. But do I think that we must give up on many things, including our procrastinating ideas? Yes. Giving up is important, not to lose (it) – forever, but to be able to receive again, something new, something fresh. God will then show us, not one thing (we once desired), but abundance.
      With Love and Respect,
      Z*

  • Michael May 23, 2013, 3:05 am

    This is so right Sean. It has taken me 21 years to discover the truth in what you’ve written. For me, apart from the fact that it is extremely relaxing not to get angry when you get used to this approach, it was a revelation to see that the world (my) doesn’t go into meltdown when I loosen the rains and let things be. A whole new set of God’s rules step in and I laugh a lot more!

    • Sean Reagan May 24, 2013, 6:47 am

      Yes! That idea that God’s rules are there and operating when we loosen our own is so helpful. We have this idea that we have to fix things or do something – even a kind and loving something – but it’s all just part of the dream. The real world is there, waiting for us to chill out and breathe (to coin a phrase).

  • Bet Carbery May 23, 2013, 6:05 am

    Very helpful Sean. I find if I can observe the anger, resentment, distress, then this observer, by virtue that it can observe, is not involved in the drama. Sometimes the observer is a fraud and is involved but in a different way. In which case step back and observe that too. Keep stepping back until you can observe all the tricks. This works for me when I can do it but often I am not successful. Sometimes later on when everything has subsided I get it. So being sort of immersed with the feeling doesn’t work as that can take me into a pit from which I cannot escape. Equally, not acknowledging it leads to suppression which can reveal itself by projection or illness.
    I think your article hits the nail on the head and answers my previous question.
    Bet

    • Sean Reagan May 24, 2013, 6:53 am

      Thanks, Bet. I hear you very much on the “sometimes it works” idea. But you are right about being able to come back to it when it has subsided. That has become so important to me. Even if in the moment of craziness I cannot manage to make the deeper contact, the possibility of contact is not gone. So I keep reaching and then when I do make the contact, the healing is available. It is still there. This insight – that the ego cannot harm the Holy Spirit nor compromise its potential for healing – is important. It helps me to relax, and that relaxation tends to facilitate a gentler outlook, a needed openness.

  • Fred Wahlstrom May 23, 2013, 9:55 am

    After giving up booze and dope, my fantasies are seen to have been my drug of choice all along, the thrill of playing god in my mind.” Reality” is the raw material out of which I weave my fantasies of sex, violence, and power. I know this is true, I see it on TV, and the movies, It doesn’t get any more real then that.

    Reacting and getting emotional feels good, it fills that empty place, and the separation disappears. The ego is doing its job.

    Pausing, stepping back to mind my own business, pay attention to myself, when I remember to do this, this is the miracle.

    Thanks for the reminder,

    Fred

    • Sean Reagan May 24, 2013, 6:56 am

      You’re welcome, Fred. Thank you for reading!

      Sean

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