In the coming weeks I will explore the process of finding inner peace and happiness; as it has worked for me. I have broken the process down into seven steps:
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
I have found Ghandi’s view of happiness to be right on. Thus, I need to get three things in harmony; thought, words, and action. The result of such harmony is a healthy self-image based in reality.
It has been my experience that thought, words, and actions based upon love bring the greatest serenity and happiness into my life. Not only love for myself, but also love for all of God’s creatures. Personally, I did not wake up one day and love everything and everyone… how could I? I did not truly love myself—or so I discovered through this process. It has been a long journey and one that continues on a day-to-day basis.
When looking at these three areas, there appears to be a paradox. I have to do (action) and say (words) the right things in order to think (thought) healthy about myself and be happy. (i.e. I can’t think my way into good living, I must live my way into good thinking). It’s all about action. I cannot intellectualize and read about happiness and wake up one day happy. It just doesn’t work that way, a least not for me. Yet in order to do the right things (action), I have to think them first. That is why it is important to realize this journey is a process. It takes practice and gets easier over time. Eventually, the right thoughts are the first to come into our mind, followed by the right actions. The natural result being self-respect and a positive self-image based in reality.
I must point out why I use the phrase based in reality. For years, I confused my actions with intentions. Most of the time, I had the best of intentions but rarely followed up with the appropriate action. As a result, I had a skewed perception of how I was actually perceived by others. I am judged by my actions, not my intentions.
“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.”
Step 1: Awareness
I’ve always liked the saying, “I didn’t know what I didn’t know.” For years I was unaware there existed a better way to live; a life based on spiritual principles that could bring true inner-peace and happiness. Character building, in terms of spiritual growth, was not something I sought for happiness but rather as a means to obtain something, a tool rather than a virtue.
At age twenty, I fulfilled a childhood dream by becoming a zookeeper. I was happy… for a few years. Then one day I woke up and simply wasn’t happy anymore. I developed the awareness at that point in my life that no matter what, I would never be satisfied. I felt it in my soul.
For the next sixteen years, I continued to search for satisfaction outside of myself. With each new job or relationship, I was fulfilled for a while, but eventually the dissatisfaction with my life would return. Although I was aware of this uneasy and restless feeling, I had no idea what to do about it. I was aware of the problem, but was unaware not only of the source, but that there was a solution.
Not until I was forced out of pain and desperation to ask for help, did I become aware of the real problem. I was trying to fill a spiritual hole with material things. Out of this awareness came the greatest discovery of all: I could not fix myself. Moreover, I did not have to.
The first step to inner-peace and happiness is awareness, the awareness that something needs to change. We’re talking about real change here; not geographical, professional, or material, but a significant change in our perception of the world and our place in it. Change of this magnitude must come from outside of ourselves. For me it was simply searching for someone that had what I wanted—true peace and serenity—and asking them to show me how they got there.
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
What are some things in your life that you have become aware of that need to change?
Up next, Step 2: Acceptance.
Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney