The (Real) Meaning of Inner Peace

I’ve spoken to several people recently about inner peace and what it means to them. I’ve been surprised by how often an odd definition of it has come up.

One friend, for example, told me that he didn’t want inner peace. After all, why would he want to just feel relatively happy and calm all the time?

A client also mentioned that he wasn’t quite sure if inner peace is all it’s cracked up to be — after all, if we feel angry or upset, it’s not right to repress it. We have to feel those emotions too.

These interpretations struck me as funny because inner peace means something completely different to me.

It’s not at all about avoiding or repressing certain emotions. It’s not about learning how to only be happy and calm no matter what’s going on (like this robot guy from Parks and Rec).

In other words, it’s not about becoming less human. It’s about becoming more human.

It’s about freedom

Psychological freedom. Freedom to feel anything.

Most of us have rules that we’ve made up for ourselves that say we’re not allowed to feel certain things. We restrict our freedom to protect ourselves. For example, my experiences with depression made me afraid of sadness because I thought it would devolve into depression.

Usually the rules we make up are the result of hurt or pain we’ve received. The rules are walls designed to stop that pain from happening again.

The thing is, those walls end up enclosing us, shrinking our world, and cutting us off from living life to the fullest. Alan Watts said, “you can’t numb yourself to pain without also numbing yourself to pleasure.” Our rules often end up causing us more pain than the emotion we’re trying to avoid.

Our suffering is often the result of the feelings we have about our feelings. In other words, we decide certain feelings are a problem, and so we feel wrong when we have them. On the other hand, if we’re free to feel what we feel without that added layer, things get simpler and feelings pass through us more quickly.

Dismantling the walls and breaking our rules is pretty easy when we know a few basic traits of the mind:

  1. inside every person’s mind is a core of resilience, wellbeing, wisdom, and peace
  2. this core is beyond who we think we are based on our personality, wounds, past, and imagined future
  3. this version of our Selves is always accessible
  4. we don’t have earn, work for, develop, or practice anything in order to experience this wellbeing

(Me telling you these things might not be enough for you to know them for yourself. Obviously, the real exploration has to done by you. I encourage you to find out for yourself if these things feel true. Challenge the objections you have to them.)

Everyday wisdom

Now that I’ve listed these features of our innate wisdom and made them appear oh-so-special, I’d also like to remind you that they’re as common as a sunrise. You’ve probably been in your wellbeing at least once in very recent memory. If you’ve been in flow doing your favorite hobby, absorbed in a great conversation, or find yourself with a nice or grateful feeling for no reason, that’s it. It’s basically a consequence of being present.

The Three Principles teacher Mavis Karn recently told my coaching academy a story about a group of people with mental health challenges with whom she was working. She was speaking with them about this same innate wellbeing that I’m describing, and at first it didn’t make sense to them. These people all had official diagnoses like schizophrenia and bipolar. They had been told for years that they were fundamentally flawed and would probably never fully recover.

Then one of them had an epiphany. “Wait — when I’m playing basketball, I don’t get the impulses I normally do. How can I have a disease that doesn’t exist when I’m playing basketball?”

This was the moment when the light bulb flicked on and he recognized his innate wellbeing.

Here’s another story from my own life. Last week, I was having a crappy day. I wasn’t motivated, I tried to write an article that came out scattered and incoherent, and I felt unpleasant (yes, even life coaches have tough days). I was lying on my bed reminding myself how awful I felt when a new friend gave me a call out of the blue and invited me for a beer. It was such a surprise when he called that I got shocked out of my mood when I answered the phone, and felt completely like myself again. My wellbeing was right there waiting for me, as soon as I stopped believing all of the thoughts I had about being moody.

Why am I spending so much time talking about wellbeing in an article about inner peace?

It’s because seeing the fact of universal wellbeing is a shortcut to the psychological freedom that gives us peace.

Feel anything

In my friends’ weird definitions of inner peace that I listed in the beginning, they thought inner peace meant only feeling good things.

Inner peace means being free to feel anything. It means not being afraid of our experience — which fundamentally transforms it.

We can stop fearing our experience by catching a glimpse of our innate wellbeing. It is our “factory default” to which we we can always return, almost like a safety net. Or better yet — it’s like home. Wherever our emotional adventures take us, we can always return home and remember who we really are. Our deepest core is always whole and undamaged.

(This is the basic feeling of OKness that I refer to in these articles about happiness.)

You're the bird, and your innate wellbeing is your wings.

You’re the bird, and your innate wellbeing is your wings.

Dive deeper

Did this article resonate with you? Do you have a different definition of inner peace? Or would you like to explore how to bring more inner peace into your life? Comment below, send me an email, or fill out my coaching application form to have a free session with me.

Thanks for reading!

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