To write about inner peace in this day and age may seem to be a paradox yet at the same time there is an explosion of activity throughout the world bent on its achievement. Thanks to technology, we are always accessible to the rest of the world, and the rest of the world presses upon us through multiple media in a way never before known to humans. Thus our inner selves are potentially intruded on by multiple implorations to find fault with our past, exhortations that our present is wanting and ominous predictions that thanks to our behavior we are systematically moving towards catastrophe.
It may seem strange that I have undertaken in a limited piece to deal with a subject such as personal peace. Minds greater than mine, since time immemorial, from the Baghavad Gita, a part of India’s Vedic Scriptures , Lao-tse, Buddha, Maimonides, Hebrew Christian thinkers, and including today’s radio and television pundits, psychologists and spiritualists, have devoted millions of words to this topic. However having done this with equally daunting subjects in the past I proceed. After all I have 82 years of personal and interpersonal experience, was married 53 years to the same woman and am now in the fifth year of a wonderful, growing, glowing second marriage. In my practice of psychiatric medicine I have had the privilege of being present to watch individuals, couples, families and organizations struggle for the psychic wisdom to achieve peace, — internal, interpersonal, familial and community.
It is clear that we are affected by interpersonal and social happenings, that economic conditions are anxiety provoking, that many work endlessly for their daily bread, while others are denied the opportunity. Without doubt a more just and utopian human ecology could ease personal conflicts. Regardless of what “ism”, whether ours, recently described as “super capitalism”, or others’ such as socialism, communism or whatever, we must learn to manage our thoughts and actions in a way that allows and encourages a peaceful self. Future Nobelists are, even as I write this piece, are sorting out, clarifying and positioning for our social, scientific and economic future.
Too many of us are distracted by guilt within ourselves and our relationships, unknown fears of the unknown, hesitation about loving and the expression of love, anger and confusion at the loss of loved ones. Let us not reinforce those guilts, stoke that fear, distance ourselves and attempt to understand that which is not understandable while trying to ameliorate and even suppress our most important feelings.
I prefer to live in the present as I always have. There seem to be natural laws of nature in the universe. We have consciences and minds and it is our responsibility to be the best stewards of that with which we have been blessed. I can only manage me and many times I do not even do that as I am not omniscient and omnipotent. I will reap what I sow.
In an earlier interconnected series of five articles which I will post here I identified and explored four important adult tasks of living – individuation, acquisition of the sense of self-reliance, sexualization and career development. In addition, as I have written previously each of us is a system, feeling, thinking and behaving all interdependent and interactive. Feelings are attached to thoughts and actions. The most immediate handle we have on what we feel is what we think and what we do. In our environment we find pacifying and even uplifting music and hypnotic paintings and these are comforting although not ever present nor readily available in times of distress. However even in the world of art there are challenges to one’s peacefulness as our senses are bombarded with cacophany and cacography. My Greek ancestors provide remarkable insights such as -Aristotle’s “the unexamined life is not worth living” and Empedocles “we would have inward peace but will not look within”. Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism have from ancient days promoted inner meditation. In our modern era, churches such as Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox encourage personal contemplation as the platform for a significant confession. Scientific men such as Sigmund Freud, Victor Frankl, Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck have promoted self examination, self insight and self management.
This examination of personal peace is not meant to be a lightning rod nor a platform for a debate about the existence of God, Allah or other. For each of us this is a personal and necessary and most important pursuit. I have no need or desire, here, to protest, or to plead the case one way or the other. Greater scientists than I, including Einstein to mention only one, have given public voice to their conclusion. Major philanthropists such as Mother Teresa have made plain their personal struggle. For many, already content with their experience of inner peace within a traditional institutional religion, my words may seem trivial and unnecessary. For others, comforted by their current understanding, supplemented by their expectation that, some day we will understand everything – my compliments.
To reclaim inner peace requires personal management which includes amongst others,
balanced self management, including self awareness of personal flow, personal knowledge and self awareness , appropriate nutrition including medications and supplements, regular vigorous activity, relaxation, centering, meditation, prayer,
developing a strong adult, appreciating feelings- recognize and be tender with the child within, recognize and set aside the parent within, valuing thoughts and clarifying one’s belief system, clarifying goals and acting on them,
active decision-making, for self, with family members and others,
living in the present, the past is important only for information otherwise lstay present and look forward. The best plan for tomorrow is in what we do today,
creating and using support systems, listening to self and others, stating wants, goal agreement and action on goals,
participating in modifying social/organizational structures within which we find ourselves, learning, using group norms, policies, procedures, economic and personal benefits, the physical environment, peers and providing ideas of how to clarify/modify the norms and policies.