Have you ever considered that peacefulness might be something you can practice, and become skilled at?
Many of us, particularly in western cultures, have the erroneous belief that when a particular situation arises, or when we create particular circumstances, we will then be peaceful. For example, here are some of the conditions we believe need to be met before we can feel peaceful:
- when I’m thin and I’m finally ok
- when I’ve stopped bingeing for good
- when I’ve made x amount of money and I can stop worrying about it
- when I’ve got such-and-such a job/ promotion
- when I’m in a relationship
- when I have a child, then I’ll be complete… or
- when my children leave home
- when I’m no longer ill
- when I’ve travelled the world, I’ll know I’ve really lived
- when I’ve finally decluttered/ renovated/ extended my house
- etc. Get the picture?
Peacefulness has nothing to do with the circumstances
Ok, granted, it is much more difficult to feel peaceful in a war zone, when being physically threatened, if you’re homeless, starving, without access to clean water or sanitation, or if you’re gravely ill. If you’re reading this, you’re unlikely to be in any of those situations – much more likely that you recognise yourself in one of the bullet points above.
Have you ever experienced a sense of peace when you were not thin? Or, look at it this way – if or when you have been thin, have you been peaceful all the time? Many people I speak to recognise that some of their most miserable times have been when they’ve been thin.
If circumstances delivered peace, then when you got thin, created the relationship, had the child, bought the house, etc. you’d have arrived at Destination Peace!
And we all know that isn’t true.
The mindfulness approach (and in fact, it’s common sense!) is that all feelings come and go. So do thoughts and sensations. No state is permanent.
How to create more peace in your life right now, without waiting for your body to change
- Accept that all feelings come and go. Accepting this fact takes the pressure off pushing and striving to be a different way. In your experience, when you’re pushing and striving, do you feel peaceful?
- When you’ve accepted the transitory nature of feelings, perhaps you can relax into what is present. When you relax into it, your stress (peace robber) immediately reduces.
- Notice and challenge the thoughts you’re having. Ask yourself if you know the thought is absolutely true (by the way, just because you believe a thought, does not make it true!). Here are some guidelines:
- If you’re telling yourself you have to do anything or be a certain way, should have done something or been a certain way, that will rob you of your peacefulness. In truth, there is absolutely nothing that you have to do, other than die one day. We all have to do that. And is there any way you should be? Sure, being one or another way can be helpful, but should you? Says who? Our list of shoulds and have-tos are often internalised messages we received as children. See here for more on that.
- Any thoughts about the future… really any thoughts about the future, you cannot honestly say are true, because they haven’t happened yet! You do not know that ‘it’ll be one of those days.’ You do not know that ‘this is going to be hard.’ You do not know that you’ll ‘never get a handle on this eating issue,’ you do not know that ‘this is going to take a long time.’ You do not know! Anxiety (another peace robber) is always rooted in the future.
- Get into nature. Getting outside, in any weather, even if only for 10 minutes a day, you’re likely to reduce your stress, and allow some peace. If you’re in a city, is there a park you can visit? Your garden or a neighbour’s garden is another idea. Open your eyes to what’s around you, look in detail at leaves, blades of grass, ants, butterflies – anything in its natural state. It’s grounding and connecting – and these experiences make you ripe to experience peacefulness.
- Let go. I know it sounds simple – to let go – and it is. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to do! But it is a choice you can make, moment to moment. You can let go of your judgements, expectations and demands (of yourself and others), and the feelings that feed disconnection (especially anger, fear, resentment, guilt and shame). That doesn’t mean you may not object to things happening in the world, or to people’s behaviour, it doesn’t mean you don’t have preferences for things to be a different way – but letting go of insisting how things or people should be, frees you!
- Practise meditation! I know I say this a lot. I do so because I’d been practising noticing and challenging my thoughts for 17 years before I started to meditate daily. In those 17 years, my experience of life was so much richer! But, when I committed to my meditation practice, my sense of peace and my trust in life reached a different qualitative level altogether. And as a bonus, my relationship with food did too.
The truth of the matter is that long term intentional weight loss is unsustainable for almost everyone who tries it. In fact, intentional weight loss is positively correlated with weight gain, over time. The dieting cycle (which includes bingeing) is immensely stressful – it’s the opposite of peace, right? It comes with more obsession, not less!
If you’re not convinced, it might be helpful to explore what’s underneath your belief that thinness will bring you greater peace.
Need help from an expert?
If you’ve had enough of being on and off a diet, feeling ashamed of your body and how you eat, binge eating or emotional overeating — you’ve come to the right place.
I’ll help you discover how to let go of all the food rules, trust your own body and reclaim your innate worthiness — so you can live your life unapologetically and focus on what really matters to you.