How to feel more inner peace

Yellow Lotus

Today I am re-posting this wonderful reminder on how to practice inner peace from Dr. Ben Kim’s newsletter

How To Feel More Inner Peace

Posted By Dr. Ben Kim

Updated on February 27, 2013

For most of the year 2000, I worked and lived at a fasting clinic in northern California where I spent time with many groups of eclectic guests from all over the world.

I often tell my wife that during that year, I felt like I was floating around in a bubble, almost immune to any downers that life brought my way. Sure, there were times when I felt a bit crummy, but most of the time, I felt like I was at peace, able to feel compassion for anyone.

The source of my deep well of peace was a commitment that I made with myself to live with the following philosophy in mind:

All behavior is motivated by love or by a need for love.

Whenever someone gave me reason to feel angry, sad, anxious, or fearful, I was able to slow my thoughts and emotions down, remind myself that my antagonist was likely deprived of love, and choose to respond with kindness and understanding.

Okay, maybe I wasn’t able to do this every time I felt I was wronged, but I was definitely on a plane of thinking and being that Jesus Himself would likely have appreciated. I was in the zone that Gandhi must have been in while he was allowing himself to get physically smacked around.

Here’s the thing: Over the past decade, whenever I have been able to purposefully respond with a generous heart in situations where most sane people would have given me full license to respond with righteous anger, I have always been able to walk away with peace in my heart. Always.

I think that this is the magic of taking the high road. Sometimes, it’s human to want to call out mean-spirited and rude behavior. You feel like you need to preserve some self respect. But interestingly, I have yet to feel like I lost anything by diverting or even absorbing bad energy and being compassionate.

Put another way, I have found that peace of mind is a natural consequence of choosing to be kind in every circumstance (And sometimes, being kind entails walking away in silence).

Without exception, in situations where I haven’t been able to pause and control the urge to let someone know that he or she just generated some bad karma, I’ve walked away feeling worse for having “stood up for myself.” In such situations, I guess I, too, was motivated by a need for love.

Also interesting is that I’ve found that the more good energy I put out there, the deeper my well of good energy seems to become. Consciously choosing to walk with a forgiving and compassionate spirit really seems to fortify the intention to lift others up.

This reminds me of the “what do you get when you squeeze an orange” idea. You get orange juice, of course, because that’s what’s inside an orange.

If we have love and compassion within, love and compassion is what will come out of us when we’re squeezed.

Clearly, choosing to give out love doesn’t happen naturally all the time. It takes work. It takes daily effort to stay in this zone. I find that I have to fill myself up with uplifting thoughts on a regular basis. I think this is why I tend to have my best days when I begin by reading from anything that inspires me to inspire others.

And when I don’t do this work, when I don’t take time to consciously choose to give out love rather than demonstrate a need for it, I find that it becomes super easy to slide back into being a reactive person who is easily offended by anything that threatens my ego.

So I guess the main thought that I want to share is this: if you’re ever feeling crummy and you’re looking for a way to feel at peace, try going back to the well, the well that fuels you to be gentle, understanding, generous, and humble.

Even when you are clearly wronged by someone, I can almost guarantee that if you put your hurt feelings away for just a moment and respond with a gentle, understanding, generous, and humble spirit, you will be better for it. And you can spend the rest of your day knowing that you did your part to create healthy energy for someone else.

I’ve long believed that consistently feeling peace within is the most important requirement for optimal health. Never mind the toll that emotional stress takes on our physical health; without inner peace, how can any of us consistently make healthy choices?

Here’s a short list of books that, over the years, have become steadfast sources of inspiration for me to get back or stay on track in living with a giving spirit:

The Art of Loving, by Erich Fromm

The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Dr. Stephen Covey

A Course In Miracles

You Can Heal Your Life, by Louise Hay

And we can never go wrong in meditating on the following passage on love from the first book of Corinthians, chapter thirteen:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

One funny thing about love that I’ve observed over the years is this: the more we give it to others, the more it comes back to us from all over. And the more we demonstrate a need for love by getting easily offended, the less it seems to flow our way.

To the magic of finding inner peace by giving love.

– See more at: http://drbenkim.com/how-to-find-peace.htm#sthash.IDSxKUML.dpuf

Forgiveness Level 3

Image

Level three.

There is no one to offend.

You may have had the experience of someone coming up to you and asking for forgiveness. Maybe your reply was: “Don’t worry about it there is nothing to forgive.” When I have said this what I really meant was, the offence was so small that I hardly even noticed it. But I did notice it at the time, but considered it a “slight infraction.” Certainly not enough to get all riled up about. Heck I was going to save my real anger for something major. What ever that may be and it was totally up to me to determine what it was.

When I say there is no one to offend I mean there is absolutely no one there that can be offended anymore, whether large or small. There is no such thing as a small offense they are all the same and rob us of our peace of mind and set us up for a chance at retaliation. Attack and counter attack—the worlds way of doing things.

You, are not there. You have died to your ego self/sin nature. In level two the Buddha instructed us to “observe the impermanence of all dharmas.” Here dharmas refers to all mental constructs one of which is: “I am a body.” This identification includes all our perceptions arriving from our association with the body fed to us by the bodies senses. Our sense orientation enables us to survive in this world and our gratefulness for the process naturally attaches us to the physical realm. The down side of this is the fear of not surviving in the physical. This is the foundation upon which our ego/sin-nature builds it’s protective shell. Any threat to our well being is seen as an attack against and a threat to our survival, mentally, physically and spiritually, which of course we try to defend either by running away from the danger or attacking our perceived enemy.

When I say; “I am something.” we immediately identify with it. We do this hundreds maybe even thousands of times a day. “I am, hungry, cold, a boss an employee, a wife a husband, etc., on and on. And we are always on the lookout for threats of any kind—“I am being attacked.” Or “I am safe.” Or “I am defending myself.” But who is the one saying “I am” this or that? Is this “I am” separate from that which it identifies with. Saying I have a body is the same as I have a car. This body is mine and this car is mine and these kids are mine, but “Our life does not consist of the things we posses.”, according to Jesus.

Everything we identify ourselves with will disappear. That which we identify with: are our dharmas, our teaches our creations, mental constructs and imaginations. Every offense we suffer is directed at these impermanent identifications. We are very attached to them. We love them and they are very dear to us. We are their guardians and the loss of anyone of them we consider an affront to our very life because we are convinced they are us. Each loss no matter how difficult is a blow to the ego self that has convinced us we are this small self, an aggregate of all those things we identify with not the least of which is our thoughts about it all.

We are not our thoughts either. Having a thought is the same as having a car, a house, a body, our thoughts are not us. This includes our beliefs, Our beliefs are an aggregate of many thoughts under one heading just like this blog I am writing, God is not a Bully and all the subsequent posts underneath this heading and all the sentences, phrases and words—this particular belief system—is not me. But to write this I have had to throw out many other belief systems that I identified with at one time or another. I have been told that if I am persistent thoughts will stop too.

Luke 9.23 Then Jesus said to all the people:

If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross each day and follow me. 24 If you want to save your life,[f] you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for me, you will save it.25 What will you gain, if you own the whole world but destroy yourself or waste your life?  [CEV]

The denial of the self is precisely the death of the ego self/sin nature which believes we need all this stuff but Jesus points out

this hoarding of stuff will only accomplish the opposite of what we want and destroy us.

Can one who has died be offended? Does a dead person need to defend itself?

.

Paul was able to say in Hebrews:

13.6“The Lord helps me! Why should I be afraid of what people can do to me?”

He said this eleven years after he wrote the following to the Corinthians:

2 Cor. 11.24 “Five times the Jews gave me thirty-nine lashes with a whip. 25 Three times the Romans beat me with a big stick, and once my enemies stoned me. I have been shipwrecked three times, and I even had to spend a night and a day in the sea.26 During my many travels, I have been in danger from rivers, robbers, my own people, and foreigners. My life has been in danger in cities, in deserts, at sea, and with people who only pretended to be the Lord’s followers.

27I have worked and struggled and spent many sleepless nights. I have gone hungry and thirsty and often had nothing to eat. I have been cold from not having enough clothes to keep me warm.28 Besides everything else, each day I am burdened down, worrying about all the churches.29 When others are weak, I am weak too. When others are tricked into sin, I get angry.

The apostle Paul tells us in Galatians that he is crucified with Christ, that he is dead and all his life is lived by the Christ who lives in him. This was written 3 years before the description he gave of his life as an Apostle.

Who is left to offend once you are dead?

Very few people make it to this level of consciousness during one lifetime. According to Dr David R. Hawkins, this is the stratosphere of the saints, enlightened ones, avatars, Jesus, Buddha’s, Gandhi’s This is the place of complete unreserved surrender to God.

It is said of Gandhi that when he was murdered he held out his had to his assailant in the Hindu gesture of forgiveness.

Peter says of Jesus; “Although he was abused, he never tried to get even. And when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he had faith in God, who judges fairly.”

But what is important is that we are on the way. We will spend most of our time learning to walk the second mile, learning to love our enemies and turn the other cheek even those things are more than enough one life.

Our education will continue.

Echoing Paul who says in Ephesians 6.12, We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world.

I’d like to wrap up this writing on forgiveness with a beautiful quote by Tich Nhat Hanh from his book “The Diamond that cuts through Illusion.”

During the height of the Vietnam war In 1967—after hearing of some of his students being killed—he wrote this to them who were considered enemies by both sides because of their pacifists commitment.

“I wrote a poem for the brothers and sisters at the School and asked them to read it carefully. In that poem I told them never to look at anyone with hatred, even if they hate you, suppress you, kill you, or step on your life as if you were a wild plant or an insect. If you die because of violence, you must meditate on compassion in order to forgive those who killed you, the title of the poem is “Recommendation.”

Promise me,

promise me this day,

promise me now,

while the sun is overhead,

exactly at the zenith,

promise me:

Even as they

strike you down

with a mountain of hatred and violence;

even as they step on you and crush you

like a worm

even as they dismember and disembowel you,

remember, brother,

man is not your enemy.

The only thing worth of you is compassion—

invincible, limitless, unconditional.

Hatred will never let you

face the beast in man.”

Forgiveness Level 2 part 2

Green succulent with water drops 2-7255Level 2 part 2

“The Unpardonable Sin.,” or “…speaking against the Holy Spirit…” is unforgiveness. For many years I was puzzled about what “speaking against the Holy Spirit” meant. And many times I was very afraid I had committed it and was now unredeemable. What a terrible guilt trip is laid up the church because we didn’t see what was so simple. The answer was staring me in the face the entire time in the Lords prayer. Matthew 6.12 “Forgive us for doing wrong, as we forgive others.” Our forgiveness is inextricably tied to our forgiveness of others. It is the Holy Spirits job to bring us to this place so we can learn how to forgive. Learning to forgive makes us more like God who’s mercy endures forever, see Psalm 136.

All of the difficult situations we get ourselves into to are the karmic lessons on how to forgive, to love our neighbor as our self. Notice here too that loving our neighbor is also tied to loving ourselves. It is our “enemy” who has come into our lives to teach us this one lesson—we are not separate, as I treat you I will be treated, when I forgive you I will be forgiven. Not learning this is refusing to let the Holy Spirit rejuvenate us. What is left for us if we refuse to let the Holy Spirit do his work in us? What will happen is we will get ourselves into similar situations over and over again until we learn the continuous process of forgiveness. Until we learn the final lesson of radical forgiveness. This is where we forgive the entire world. Every single thing that upsets our peace will need to be forgiven. For more on this see A Course in Miracles and Disappearance of the Universe.

“Father forgive them for they no not what they do.” Jesus

Forgiveness is healing as Jesus demonstrated many times. If we want to heal the world we see we must forgive it and we too shall stand up and walk as humans once again.

So by the end of the mile your are so into helping this soldier carry his load that you actually volunteer for the second mile. Here is true freedom that you can now turn what your oppressor thought was punishment into a gift to him. This is the beginning of the application of love, compassion and understanding.

Yep, letting it go, surrender to the situation, surrender to God and let it go. Your probably saying “Easier for you to say.” Well yes it is easy to say but may take a life time to learn. I believe this is the only lesson we are here to learn. Forgiveness of the world—radical forgiveness—is leaving the kingdom of the world for the Kingdom of God. More on this in part three.

A HUGE caveat here. If you are in an abusive situation do all you can to get out as soon as possible. 70×77 does NOT mean you have to keep taking it. If you are not free to leave then you can still practice right where you are until the opportunity presents itself to get out. But do get out.

For most of us the practice of the 70×77 comes after getting out then, when you are in a safe place, every time the situation comes up in your mind let it go, and keep doing it. I have gone thru this more than once and even now when I remember the situation I let it go again, even years later.

In the Sutra on the full awareness of breathing, found in Tich Nhat Hanh’s book Awakening of the Heart: Essential Buddhist Sutras and Commentaries the last four of the sixteen methods of fully aware breathing we find:

13. “Breathing in, I observe the impermanent nature of all dharmas. Breathing out, I observe the impermanent nature of all dharmas.”

14. “Breathing in, I observe the disappearance of desire. Breathing out, I observe the disappearance of desire.”

15. “Breathing in, I observe cessation. Breathing out, I observe cessation.”

16. “Breathing in, I observe letting go. Breathing out, I observe letting go.”

Hanh, Thich Nhat (2012-01-10). (p. 24). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

Forgiveness Level 2 part 1

ImageThe next lesson was to keep my mouth shut. Well good luck with that one. However I did stop going up to people and confronting them. I had to learn to forgive them internally but it was really hard considering I still held animosity and believed they were at fault. “OK man I forgive you this time but you better not do that again.” Is it any surprise that is also how I felt God forgave? And what is this 70 x 77 business anyway? Is God keeping score, should I be keeping score and do I need to keep hanging out with people who I no longer like and does God really or still like me? And now that I am learning that much of my pain is my fault how do I forgive myself. And I still don’t know what it means to forgive, I say the words but nothing happens. I say the words, get on my knees and pray so I feel better for a while then again I’m confronted all over again. I see the person or find myself in a similar situation and patterns repeat and repeat and repeat on infinitely and forever it seems like until I’m ready to throw it all in the trash

Then I discovered the key is practice, that is what the 70×77 is all about. It’s not an instantaneous thing and yet it is. It is life as practicum, curriculum ad infinitum. Here is a radical illustration of this principle. Jesus gives the example of a Roman soldier asking someone to carry his amour for a mile. Jesus then tells us after the obligation is complete we are to volunteer to carry it a second mile. OK no Romans today but in those days it was the Roman law that soldiers had the right to “ask” bystanders to haul their weapons for a mile and ya kinda had to do it. This just added to the anger and resentment already present because of this Roman occupying force who could be extremely cruel at times.

There is an interesting coincidence that a mile is very close to 70×77=5390 and a mile is 5280 feet. Of course they didn’t measure the way we do in the States—nobody in the world measures like we do—they used cubits roughly 18 inches.

Anyway!

That is a lot of forgiving. A real walking meditation considering each stride is approximately 3 feet that is 1,796 steps and with each one we get an opportunity to let it go—no not the physical load but the spiritual load of anger, resentment and hatred. Those negative reactions actually make ones body weaker and the physical load will be heavier with each step. Forgiveness will lighten your load physically, mentally and spiritually.

This is the beauty of forgiveness. It is not given directly to the other person it starts with us and is for us. It is our lesson, and when that is accomplished the energy will be felt by all around you including but not limited to your “enemy.” Could this be the meaning of “Love your enemy” and “Turn the other cheek”?

Forgiveness is not suppression of those feelings. It is not denial of feelings. It is acknowledging them, accepting them, wrapping your arms lovingly around them then letting them go as the good teachers they are. Just as garbage rightly used will eventually turn into a rose. They have taught you how to love yourself and your enemy as well. Once let go they don’t need to be acted out as they would eventually be if you stuffed them. In stuffing them they get projected onto others and you then can justify hating your enemy—“after all it is the soldiers fault I have to carry this heavy load.”

Surrender. Love them and give them to God, he is more than able to care for you and your “enemy”.