1. Practice mindfulness at least once a day
When my mind is spinning in circles and I can’t seem to grab a thought from it, I gently force myself to focus in on one task, if only for two to five minutes. I will wash the dishes and focus only on washing the dishes. Or, I will cook for myself off a new recipe, which requires my full concentration, so that I’m not tempted to let my mind string out. Sometimes it requires even more effort than just the dishes, so I will put on a song and dance in my underwear and singularly push myself to be in that moment only. (Yes, dancing in your underwear is a sacrificial practice towards peace, at least, it is if you damn well want it to be!)
2. Commit to a meditation practice that works for you
When I first started meditating, I could not shut my brain off for longer than a minute. A minute! I used to set my phone alarm for five minutes and would check the timer every thirty seconds hoping that I’d miraculously been in silent meditation for five minutes. In order to commit to the practice, I tried many different things, such as listening to vibrational tones (yes, I realize that sounds fucking ridiculous, but it worked), counting my inhales and exhales, repeating a mantra over and over, until I could simply sit and empty my brain. If you’re new to meditation, set your alarm for two minutes and just count your breath or repeat a mantra. Don’t judge yourself. There will be a moment in your continued practice when you will feel uncharacteristically at ease during a meditation and you will be hooked for the rest of your damn life and you will come back to me and be like, thank you, thank you, thank you, my crazy brain chills the eff out for five minutes a day and it is a miracle.
3. Learn to listen and observe without judgment
When I find myself judging someone else for their decisions, there’s this frantic, chaotic, forceful energy that builds up inside of me. Have you ever noticed that? That someone’s decision that has nothing to do with you can cause you to have this visceral reaction? That reaction, right there, is the opposite of peace. It is the opposite of loving. We judge to preserve our own identities and, when someone chooses another path, we feel threatened. But, there’s nothing threatening about it; it is simply fear being played out. Challenge yourself to listen open-heartedly and to reserve judgment. (It’s not an easy thing to do, because we are conditioned to judge and compare ourselves to each other, but even becoming aware of the tendency to do so will help you to tamper that initial desire to judge.)
4. Practice unwavering kindness toward yourself
The other day, I noticed that I had a running barrage of shit-talk going on in my brain and all of this shit-talk was directed at myself. Every compliment I received was filtered through to somehow become a pointed insult. Every good thing I thought about myself was diminished by the time it was distilled down. I realized, man, I’m an asshole to myself and, while I had committed to compassion toward others, I had somehow forgotten to extend that compassion toward myself. I can tell you from personal experience that it’s difficult to be kind and loving toward others when you are filled with an unending shitstream of self-loathing. So, realizing this assholeness, I have been steadfastly catching every single thought that goes through my mind and asking myself whether or not it’s kind and compassionate and, unsurprisingly, the amount of unkind thoughts have lessened. It’s exhausting to have to be so acutely aware of every thought, but it is necessary, because the peace I feel only after a few days of doing this is worth the time and energy it takes to stalk my thoughts like a crazy person.
5. Stop yourself from ascribing meaning to your feelings or reactions
We sometimes don’t realize that when we have a feeling or reaction, we give it a label of “bad” or “good.” We had a good day or a bad day. I’m feeling good or bad. The problem we run into when we ascribe this meaning is that we end up avoiding our feelings, causing them to go unexpressed and, just the physical feeling of repression is one of forcefulness. When we can learn to allow feelings without giving them a label, we can more gently and peacefully express them without fear of them swallowing us. When we see that, in any feeling, there is something to gain and understand about ourselves, we can more peacefully feel and react to whatever unforeseen event happens in our lives. (Admittedly, this is easier said than done, however, all it takes is intentionally trying to put this into practice and then it becomes more natural as time goes on.)
6. Let go of the need for certainty
Do you know how many opportunities you don’t take up because of the need for certainty? Do you know how miserable we allow ourselves to be in lieu of keeping up the illusion that we have certainty in our lives? Shit will happen. In the history of life, the only thing true is that shit happens, again and again, most specifically shit that you never would have expected to happen. Peacefulness in light of this uncertainty means that you palliate the desire to know for the desire to let things unfold. Never in the history of anyone’s big, brave life have they been like, “Yeah, that’s exactly how I thought this was going to go.” The need for certainty and the inherent impossibility of having it will cause you far greater suffering than you probably realize. Let it go.
7. Ease the need for setting expectations
I can’t even tell you how much misery I could have saved myself had I let go of all my lofty, ridiculous, uninformed expectations of how shit was supposed to go down. Because I am not 1) psychic and 2) a sorceress, I could not control how anything unfolded in my life, yet I would quickly adopt expectations on how it should go down only to be –surprise!– really, really disappointed, all because I’d set myself up to expect something I had no business expecting in the first place. I truly had to commit myself to reprogramming my brain to not attribute an expectation to any and everything I did.
8. Develop a simple ritual that trains your brain to allow peace
Every morning, I make myself eggs and toast with an iced coffee. This is my time and I treat it like a sacred practice. Even in the midst of a chaotic week, I will not miss a morning of making myself breakfast and coming back to the singular focus of toasting the bread, making the coffee, and frying up the two eggs. It trains my brain to focus in, to cultivate a peacefulness for the day ahead, and I am sacrificial and devotional about it, because I know how important it is to my well-being. Find your ritual, your devotional, and keep that sacred only for you. No one needs to know it or join it; it’s for you and you only to carve out as many moments as possible to find peace in a world hellbent on creating stress and disarray.
9. Focus your energy on attaching to that which you cannot touch
One of the most peaceful states to be in is one of detachment. What this means is that you are in a state of pure self-reliance and autonomy by not attaching any meaning or identity to something outside of yourself. Essentially, you are not your body, you are not the car you drive, you are not the money in your bank account, you are not the personality attributes you’ve given yourself. We attach to these as a way to belong and understand who we are, but when we attach too fully and give something physical the opportunity to affect our peacefulness, that’s when we have to recommit to detachment. It is simply the absence of definition and allows you to recreate, redefine, and break out of self-imposed boundaries and boxes to have a life of limitless potential. (Yes, I really did just say “limitless potential” and I stick by my full ascent into hippie-dom. Join me!)