BY BRIANNA WIEST
Inner peace is not the insistence that you can’t tolerate “negative” people, places or situations, it is having the ability to cope with them.
Think about the language that surrounds cultivating happiness:
“We need to release every cell of negativity.”
This implies that love, the “highest vibration,” is happiness. But love in practical, human terms, is sacrificial. Messy. It’s not just joy — it’s raw, beautiful, grounded, honest, hard work. (This confusion is also why we’re bad at relationships.)
Think about the language you hear coming from people who claim they are trying to attain some higher way of thinking, feeling and living:
I don’t even want to consider the fact that [this bad thing I’m afraid of could happen], I’m not going to give it any more of my energy or attention.
But anxiety breeds in idleness. And shoving something in the dark is the fastest way for it to fester. And there is no better way to give something all of your energy and attention than by fearing it.
So what is the solution, to dissolving so-called “negativity?”
Being okay with it.
Not bypassing reality because you can’t deal with it, but building the inner peace that would allow you to remain steady and focused as you confront it. It is no longer seeing the “bad” things in your life as condemnations, or unfair suffering, but instances in which you have the opportunity to grow and develop even more understanding and calm.
You don’t maintain inner peace by avoiding the harsh realities of life, you maintain inner peace by developing the confidence that you are capable, powerful and your own locus of control. Not just so you can only usher in as much happiness as you can manage, but also so that you can function when other things happen, too.
So, instead of:
“I won’t think about not losing my job because it’s scary and negative.”
“I will think about what I would do if I lost my job and begin to prepare in whatever way I am able to, because things like that do happen.”
The first one doesn’t just enslave you to worry, it also leaves you helpless when realities you haven’t wanted to consider eventually occur. You haven’t prepared, and your fears are coming true – you’re in a far worse situation than you would have been.
Worry isn’t what happens when you’re backtracking on your path to happiness, it is the path to happiness. It is trying to help you be wiser, better-prepared, more aware, more grateful, and more alive
The only problem is getting stuck in it, which is what happens when you refuse to acknowledge it.
More importantly: there is a feeling greater than whatever you think “happiness” is, and it is freedom. It is clear peacefulness. There is an incredible awe that is born of considering how dark life can be, and how temporary it all is. It is more profound than excitement and it is more pure than joy.
And you do not find it by trying to escape it.
Soul Anatomy is an online magazine that merges Western psychology, Eastern philosophy and personal narrative. SoulAnatomy.org