I used to think I had all the answers to life's biggest questions and in a lot of ways it brought me peace. If I was ever afraid or worried about something, my brain would automatically land on the answer I was sure was "the right one." I had life all mapped out to the tiniest of details and felt comfortable knowing that I just "knew."
Until I found out that many of the sources for my "answers" turned out to be a little less reliable than I thought they were.
Nothing shakes your life to the core more than learning that you can no longer place your full trust in the areas that once brought you the greatest levels of peace.
This left me with a complete lack of trust in all systems, people, and even my own "intuition." (Which, by the way, is a word I'm not really fond of anymore since apparently your intuition can be dead wrong in the exact moment you are absolutely certain you are one hundred percent right. People who say you should always trust your "intuition" are not examining the reality that it can be completely and utterly unreliable as it relates to the tangible realities of life.)
As a highly-sensitive empathic person, it quickly became apparent to me that I was going to have to discover new ways of cultivating inner peace in order to survive living in this messy world. And to be totally honest, in order for this to work for me, these new ways had to be habits, systems, and mindsets that were tangible, reliable, and replicable. They couldn't be things that were based on feelings, hopeful beliefs, ideologies, or other people's opinions.
They had to make sense to me in a palpable, objective way.
Here are a few of my personal favorite ways of cultivating inner peace right now:
Journaling - Writing about my thoughts, feelings, ideas, frustrations, and experiences almost always helps me find inner peace because all of the brain clutter gets dumped out onto the page. I no longer feel like I have to carry it around, which helps me sort out what matters most.
Simplifying - There's nothing that steals my inner peace more than having so much "stuff" in my life that I simply cannot manage it all. This relates to all the areas of my life, both in my inner and outer worlds. Greg McKeown's book, Essentialism has been one of my favorites on this topic. I do realize there are stages in life that just get messier (like moving or making a drastic life change) but I always try to come back to simplicity as soon as possible.
Accepting - When I consistently remind myself that I don't have to control life or have all the answers to life's biggest questions in order to live a purposeful, loving, meaningful life, it helps me let go of the need to know everything. I literally have a note on my desk that says "you don't have to have it all figured out" and whenever my brain tries to tell me that I DO need to have it all figured out, I pull that note out and read it over and over again until I believe it.
Letting go of other people's opinions - This has required consistent brain rewiring work in the form of actual written reminders that I have to read on a consistent basis, but as I continue to do this work, I feel more and more at peace.
Meditation - I don't really love to do formal meditation, but I do enjoy the process of quieting my brain activity through walking, listening to soothing music, or taking a warm bath. This almost always helps me feel a sense of peace and calm.
Mindfulness - I always feel more at peace when I take the time to slow down and carefully carry out my work activities, creativity, and interactions with others in a way that is thoughtful, intentional, and present. I am by no means a pro at this, but I do know that I feel more peaceful when I put in the effort.
Trusting my ability to problem-solve - I prefer the concept of trusting my ability to problem-solve over trusting "intuition" because intuition, to me, is based more on feelings (which are often inaccurate). I still consider my feelings as I make life decisions (they still get a seat at the table), I just don't consider them to be accurate indicators of absolute truth. I also like the idea of trusting my ability to carefully "explore" life without needing to get things "right" all the time. I believe that wisdom is developed as we explore life using careful, mindful, and reliable resources - I just don't believe we have to be perfect at it. Just like a toddler that is learning to walk, I too, can make choices and sometimes fall down. (By the way, "exploring" doesn't mean that I like to go make a bunch of stupid mistakes just to experience all the things. It just means that I am ok if something doesn't turn out like I thought it would.)
Processing all of my emotions and experiences - I used to think I had to hide or ignore my feelings or thoughts that were uncomfortable, but now I try to honor them, sort through them, and allow them to pass through me. This helps me feel a greater sense of peace knowing that the more "difficult" emotions are not my enemy.
Carefully managing my time and to-do list - This seems like an obvious way to have more peace, but for some reason, I'm a person that would rather spend my days making art or writing a new song than getting the windshield fixed on my car (my current problem.) I always feel WAY more peaceful when I take the time each day to sort out and organize what needs to get done, and then actually DO THEM. Life is full of mundane tasks that need to get done and the more I accept that reality, the more peaceful I feel.
Living in harmony with my values - As I was going through the most challenging time of my faith deconstruction/life reconstruction process, my therapist told me to write a list of my current values. I was happy to know that just because I no longer agreed with many of the theological details I was taught for four decades, I still had strong values I wanted to live by. Living in harmony with these values continues to be a great source of peace for me.
Building up a support system - I no longer trust that any one person or group is going to have all the answers for me, but I do appreciate having people in my life that will walk with me and support me as I navigate the complexities of life. Whenever I start to feel like I need support in a particular area, I reach out to the person or people I think will be the most helpful. I try to diversify my support people so nobody feels like they are doing it all (which isn't really fair to anyone.)
So that's my current list. I know we all have to discover what works best for us personally and I imagine this list will grow and change over time, but these are the things that bring me peace at this stage in my life.
Lots of love and peace,