How to Achieve Inner Peace or Nirvana?
Quiet the mind and soul will speak — Ma Jaya Sati Bhagvati
In this seemingly chaotic and utterly messy world searching for peace, stability, beauty, aplomb, harmony, and even meaning is like searching needle in a haystack. Wars, and incidences of violence, terrorism, and crimes are so much rampant in the whole wide world that we have become used to it and peaceful times are just short intervals in between. Gun culture in the United States, world’s lone super power, contributes significantly to the “Gun Violence.” Due to constitutional protection under the second amendment (for the benefit of armament industry rather than, or in the name of providing protection to, common man), any person (including, of course, lunatics that are also not in short supply due to rising problems of mental health in the land of Hollywood, casinos and nightclubs) can walk into a gun shop and buy a gun like a kid can buy a bubble gum or ice cream from anywhere. Thus “Gun Ownership” is highest in the world and 48% of American see the gun violence as very big problem. According to some reports, In 2020, the most recent year for which complete data is available, 45,222 people died from gun-related injuries in the U.S.
Moreover, in addition to two world wars in 20th century that resulted in the death of millions of humans, currently there are around 40 ongoing wars or minor conflicts in nearly three dozen countries, most of them in the Middle East, North West Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, and a major ongoing drug-war in Mexico. These wars and conflicts are also causing large scale death and destruction, in addition to displacement of millions of poor. What is worth mentioning is that the Mexican Drug War had resulted in the highest death toll in 2020 — with over 50 000 deaths.
Then many societies ostensibly “at peace” are also far from peaceful. Some of them are experiencing endemic violence that exceed death rates in warfare. As some reports indicate, almost nine out of ten violent deaths across the world today occur inside countries and cities that are not at war in the traditional sense. Criminal violence (including gang rape, robberies, , kidnapping for ransom etc.) perpetrated by drug cartels, gangs, and mafia groups is skyrocketing, especially in Latin American and the Caribbean, causing global homicides to creep up again. Meanwhile, state security forces (for instance in Indian occupied Kashmir and in Palestine) are continuing to deploy mass violence and excessive force against the people who dare to differ.
Then there are problems of traffic congestion, increasing vehicle emissions and number of accidents, increasing air and water pollution, rising temperatures and with that rising intolerance and cut throat competition to achiever so-called success at any cost or the neo-liberal race to catastrophe.
In this context, the question that arises in the mind is: How to achieve peace and harmony amid so much chaos and turbulence that has engulfed whole of the globe without any sign or hope of ending?
First of all, we must keep in mind that world was never and will never be at peace with itself. Secondly, we can’t control what is happening in the outside world. Third Peace doesn’t just mean absence of war or conflicts or problems because differences will always be there, sense of fear and insecurity will always be there, and most of all problems will always be there
Thus the answer is short, simple, and straightforward: Shut the window or close your mind to the outside world. In other words, keep away from media, such as television (the notorious chatter box that keeps on churning out more and more shit 24/7 in the name of news and entertainment), newspapers, and social media. Although it is impossible to shut the whole window, but one must be careful and selective as to what is useful and what is unnecessary; what is relevant and what is irrelevant. It is often assumed that engaging with traditional types of media improves well-being, while using newer types of media, such as social media, worsens well-being. However, evidence of traditional media consumption improving well-being has been lacking.
Here are some excerpts from a research report about the effects of traditional as well other forms of media including social media and books etc:
“In their new paper, ‘No effect of different types of media on well-being’, Dr Niklas Johannes, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, Dr Tobias Dienlin, University of Vienna, Hasan Bakhshi, Nesta Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC), and Professor Andrew K Przybylski, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, studied the media consumption habits and well-being levels of 2,159 UK adults between April and May 2020 during the pandemic. They used data collected via a nationally representative survey, facilitated by the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre, which is led by innovation foundation Nesta.
Through weekly surveys, conducted over six weeks, participants reported the time they had spent engaging with music, television, films, video games, books, magazines, and audiobooks during the previous week and their happiness and anxiety levels during the previous day.
The researchers found that those who consumed books, magazines or audiobooks had similar happiness and anxiety levels to those who did not, while those who engaged with music, television, films and video games tended to have lower happiness and higher anxiety levels than those who did not. However, those differences were small and not causal. That is, the differences were apparent both ways: Those with lower happiness and higher anxiety levels were also more likely to engage with music, television, films and video games, but not books, magazines or audiobooks.
Commenting on the findings, lead author Dr Niklas Johannes, Postdoctoral Researcher, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford said, “There is a popular misconception that all forms of new media have a negative impact on our mental health but consuming traditional media such as reading books, is good for us. Yet that isn’t necessarily the case, as our latest research shows”.
Thus the best way out is to concentrate more on your inner world and less and less on the outer world. Remember that “peace begins from within” and if you can’t be peaceful with you, you con’t find peace anywhere in the world.
Remember, as Epictetus has famously said, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” The mindset we have and how we view and feel the outside world in our own tinted, tainted or biased way determines who we are and not how the people label us. However, for many people learning to react differently, calmly or wisely is the biggest challenge in life.
Thus chaos and turbulence are often the internal problem. Our mind mostly remains busy thinking, often indulging in overthinking and thus constantly running and never shutting up. Therefore, as most philosophers seem to agree:
We live in a world of thought.
Our thoughts create our experiences, and thus, we experience what we think.
Thus it is important to change our thoughts and then to change the perspective and as a result change our reality As simple as that.
However, the tragedy is that instead of letting the birds of negative thoughts go away and thus changing our perspective, we usually choose the easy way of transforming our environment believing that doing so will bring the desired results. For instance, we go to shopping to buy something new for a temporary boost of happiness. We travel to escape our problems for the time being. We celebrate our birthday or wedding day or indulge in some other similar silliness or pleasurable activity.
But as these all prove to be the moments of temporary respites , in the end we fall back to where we had started: unhappy with where we are today. And this zero sum game goes on without any meaningful improvement.
And so the cycle repeats itself. We buy, we travel, we celebrate, we forget — always focusing on the external factors we need to alter in order to create better circumstances.
But what we really need to do is to “focusing inward .” According to psychologists, it is often the internal world that determines whether we are having a good day or not, whether we are happy or unhappy. That’s why we can feel angry despite beautiful surroundings or feel perfectly happy despite being stuck in traffics. For this reason, turning your attention away form the outward situations may hold the key to greater well-being. Focusing inward means paying attention to what’s happening inside you: your breath, your feelings, and your thoughts.
Conscious breathing is the best and the easiest way to get rid of outside distractions and first step towards achieving the ultimate nirvana. It is a self-healing technique that helps people to access the full potential of their breathing system for better physical, emotional and mental well-being. There are many techniques for conscious breathing to practice on daily basis and here is one of them:
Switch off your cellphone (or take a respite from your daily hectic schedule) and find some quiet place to sit where you will not be disturbed.
Sit upright with your legs uncrossed and feet planted firmly on the ground. Place your palms facing up.
Bring awareness to your breath.
Breathe in and out on a count of five.
As you inhale, focus only on your breath; count for 5 and then exhale.
Focusing fully on your exhale for the count of five.
Then on each inhale, mentally repeat the following words: I welcome inner peace and well-being.
According to some experts, it is often emotional or mental upset that causes breathing restrictions, because our tendency is to hold our breath as a reaction to overwhelming feelings.
Note: Conscious breathing is easy to learn and can be beneficial to people of all ages, from infancy to old age.
A few sessions will enable you to use this technique for yourself as a lifelong tool.
In short, as you can’t control the outside events or world, you also must not let out side world control you or your inner world.
Below are some beautiful quotes from my e-book “Sparkles of Wisdom To Glow Your Heart” to further enhance your awareness and thus inner peace:
- 1. “Anxiety isn’t something that goes away; it’s something you learn to control.” — Anonymous
- “I don’t think anyone could ever criticize me more severely than the way I viciously criticize myself.” — Anonymous
- “Overthinking: the art of creating new problems out of ones that never existed in the first place.” — Anonymous
- “Your calm mind is the ultimate weapon against your challenges.” — Bryant Mcgill
- “People become attached to their burdens, sometimes more than their burdens are attached to them.” — George Bernard Shaw
- “If it is out of your hands, it deserves freedom from your mind too.” — Unknown
- “We suffer more in imagination than in reality.” –Seneca
- “To a mind that is still the whole universe surrenders.” — Lao Tzu
Book is available here:
iv) Claire McEvoy and Gergely Hideg, Global Violent Deaths 2017: Time to Decide (Geneva: Small Arms Survey, 2017).