“Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment.” – Lao Tzu
Three years ago, during my deepest pain and struggle, I felt a strong call to leave my job and my life for the Himalayas.
I thought that a spiritual retreat to the Himalayas was what my heart needed to come to terms with my heartbreak and the end of a long-term relationship. I felt that I needed divine acts of healing to catch my breath, heal my life and give me purpose again. Could the world’s ancient sages have the answers I was looking for? Would the higher elevations, daily meditations and burning incense of mountaintop temples be my salvation?
Throughout the next few months and years, I discovered that I didn’t need a trip to the Himalayas to heal my heart and transform my life. I found that enlightenment didn’t have to come in the form of major self-realizations, profound inner discoveries or visions of spiritual gurus.
You don’t have to go to the Himalayas, partake of a religious movement or spend a lifetime in an ashram to heal and get in touch with your truth. You can find your peace and live your truth by taking a few small steps every day.
Here are 9 practical steps you can take to deal with life’s curves and to cultivate a resilient inner peace. And, no, you don’t need to buy international tickets for this inner journey to yourself.
1. Learn to embrace change.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”— Serenity Prayer
When my relationship ended, I suffered through so many tears and so much pain because I didn’t know how to handle a major change. I didn’t want to admit that the relationship had ended or that it was time to move on. I wanted to hold onto something that was changing in front of my eyes.
Lesson: Nothing in life is permanent.
To come to terms with this fact, you must confront the pain you face when you experience a struggle. Instead of pushing away the situation and resisting what’s happening to you, sit with it.
Allow the problem to wash over you like a wave. Take deep breaths and observe the situation from near and far. Don’t react to it or fight against it. In fact, do nothing for some time but watch the broken pieces of your life shatter on the floor.
Watching and taking in the current situation without fighting back is the first step toward acceptance. And acceptance is the first step toward embracing change.
2. Let go of trespasses.
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.”—Mahatma Gandhi
When you’re confronting a breakup, business failure or life crisis, you become angry with everyone and their mother. Even your mother.
In your anger, you see how every person is responsible for the suffering in your life. You see how every person has hurt you and done you wrong.
Lesson: You won’t let go, heal or start anew in your life until you forgive the people who hurt you.
No matter how serious the offence, forgive the trespass.
Even if you don’t feel like forgiving, go through the actions of doing so. Write a letter: “I forgive you for…” Forgive the person for every instance in which he or she hurt you. (And remember, the letter is for your eyes only. Don’t send the letter to anyone who has hurt you.)
Don’t wait until you heal to forgive. You must forgive so that the healing process can begin. Forgive those who hurt you so you can start your healing.
3. Share your burden.
Is the pain you’re experiencing so heart-piercing and embarrassing that you can’t share your situation with anyone else? Would you rather carry your sorrows on your own? Walk with the shame of your problems and the weight of the circumstances by yourself? Isn’t it easier to lock yourself in your house or curl up in your bed than talk to someone?
Lesson: You can’t do it alone, no matter how strong you think you are.
The way to healing and peace of mind starts when you share the burden of your problems with others. Share your struggles with friends and family so that they can help you carry the weight of them.
Now is the time to reach out and share with someone. You’ll find that trusted friends or family members are blessings. Talking about your grief and sharing your feelings with others will allow you to move forward.
You might think people will reject you in your time of need, but they won’t. Your vulnerability will draw others closer, to listen, help or care.
4. Let your inner light guide you.
“There is a universal, intelligent, life force that exists within everyone and everything. It resides within each one of us as a deep wisdom, an inner knowing…an inner sense that tells us what feels right and true for us at any given moment.”— Shakti Gawain
It’s usually when we fail to listen to our intuition that we head in the wrong direction.
Almost always we know within seconds the answer to our problem and how to react in a particular situation. But our negative thoughts sidetrack our intuition and fill us with fear and worry.
Lesson: You know deep down in your heart what to do in every situation.
You have a wise and lifelong guardian in the form of your inner voice, which speaks your truth. Acknowledge it and listen to it.
The more you listen to this wise voice, the more likely you’ll have clarity in your life and make smarter decisions.
Trust yourself – your inner voice will not lead you astray.
5. See the blessings.
Whatever situation you’re dealing with in life has a silver lining.
Every situation brings wisdom, experience and new lessons. What have you learned from the most recent experience in your life?
Lesson: Instead of wondering “why me?”, ask yourself what you can learn from the lesson at hand.
How will this situation improve you? How will you become stronger because of it? How can circumstances come out in your favor?
Every situation presents itself in our lives for a reason. What are the positive ways in which the problem at hand will affect you?
6. See everyone through a lens of compassion.
While you might have spent much of your life judging and putting down others, you can change.
Not everyone is trying to take advantage of you or pull a quick one on you. Not everyone is trying to harm you or speak ill of you. Even those who are trying to intentionally harm you may not know what they are doing.
Lesson: Take the high road.
While it’s easier to assume the worst and be cynical, you have plenty of loving and supportive people in your life.
When you have two choices in a situation, chose love and compassion. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Consider what he or she has gone through, or his or her difficult upbringing. Find common experiences and ways you can relate to the person. Chose love over hate.
Choose compassion. Let go of grudges, seek to understand where others are coming from and love unconditionally.
7. Take small steps of joy.
If you’re recovering from a breakdown in life or simply trying to be more awake, know that your highest truth comes from your place of joy.
Don’t simply wait for joy to show up in your life. Create, cultivate and embrace it.
Lesson: Schedule more joy into your life.
Look for work that makes you happy and transition to jobs that give you joy. Schedule daily activities that you enjoy. Spend time in nature. Visit friends who crack you up. Schedule a yoga class, massage, energy session or other self-care activity that will help you feel good.
If you’re driving by a scenic spot, get out of the car and enjoy the view. If you’re in a flower garden, stop and take in the beauty.
8. Release tomorrow’s fears.
Live a more balanced life by living for today.
You have no control over what will happen tomorrow. Most of your fears about tomorrow will never materialize.
Lesson: Catch yourself when you’re anxious or worried about tomorrow’s troubles.
Bring yourself back to the task at hand.
When you’re worried about some impending event, ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?”
Remind yourself that your anxiety about tomorrow stems from fear-fuelled illusions. These illusions never materialize.
Take life one step at a time and one day at a time.
9. Be a lamp for others.
“Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd.”— Rumi
An excellent way to heal and give back to others is to guide them and share your life lessons with them.
How do you use the gifts of your life’s adversity or your past struggles?
Lesson: Help others on their own paths.
Be there in times of need. Be a shoulder to cry on or a set of ears with which to listen to your friend’s setbacks. Offer advice, support or just your presence to others who are traveling the same path as you.
Be compassionate about their situations and generous with your offers of help. If you can help them avoid the same mistakes you did, step in and show them the way. Use your experience to guide others as they make their way through life.