A Business Person’s Guide to Inner Peace, by Man of Faith

“Hurry slowly” – Zen saying

Accompanying the information age is the age of anxiety. There are seemingly infinite sources of stress all stemming from things we cannot control. Will we have enough money? How do we ensure we are successful? There is pressure to keep up at our jobs, in our businesses, with our families, friends, hobbies. The great stress and pressure from the need to be a good parent, a good son or daughter, a good sibling, a good friend and the list goes on.

Our sense of inner peace, which is our birthright, is under constant fire, and while we cannot control our external environment, we can control our reactions to stress triggers. However, many of us have not built up the natural “stress inhibitors” and instead fall victim to our conditioned responses of worry and fear that we’ve learned from our culture – parents, teachers, society. The worry is totally useless, does not serve us in any positive way, and increasingly sucks up positive life force energy from our daily life.

So how do we cultivate inner peace in a practical way in our busy day-to-day lives – without enrolling as an apprentice in a Zen monastery? Below are five daily practices for lightening the unnecessary load we carry, and releasing stress:

1. Breathe.
Breath is the life force of our worlds, the oxygen-rich fuel that powers our sense of being. Yet so often we unconsciously move into shallow and choppy breathing when our lives become overwhelming. Consider committing to a week of steady, consistent breathing throughout your day, and feel the wonderful results.

2. Be mindful.
Become the observer of your thoughts, not the reactor to your thoughts. This is the ultimate practice of presence, or mindfulness. We are constantly in reaction to the incessant stream of thoughts that bombard our daily lives, and we expend most of our existence in our heads. We have 60,000 thoughts per day, and 90% of those thoughts are the same! We repeat them over and over, consuming tremendous amounts of life energy to no avail! So often these thoughts center on mentally avoiding something we fear may happen, or mentally desiring something for our futures. They take us out of the present, and out of the flow – the juice of life. Begin watching your mind in this pattern of thinking that causes emotional volatility, and creating some space between you and your mind.

3. Embrace stillness.
As your practice of watching yourself deepens, your consciousness arises – and your levels of inner peace increase. Take quiet time for yourself. Begin a meditation and/or yoga practice. Use yoga as a moving meditation (the original intention of Yoga) and observe how your thoughts manifest as emotional reactions, often in resistance to a pose or thought form. I’ve studied different forms of meditation and yoga for many years, and found that Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Full Catastrophe Living provides a simple and elegant methodology for beginning practice.

4. Practice gratitude.
There are always infinite interpretations of reality. See the proverbial glass of ‘your life’ half full, and invoke a feeling of deep gratitude for all the blessings in your life. Do this daily.

5. Practice acceptance. Surrender resistance.
When an event arises that creates a negative reaction in your system, feel it in your body, watch the reactive thoughts in your mind. Be with the thoughts and feelings. The thoughts are always neutral, it’s the meaning we create that gives them the toxic charge. And know that you have the power to let that go. You can choose to hold on to the negative reaction – whether anger, resentment, fear, anxiety, rage etc., or you can choose to let it go in the moment.

As the Dalai Lama says, “Inner peace is the ultimate source of happiness, joyfulness” – so begin to let go of the excess today.

Man of Faith is an executive, business and leadership coach, keynote speaker and ethics instructor.