Kung Fu Panda 2 is my all-time favourite animated movie. It’s about Po’s journey to self-discovery, and how he attains inner peace.
Inner peace sounds like such a heavy word, doesn’t it? After watching the movie, one thing that became clear was that what you are born as does not matter; what matters is how you choose to live your life. It is always our choices that make us who we are.
But then again, how does one attain inner peace? Is there some course that teaches it – some tried and tested formula that if one learns and applies, one will be positively and eternally peaceful? If you were harbouring any such illusions, sorry to disappoint you and burst your bubble – it isn’t that easy…However, the good news is that it isn’t so difficult either!
Before we get into the “how” of things, first, let us define what inner peace actually means. I believe I have inner peace when I am able to feel satisfied and content with anything and everything. Let me elaborate a little more on that before I move ahead:
Have you ever felt that you hold on to things for far too long? Have you ever noticed people slipping from your grasp, and done whatever you could to pull them closer? Have you desperately tried to bring the old romance back to life as you noticed the first signs of the feeling fading away? Have you ever spent a lot of time and energy chasing people, chasing feelings, chasing the familiar just because familiar felt safe, and feeling safe is a good feeling? Are you scared of unknowns? Do you feel scared of change? Have you conditioned yourself to believe that giving up and walking away is a sign of weakness? Would you rather live your life with a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it? Did you ever choose to stay with toxicity, pain, abuse, negativity just because you believed walking away would make you a quitter, and you never wanted to be the sort of person who quits?
If you’ve answered “yes” to even one of the questions I posed above, it means at some point or the other, you have experienced one or more of the following feelings – fear, terror, sadness, hurt, upset, irritation, anger, frustration, worry, anxiety. What did you do with these feelings of yours?
We’ve all grown up surrounded by so many value-judgments that by the time we are adults, compartmentalizing things as “good” and “bad” or “right” and “wrong” has become a way of life. What if I told you that there is no such thing as a “good emotion” or a “bad emotion”? You’d find that hard to believe, I’m sure! After all right from our terrible twos to the rebellious teen years, and even after that, we have always been bombarded with messages (both, direct and indirect) about what it’s okay and not okay to feel. Some of us have felt so suffocated by this constant vigilance and appropriation that we’ve conditioned ourselves to not feel at all. Guess what, my friends? Even “not feeling” or numbness is a feeling. The path to inner peace lies in uncovering all that that lies beneath.
Did you know you were a bright, shining diamond from the very day you were born? Experiences have covered you with dirt, and now you have layers and layers of learnings to unpeel and unlearn because, indeed, it is the world that has dulled your sparkle. The first step towards attaining inner peace lies with acknowledging and accepting all the feelings that you feel without any judgment. It is alright if you got angry at someone for being late (even though you realized later that it was genuinely not their fault). It is alright if you feel guilty about letting someone down, and it is perfectly alright if you want to let that guilt consume you fully.
Why, you ask? Because if you want inner peace, you need to stop being hard on yourself – that is step two. Certain feelings cause discomfort in our body and are unpleasant. We don’t need to make it worse by punishing ourselves further for having those feelings! That’s just not how the way things work! Your school teachers got it wrong every time they punished you for making a mistake – it’s okay, they are also human – just like you and me – and even though you saw your teachers as role-models back then, now, with wisdom, you must realize that they are learning too. Learning is a life-long process and in the Universe, every person plays the role of a teacher and a student all the time.
When you stop labelling feelings as “good” and “bad”, you will be able to stop punishing yourself for all the times your feelings have made you uncomfortable. And then step three will be easier. Once the awareness sets in, of the number of times you have discounted your own emotions for various reasons, it is important to practice forgiveness. Forgive yourself and forgive the other person. You can still condone the behaviour or action, but don’t let that one thing define that person. How did you feel when you got one sum wrong and the teacher ridiculed you in front of the whole class? Or when you did not make it on time for one meeting and were labelled as the eternal late-comer? It hurts when just one episode or incident is what people choose to define us with, let us not extend the same courtesies to the others. I had a client once who kept saying, “I am anxiety personified” just because she got worked up around deadlines. There were so many other aspects to her personality, but she chose to let that one label define her. Don’t limit yourself to mere labels. Labels only restrict, especially because we tend to judge some labels as “good” and some labels as “bad”. Forgive yourself for all the times you labelled yourself and others simply on the basis of their actions. Forgive others for ascribing labels to you. You are not just your behaviour. You are so much more! So are they…
Forgiveness is such a divine experience, but it is a very hard thing to do. I personally struggled with it quite a bit. But, forgiveness, when one is able to practise it, can be so freeing.
Give yourself the permission to feel, and feel every emotion deeply. Give yourself the permission to fight – inner peace does not mean you never have arguments with others. Allow yourself to let love and light come into your life. If someone is engulfing you with darkness, let them know. Love them in that darkness as much as possible, but make sure to wrap your light safely around you and walk away if need be.
Let go of things and people not working for you. Not everyone is yours to keep, fix or hold. Establish healthy boundaries and be the person who is loving, giving and caring, but also be the person who is able to stand strong independently. We all want to cling on to experiences that used to be good at one point in time even though they are no longer serving that purpose.
Love unconditionally and love people enough to let them find their own way, even if it means a life without you. Love yourself for what you are. You are an amalgamation of light and dark, and just like you do your best each day to ensure that your light does not allow your darkness to overcast its shadow and come to the forefront, realize that everyone else is also doing the very same thing. It’s just that for some of us, darkness wins more battles than light. Don’t define them by that loss.
Sometimes, all it takes to attain inner peace is to look at things from a different angle. Don’t allow anyone’s behaviour including your own to destroy your inner peace. Be compassionate to others and, foremost, to yourself. Love yourself selflessly!
Remember, you are what you choose to be. You can choose to hold on to your pain, or you can choose to let it go. It is your life and only you can decide its outcome. Yes, those painful pieces of the past are a part of you, but you are made of many more beautiful pieces still to come. Be tough enough to leave your past behind for good. Be compassionate enough to forgive those who tainted your story. Be strong enough to let go of all that does not help you grow.
You have the power to carve the future of your choice. While you can choose any path, I sincerely hope you choose one that sets you free. You are an amazing person and you deserve inner peace! Don’t shy away from reaching for the sky!