15 easy ways to find your inner calm
His profound yet simple teachings have already helped countless people throughout the world find contentment and greater fulfilment in their lives. Here, author Eckhart Tolle shares ways of finding inner peace.
1. WORRY IS AN ILLUSION
"Worry is a destructive and futile thought pattern that many people are trapped in. In the present moment, you may be faced with a challenge but you don't have time to worry about it. You either run away from it or you deal with it. Worry never refers to something that is happening in the present moment. If you look more closely, you will see that the thought pattern we call 'worry' is ultimately a form of illusion because it refers to a future moment that is not reality right now. You cannot deal with the future because it's not here. You can only deal with the present moment."
2. IT'S NOT THE SITUATION, BUT HOW YOU INTERPRET THE SITUATION
"Many things are happening in the world that justifiably seem to make us feel anxious. But if you look back in history, there have been many time periods when life was even more uncertain than it is now. Jesus was already talking about anxiety - several times he emphasised the importance of being aware of your own state of consciousness. We always think the cause for our anxiety is outside of us - but if we look more deeply, we realise that, ultimately, it's not things outside of us that make us anxious but our thoughts about the things outside of us that make us feel anxious."
3. LIFE IS UNCERTAIN BY ITS VERY NATURE
"It would be a delusion to believe that you will reach a stage in life where everything - relationships, jobs, health, finances - is secure. This never happens because the essence of life is that there is always uncertainty and insecurity. One challenge replaces another. People think this shouldn't be happening. They think, 'My life should be in such a way that I can finally relax and be at peace', but life is not like that. Everything, as the Buddha said, is impermanent. The external world will never give you a sense of security but we can find freedom inside of ourselves so that we enter into a skilful relationship with the eternal world so that our mind does not become our torture chamber."
4. KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 'FOCUSED THINKING' AND 'WORRIED THINKING'
"People are under the illusion that worry has some useful purpose, but it doesn't. Unconsciously, they feel, 'If I don't worry about my life, I'm not taking responsibility for my life'. But you cannot because the situation is not here now. I'm not talking about planning. Of course you can plan to take certain steps in the future. Focused thinking is very different from worried thinking - you take out a piece of paper and think about what actions you can take. Worry, on the other hand, is an incessant, repetitive stream of thinking that does not lead to any useful action. So you are trapped in this vicious circle - with one fearful thought producing another fearful thought producing another fearful thought."
5. THERE IS NEVER A GOOD TIME TO START PRACTISING STILLNESS
"People think they can only have inner peace when their external conditions are conducive to inner peace. That happens very rarely, unfortunately. People always want to postpone it - they think, 'Once my problems are sorted out, then I'll be able to do it'. But your problems never get sorted out. You sort out one set of problems and then you encounter a new set. So you have to decide, no matter what your life situation, that inner peace, which is your state of consciousness, is your first priority. Everything else is secondary."
6. HOW ARE YOU RIGHT NOW?
"In my book The Power of Now, I posed the question: 'What problem do I have right now?' That question can be very helpful. The mind is telling you that you're burdened with these terrible things - but it's all mental; it's not actual. So, what problem do I have right now? Suddenly you realise that you are in this warm bed and you are not being threatened by anything right now, except by your mind."
7. LEARN TO NOTICE WITHOUT NAMING
"Wherever you are, take a moment to use your sense perception to look and listen. For example, I can look out the window and see the sky and a park with beautiful trees, and I can look at that without calling it anything. This is another state of consciousness where you are fully conscious but not thinking, or thinking very little. And that is a portal into inner peace and inner stillness, which is a deeper dimension of consciousness."
8. USE YOUR BREATH AS AN ANCHOR
"A very easy thing to do is simply to become aware that you are breathing. Your attention goes to your breath so you breathe consciously. You don't have to change your breathing. If you bring your attention to the fact that you are breathing, you begin to enjoy the rhythm of your breath and you enjoy observing your breath. And when you do that, you are not thinking anymore. You cannot think and at the same time be aware of your breathing. And when you're no longer thinking, you are no longer worrying."
9. TAKE A FEW MOMENTS TO BE STILL
Don't check your phone first thing in the morning. Instead of cluttering your mind, you need to have a little space of awareness or presence - even for five minutes. This also applies to the last moments before bed. I call it going into sleep consciously. When you turn off the light and close your eyes, become aware of your breathing and notice that your breath moves in and out. This will help you find stillness."
10. BECOME AWARE OF YOUR BODY
"Becoming aware of your breathing can almost automatically take you into this inner body awareness which I have written about in The Power of Now. That means you feel the aliveness inside your body - your hands, your feet, your legs. I always recommend that people begin by feeling the inside of their hands by directing attention into their hands. Some people tell me that they don't know what I'm talking about. The easiest way for me to explain it is to say, 'Hold your left or right hand out, close your eyes and ask yourself, Is my right hand still there? How can I know if it is still there? My eyes are closed and I'm not touching anything'. Very often this is a helpful question for people who cannot feel the inner body. This can transform your life because it makes you the master of your mind and is the most helpful anchor for being in a state of presence. I sometimes call it a portal into inner peace."
11. YOUR STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS AFFECTS YOUR ENVIRONMENT
"There is nothing that will prevent you from practising inner body awareness - even if you're surrounded by highly anxious people. If you can feel your inner body, you're no longer resonating with that state of consciousness that is around you.
"Sometimes it just takes one person to be present to have a beneficial effect on the entire group. However, there are some workplaces that are so dysfunctional, so dominated by infighting, anger and anxiety, that only you can know if you want to continue being in a particular environment or if you want to remove yourself from it."
12. STILLNESS TRANSCENDS ANY SITUATION
"I often receive correspondence from people who are in prison. They have discovered that they can enter this state of consciousness; they can be in their body and find inner peace that they never had before. They experience a transformation of consciousness in prison because their surroundings are so unpleasant that they have to go deeper inside. People have written to me to say 'I'm still in prison, but I feel free'. It's a wonderful realisation. There is, within every human being, that dimension of consciousness already present."
13. CREATE A TECH-FREE ZONE
"The mind was already dysfunctional, but now it has become amplified through technology, so modern, contemporary humans are probably even more anxious and uncentred than people were in the past because of our exposure to this kind of technology. We have to be very aware of the addictive nature of these things... and we need to create little spaces where we do not interact with these devices. If you do not allow your phone or your computer in your bedroom, then you have at least one space where you are not being bombarded with these things."
14. TAKE MOMENTS TO JUST BE
"When I'm waiting somewhere, unless there is really something that I need to communicate, I don't just take out my phone to start looking around it. You can just be when you're waiting somewhere - just allow yourself to be in that moment, to look around, to feel the energy inside your body. We need to exercise the power that we have so that we are not slaves to our mind - and slaves to the devices that the mind has created. Otherwise, no matter what you have, there is always a sense of dissatisfaction, underlying anxiety and discontent."
15. LEARN TO TRUST IN LIFE
"Faith is a deep sense of trust that you are being supported by something greater than yourself - a vast power that lies behind life; a vast intelligence lying behind all the manifestations of life. When you find inner stillness, you can sense that there is a presence in that stillness and that presence carries you. People feel they have to control every aspect of their life and basically what that means is a lack of trust. When you have that connection to the inner stillness, then you can have this trust in life, and that neurotic need to control every little thing is no longer there. Then you can do real thinking that is more constructive and you can focus on the power of your thought - that's another story."
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle is published by Yellow Kite, £9.99