by Ashley Davis Bush, LCSW: The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying: “Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace.”For most of us this idea seems like common sense. Why should we allow others to control our inner world? Still, staying calm when we interact with challenging people can be difficult. Think of all the times you were feeling chill but then went from Buddha to berserk in 60 seconds flat thanks to your forgetful spouse, critical boss, nagging parent, rude child or nosy neighbor. “If only they would act differently,” we think. “It’s their fault that I’m upset.”
While it’s inevitable that we are impacted by the actions and unhappy moods of others, there is no need to let them “trigger” our own downward spiral. When we give another person control over our emotions, our peace of mind becomes as unstable as a feather caught in the wind, redirected with each puff of air.
How would your life be different if your peace of mind was steady and anchored? What if you were unperturbed by the fiercest storm around you? What if others didn’t control your moods?
Staying calm is a surefire “Shortcut to Inner Peace.” So when it feels like someone is stealing your peace of mind, here are five ways you can learn to keep it.
See the other as someone who suffers. Remember that everyone on this planet — absolutely everyone — has issues that they struggle with. They carry pain, sorrow, disappointment, and angst with them. If they are behaving in a difficult manner, it is usually because they are attempting to mask their deepest pains.
Tool: Offer compassion from your heart to theirs. Place your hand over your heart and think to yourself toward the other person, “I know you must be suffering and I wish you peace.” Imagine them as the young, innocent child they once were.
See yourself as someone who suffers. Know that you too are someone caught in the conditions of human existence. You, like everyone, have a tendency to be reactive to those around you and their energies.
Tool: Offer compassion for yourself and for your own imperfections. Place your hand over your heart and say out loud (or think) toward yourself, “I know I am trying and I know that I make mistakes. I wish myself peace in this process as I try and try again.”
See the other as a teacher. Consider this other person as a teacher in your life who offers you the opportunity to cultivate patience, tolerance, and awareness. Remember, this isn’t about who is right and who is wrong. It is about staying grounded and calm.
Tool: Inwardly bow to your teacher and offer gratitude that you are fortunate enough to have such an effective teacher to help you learn more about your own state of mind.
See yourself as a teacher. Consider that you too are a teacher for this person. Perhaps you are in their life to teach them patience and tolerance. Wouldn’t you rather be teaching them love rather than more anger?
Tool: As best as you can, try to model a calm reaction. Show them what it’s like for someone to take the high road. Let go of the need to prove yourself “right.”
See yourself as having an inner anchor. Deep within you is a core of strength and calm. When you take a moment to connect to this still place within, you find that you can anchor yourself amidst any storm around you.
Tool: Use breath as your guide to help you center yourself. Spend a moment closing your eyes, breathing deeply, and imagining your breath invigorating the core of you. Some people imagine light or color at their core. Visualize your core, running vertically through your body and down into the ground, rooting and grounding you to the stability and power of the earth.
With each of these tools, beginning with a long, slow exhale will calm the stress response in your body.
When you work with one or more of these techniques, you’ll be able to maintain your peace of mind regardless of the people around you. The Dalai Lama is right: Inner peace is precious. Why give it away?
Psychotherapist and author of Shortcuts to Inner Peace