How can you begin this process? Right now or the next chance you have, I invite you to find a tablet of paper and to write down the things that have moved you to tears of joy. (Skip over other kinds of tears, like sadness, loss, bitterness, rage, or envy.) If you’ve not cried in joy, record the times you’ve felt unbelievably peaceful or imagine you might.
Can you find a symbol of this sense of peace? Perhaps you can think of a physical location that when you think of it brings you back into a sense of balance. What object or landmark symbolizes that inner feeling to you?
If you can, find a corner of your living area somewhere that won’t be disturbed. Create a sacred space. In other words, pull together and display some objects that have special significance for you, that make you feel quiet and yet moved. They may be objects from nature, religious icons, or anything else that inspires you and reminds you of your purpose. Do not use pictures of your family; this area must be simply for you and no one else. Here are some examples:
- a rock with special colors or shape
- religious pictures, symbols or small statues
- a painting or print of something special
- candles (but take care to prevent fires)
- incense (not too strong or too sweet)
Spend time in this place every day. Ideally you’ll sit here the same time each day for 15-30 minutes. Use the time to listen to music, to pray or meditate, to write in your journal, or to reflect. Use it to quiet and connect with yourself, to discover what’s there. What inspires you? What judgments and barriers arise that interfere with connecting with yourself?
Resist the compulsion to produce something of value. Having nothing, perhaps just a deep silence, is usually more productive. Don’t analyze what you find, but sit within it and let it unfold. If you spend all your time thinking, planning, and judging everything, see if you can find moments when all the head talk stills. The most helpful attitude towards yourself is compassion and particularly curiosity about what you find within. One common insight is discovering that most of your negative judgments about yourself are bogus.
The more regularly and routinely you practice stillness and discovery within yourself, the better you will become at it. You’ll find it easier to give your inner critic permission to fuss and stew by himself over in the corner of your mind, where he doesn’t bother anybody.
Once a week or once a month, go on a mini-retreat with yourself. Walk on a nature trail or in a botanical garden. Drive to scenery you find particularly moving and have a picnic. Go to a church/temple service or prayer meeting where you feel unexpectedly relaxed and accepted. Try out a new spiritual location and see if you like it, remembering that these things don’t work out more often than they do.
As your time with yourself deepens with practice, see if you can find ways to bring this evolving peace with yourself into other aspects of your life. Perhaps you can bring a small reminder of your sacred space into your car or to a corner of your desk at work. See if you can expand your spiritual focus in other ways.