Why You’ll Never Find Peace Of Mind—But Peace With Mind Is Possible

peace of mind

There is no such thing as peace of mind. Mind means disturbance; restlessness itself is mind. — Nisagadatta Maharaj

Everybody wants to experience more peace of mind. But, as we all know, the mind can be a tricky customer.

You are sitting by the pool on your long-awaited summer vacation. The sky is blue. The temperature is perfect. Your diary is empty. You settle down on your deck-chair with an ice-cold drink and your favourite book, intent on spending the day doing absolutely nothing. Everything is perfect.

Well, almost everything.

The message that you are ‘on vacation’ clearly hasn’t got through to the mind department. It is as busy as ever in there.

“Better suck your belly in. You are as white as a sheet. What on earth will people think? Right, that’s it. I am starting a diet on Monday. Oops, I forgot I am on holiday. And it is Monday. Oh, well. I’ll start when I get home. Man, that drink was expensive…”

Have you ever met anyone who isn’t troubled by their mind? I haven’t.

If you have a pulse, you’re going to have thoughts that disturb your peace —fear thoughts, self-doubt thoughts, anger thoughts. You are going to experience agitation, frustration and disappointment at times.

And having your act together on the outside doesn’t immunise you from inner turmoil. In fact, it doesn’t make much difference at all.

Everyone has some kind of psychological issue, personal tragedy or personality defect that makes it impossible to experience ongoing peace of mind.

It is called being human. We are all uniquely flawed. A restless mind is part of the human package.

“I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions — Augusten Burroughs

Advice On Finding Peace Of Mind

There is no shortage of advice out there on ways to experience more peace of mind.

Search the internet and you’ll find an abundance of articles offering great advice— learn to meditate, be more self-accepting, spend time in nature, focus on gratitude, serve others more… the list goes on and on.

And it is great advice. All of the above strategies will help you feel more at peace.

But here’s the thing. The quest to find (ongoing) peace of mind is doomed from the start. You’ll always be fighting a losing battle.

Why is that?

It is because restlessness is the nature of the mind. Everybody, without exception, has a messed up, restless mind. It is unavoidable.

And, as we’ll see shortly, it needn’t be a problem.

There is no such thing as peace of mind. Mind means disturbance; restlessness itself is mind. — Nisagadatta Maharaj

What the methods above really do is offer some temporary respite… some short-term relief from the mind’s disturbance.

Meditating, being in nature or serving others distract your attention from the mind. The moment there is no distraction, however, the full force of the mind’s restlessness is experienced again.

As the above quote states: “Mind means disturbance.”

There is nothing ‘wrong’ with struggling to find peace of mind. It couldn’t be any different.

Peace Of Mind vs Peace With Mind

And now to the solution.

In my own search for peace of mind, I read every self- help book I could get my hands on. I went for counselling. I spent a small fortune attending all kinds of workshops and retreats — Reiki, healing the inner child, meeting my spirit guides, shamanic journeying, breathwork—you name it, I tried it.

And it all helped.

I would often experience feelings of expansion, joy, connectedness and deep peace during a workshop or counselling session. But it never lasted.

Armed with a new tool in my arsenal, a new perspective to view life through, I would skip home, hopeful of lasting change.

Invariably, after a short time, the euphoric feelings would subside and I’d be back where I started—restless and agitated.

The breakthrough came on a 6-month meditation retreat in 2004, when I met my teacher for the first time.

I was 5 minutes into day three and my mind was driving me nuts.

The prospect of sitting on that wretched cushion for another 6 months was freaking me out.

I got up and informed the head monk that I was struggling and needed to talk.

“What’s the problem?” he asked compassionately.

“I can’t stop thinking.” I replied.

“No, you can’t.” he smiled. It wasn’t the reply I was expecting.

“Nobody can. Restlessness is the nature of the mind.”

“But you don’t have to give it any attention,” he continued.

The Good News And The Bad News

So, here’s the bad news. Peace of mind can never be found (in moments perhaps but not as an ongoing experience).

And the good news; you don’t need to fix or change the mind in any way, shape or form in order to experience peace in every moment.

You can learn to make peace WITH your mind through changing how you relate to it. A simple shift in perspective can change everything in an instant.

Here is the advice my teacher gave me.

“Leave the mind in peace to do its thing and it will leave you in peace to do yours.  Relax, be alert, focus on your breathing, resist nothing. Accept the mind exactly as it is. It can only trouble you if you resist it.”

How To Make Peace WITH Your Mind

The main reasons you suffer at the hands of your restless mind is that you:

  • believe the mind is broken— that it needs to be fixed
  • identify with your thoughts and take them to be who you are
  • you empower the mind through judgement and resistance

Understanding The Nature Of The Mind

When you are engulfed in negative thoughts—fear thoughts, worry thoughts or anger thoughts, for example—it is natural to conclude there is something wrong—to believe that you need to fix them in order to experience peace.

And it’s true. To experience peace of mind, you would need to fix them, but NOT to experience peace. To experience peace, you only need to accept them.

The mind is a lot like a computer. It churns out random thoughts in accordance with what has been programmed into it—from your upbringing, your cultural background and your unique life experiences.

Given your history, your thoughts couldn’t be any different from what they are. The mind is perfectly imperfect. Seeing this was a huge relief for me.

Even a so-called enlightened being may continue to have the same thoughts as before. Freedom has nothing to do with your thoughts and everything to do with whether you identify with them or not.

You Are Not Your Thoughts

Understanding that you are not your thoughts is a game-changer.

Like the body and the senses, the mind is part of the human apparatus. It is not who you are. It is a tool for you to use.

When you begin to meditate, the first thing you learn is to take a step back and observe the mind objectively. You notice there are two separate entities at play— the thoughts that come and go and the one who is aware of them—the watcher.

Pleasant thoughts come and go, unpleasant thoughts come and go but the silent witness, the one who is aware, never changes. Peace is its nature.

Minding Your Own Business

“Mind your own business” was an expression my teacher used a lot. Or he would sometimes say: “You suffer because you are open for business.”

What does he mean?

When you identify with thoughts i.e. when you take them to be who you are, you are strongly invested in the types of thoughts that appear.

When pleasant thoughts arise, you are quite happy for them to be there.

Not so with anger thoughts, jealous thoughts or sad thoughts. The moment they raise their ugly heads, you slap a ‘bad‘ or ’wrong’ label on them and want to get rid of them as quickly as possible.

You view them as the enemies of your ‘peace of mind.’

To mind your own business means to not get involved — to shut up shop. Accept the mind just as it is— without judgement, without preference (easier said than done, I know.)

Most of our suffering comes from our resistance to the mind—from judging it and wanting it to be different from how it is. When you accept the mind as it is, it has no power to affect your peace.

Your thoughts don’t make you suffer. It is your resistance that does that.

The Peace You Seek Is With You Always

Peace of mind is elusive. The moment you sort out one aspect of your life, another goes kaput. You have just saved your marriage and your house burns down. You’ve just got out of debt and a serious health issue arises.

It’s like the cartoon character with a bump on his head. You hammer the bump down ans another one appears.

How is it possible to find lasting peace of mind in a world of constantly changing circumstances?

Next time you are visited by worry thoughts, fear thoughts or sad thoughts, invite them in. If you don’t mind them being there, they can’t touch your peace.

“Leave your front door and your back door open. Let thoughts come and go. Just don’t serve them tea.” ― Shunryu Suzuki

The peace you are looking for is with you always. But you‘ll never find it in the mind.

 

What is your experience with searching for peace of mind?

Please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

3 thoughts on “Why You’ll Never Find Peace Of Mind—But Peace With Mind Is Possible”

  1. Richard,

    thank you so much for your wise and profound words! Your Blog became a great source of advice for me how to deal with an overactive mind, resp. how not to deal with it. The latter is extremely rare and as you wrote above, there are plenty of them telling you how to experience peace, unfortunately always temporaryly.

    Over the years of more or less constant chatter and exhausting situations I learned how to meditate and the mere knowledge that I can stop the chatterbox became a dependable anchor. To let the mind do its job without interaction now is the other one I can rely on. With both in my toolbox chances are that peace in the turbulency is possible.

    Thanks!

    1. Thanks for the comment Thomas. It’s great you’ve got these tools to help you (not) deal with the mind! What a relief to realise you don’t have to get involved. Just let it do its thing.:)

  2. Let your thoughts come and go peacefully. I tend to use this tecnique to clear my mind. Over time I became more focused and clam. Occasionally, I notice and analyze what I feel or what comes across my mind to better understand myself. After all, these feelings or thoughts come for a reason. I beleive by understanding why we think the way we think we can adjust our focus and look at life from different perspective which may help in clearing these thoughts or feelings.

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