Lord Jesus, Hear our pleas, our good shepherd and divine physician. We implore your mercy…
The 7 habits of highly peaceful people
While waiting in a long line at a coffee shop, one woman remains calm and content, while the one behind her is experiencing irritation and frustration.
When cut off in traffic, one man simply continues driving toward his destination, while another man blows the car horn shouting obscenities.
If nothing is going on, one person sits quietly and enjoys a moment of relaxation, while another begins frantically scrolling through a social media feed on a cellphone.
Those three examples reflect the two types of people we are all capable of being: calm, tranquil and peaceful or agitated, anxious and easily angered. The difference between the two types is a narrow one and is dependent upon personal behavior. Here are the seven habits of highly peaceful people, which anyone can incorporate into daily life.
1. They have a routine
To have a peaceful mind, it’s essential to establish and maintain rhythm and routine day-by-day. Generally, those who exhibit high levels of peace and calm are individuals who carefully regulate their daily activities. They go to bed at the same time and awaken at the same time; they eat their meals at the same time; they engage in their spiritual practices at the same times each day; they attend worship services regularly.
Though they are not full-time monks or nuns, peaceful people structure their daily life in patterns similar to those found in a monastic setting. In so doing, their nervous system knows what to expect rather than constantly be thrown off by an erratic, unfamiliar schedule. Regularity is foundational for cultivating a harmonious and peaceful mind.
2. They respond rather than react
When an unwelcome situation emerges for them, highly peaceful people create a space, a pause. In that brief moment, they adjust their thinking and emotions so that they act in a skillful way. Actor and martial arts expert Chuck Norris relates a story told to him by a friend, who is also a high-level martial artist. This man was at a stop sign waiting for a break in traffic that would allow him to cross a major street safely. The person in the car behind him was impatient and kept honking his horn.
Finally losing patience, that driver got out and began to threaten Norris’ friend if he didn’t “find the gas pedal quickly.” Norris’ friend paused, then rolled down the car window and said, “You want to fight. OK, but I have a bad back and you will have to help me out of the car.” The angry man stared briefly, shook his head in confusion and returned to his car. Norris says: “Luckily for the impatient driver, the situation had been defused by humor. He had no idea how close he had come to being thrashed.”
3. They pray
Prayer is the spiritual practice that links the peaceful person to God, the ultimate source of peace as expressed in this biblical prayer of blessing: “The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace” (Nm 6:24-26).
When they are troubled, peaceful people pray for guidance; when they are joyful, they pray expressing gratitude; when they are sick, they pray for healing; and, when they are discouraged, they pray for perseverance and patience.
Peaceful people also recognize the logic and wisdom of this advice from St. Francis de Sales: “Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer a day, except when we are busy — then we need an hour.”
4. They spend time outside
Being in a natural setting is vital for an overall sense of peacefulness and harmony. That’s why Buddhist monks prefer to meditate outside in natural settings. Science now confirms the wisdom that being outdoors is calming and soothing.
For one study, researchers recruited 280 healthy people in Japan where visiting nature parks for therapeutic effect has become a popular practice called Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. On one day, half the group was instructed to walk through a forest or wooded area for a few hours, while others walked through a city area. On the second day, they traded places. The scientists found that being outside resulted in “lower concentrations of cortisol (the body’s stress hormone), lower pulse rate, and lower blood pressure,” among other things.
5. They don’t judge
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin once received, in the mail, this anonymous prayer, which he finds softens the human tendency to judge harshly:
“Help us to remember that the ‘jerk’ who cut us off in traffic last night may be a single mother who worked nine hours that day and who is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious minutes with her children.
“Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who couldn’t make change correctly at the register today is a worried 19-year-old student who is preoccupied with whether he passed his final exams and with his fear of not getting a student loan for next semester.
“Remind us, Lord, that the scary-looking ‘bum’ begging for money in the same spot every day is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares.
“Help us to realize that the old couple walking so slowly through the store aisles, blocking our shopping car, are savoring this moment, because they know that, based on the biopsy report she got back yesterday, this might be the last year they will go shopping together.”
6. They are not troubled by trouble
Peaceful people know that life is unpredictable and constantly shifting. So they anticipate good times as well as difficult times flowing with life’s changes and challenges. Buddhist meditation teacher and author Toni Bernhard explains: “Waking up to the realities of the human condition is crucial so that we know what to expect in life. If we are deluded about what to expect, we suffer mentally when things don’t go our way. And so, I want to be awake to the fact that life can be hard at times and that many of my desires and wishes will go unfulfilled. Understanding this helps me accept and be content with my life as it is, because I know that I simply cannot always get what I want — no one can. It’s a reality of the human condition.”
7. They forgive
“Inner peace can be reached only when we practice forgiveness. Forgiveness is letting go of the past, and is, therefore, the means for correcting our misperceptions,” notes Gerald Jampolsky, author of “Forgiveness: The Greatest Healer of All” (Simon and Schuster, $14.99).
It’s impossible to be a peaceful person while holding a grudge, harboring feelings of resentment or entertaining thoughts of revenge. That’s why author Karen Salmansohn gives this advice: “Forgive them. All of your ‘thems.’ The more ‘thems’ you can forgive, the better you will feel.”
To have inner peace on earth simply means increasing attitudes and actions that bring calm and tranquility while reducing those that generate disorder and chaos.
Victor Parachin is a Protestant minister, journalist and author of several books including “Healing Grief” (Chalice Press, $10.99).