There is a lot of talk about self-care today. People are seeking endlessly the nirvana of peace through self-care. The idea is to eliminate or mitigate the discomforts that are felt in living everyday life. Undesired personal interactions and unexpected events contribute to the stresses that cause the meltdown of the nervous system, especially with the neurodivergent.
But are the self-care techniques truly ways to destress and recenter back to inner peace? Is this the way to gain the small wins that gain the greater victories?
People instinctively know that whatever the remedy, it begins within us first, not around us.
I was given a small book by a kindly priest a little while ago. It is entitled, “Searching for and Maintaining Peace” by Father Jacques Phillippe. Its concepts are similar to those of Saint Theresa and Brother Lawrence.
But there a few twists that struck me as I was reading it. And the similarities to what the world is trying to achieve was interesting.
The answers to the world’s search has been already answered.
Yet often ignored.
Trying it on our own…
We seem to think that all our achievements can be done on our own. Our thoughts are enough to become “in tune with the universe” and create the desired inner peace. That the answers to all our woes are inside of us. All we have to do is meditate deeply and interiorly and the magic will happen.
While the answer is inside of us, it isn’t something innately within us of ourselves.
That inner wisdom cannot come from a flawed person. Perfection itself cannot come from a cracked vessel.
So where does it reside?
It resides outside ourselves. Learned from the wisdom of those who have gone before.
The secret to true inner peace does not reside within our own strength, but in that which is perfect, that which is Perfection, outside ourselves.
And allowing that Perfection to penetrate our inner being is where we can then find inner peace.
But where do we find that exterior help?
It is found neither in books written by nor having a dialog with another flawed human being. For there is none of us who are perfect.
This entire exercise in gaining peace is through the art of spiritual warfare.
Steps of spiritual warfare…
It that starts with the acceptance of our own imperfections.
In this vein, it is similar to the idea of proper self-care. We are not perfect. Being human, we are prone to failure. That is an objective truth. And no matter how hard we try, we will always fail.
But failure is how we grow.
No bumps in the road will lead to someone who cannot handle the smallest of stressors when life hits them without their support system.
Once we realize that we are flawed, we must then realize that it is not in the ultimate victory of inner peace in all seasons that we will gain of our own strength. But that we must find a way to attain the smaller victories – those smaller habits – that will gain for us an increasing way to retain inner peace at all times.
Even when all we encounter is defeat.
If we gain peace no matter what, then we have achieved the first victory: peace under all circumstances, no matter what happens.
How do we do that if we are imperfect?
The most important step forward toward realizing that, by being flawed, we must rely on something that is not flawed.
…the victory that we must want and desire, knowing…that it is not by our own strength that we will obtain it and…not pretending that we can obtain it immediately. It is uniquely the grace of God that will obtain the victory for us, whose grace will be the [most] efficacious and rapid [means to attaining inner peace]…”Searching for and Maintaining Peace, Father Jacques Philippe
We gain this interior peace by completely abandoning ourselves, little by little, to the hands of God our loving Father.
Oh heavens! Not another “just believe” tripe…
We are not able to carry our own struggles in life by ourselves. That is a weakness each one of us has as a human. That is why the idea of community of like-minded or supportive individuals is an important component of getting through this life.
But what happens when, for whatever reason, we are separated from them? If they are not available for us? Or are having a crisis of their own at the same moment?
It is then we realize that we must rely on something beyond to uphold us in our time of need.
In the Christian world, it is becoming totally reliant on our spiritual Parent
Like children who do not concern themselves with the burdens of providing their own meals, shelter, clothing – even entertainment, we must be like little children. When we learn to lean wholly on the God Who created us and knows more intimately our needs than we do ourselves, then we will live in peace.
The little victories is learning to let go of our desire to control. And to learn to accept each trial, no matter the size, as something that came from the hand of a loving Father that will ultimately lead to our benefit, is the first step toward finding inner peace.
It is the elimination of unnecessary burdens that we take on that will remove the inner turmoil of carrying everything we encounter by ourselves. Or worse, by allowing the thoughts in our mind to blame God or the universe for being blatantly “unfair” to us.
But life isn’t fair!
The common complaint of, “Why did this have to happen?” is a cry from those who expect this life to treat us or others in a way we deem “just”.
But that is never the reality. For life doesn’t care who you are. And trials will always exists.
In this life, we will never reach perfection of total elimination of trials.
It is for the next life that we need to strive. And in this life we will only gain the small victories that will ultimately lead toward that goal.
In the conclusion, Part Two, we will discuss why we lose our inner peace, and how to gain and retain the seemingly illusive inner peace. For the first way to address something that needs to be fixed is to recognize what is broken.