For so many people, the events around us have evoked a great deal of anger, fear and confusion — and a widespread increase in “us versus them.” It’s understandable that we would feel strong emotions these days, and that it’s a time for speaking and standing up for what we believe in. But how do we find balance when anger or sadness take hold? How do we take care of ourselves and keep our fears from overwhelming us? How do we keep judgment and frustration from getting between us, from robbing ourselves of inner peace and joy?
Regardless of the circumstances around us, creating peace and happiness begins with realizing that we as humans have been given THE POWER OF FOCUS. No other species has the free will to go above instinct, to pause and reflect between stimulus and response. We possess the gift of our human mind, to decide where to focus our thoughts and energy — no matter how difficult the situation is. As Viktor Frankl puts it so well, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Let’s talk about four specific ways we can all use our “Power of Focus” to create inner peace and joy, especially during emotionally tumultuous times.
1. FOCUS INWARD
It’s a most basic human tendency to focus outside ourselves to try and fix problems — or people. It’s counter-intuitive, but as Karen Berg so wisely says, “Sometimes going forward actually means going inward.” Inner peace creates outer peace, not the other way around.
For example, if we find ourselves feeling angry or victimized, even if for justifiable reasons, we benefit most by looking inside and asking ourselves, "What is behind this strong reaction I’m having?" Many of our easy-to-access emotions are only covering deeper, core issues that benefit us greatly to bring to the surface where they can be understood and healed. When we gain an understanding of why we have these strong feelings, we can begin to create a more loving and empowering relationship with our self. This is how we create peace in our outer lives, by first focusing inward to see where we lack peace within ourselves. And since we can’t change what we can’t see, we want to build our appreciation for the powerful opportunity that each difficulty brings us.
2. FOCUS ON THE NOW
When we are angry or regretful about the past, or worried about the future, we lose our focus on the present — which is the only true place we find inner peace and happiness. We also find our greatest strength in the present — as fear has no power over us in the now. And according to the laws of cause and effect, it’s only by being in the present that we can plant positive seeds. Learning how to find a calm place inside oneself can help us live more in the present. Many find it helpful to practice some form of meditation, and there are many forms to explore. Find what suits you best, whether that be transcendental meditation, praying, mindfulness, reading spiritual books, yoga, journaling, working out, sitting in the quiet, walking in nature, and/or listening to music.
3. FOCUS ON WHERE YOU CAN EFFECT CHANGE
Don't stop caring about or taking action toward what you believe in, but keep your focus on where you can make a difference. If something is out of your control, don’t be present with it, don’t give it energy. Be on guard against the temptation to jump in on a judging fest or angry debates on Facebook. Better to focus on what you appreciate and value in your life, on where you want to affect change. Then do something positive and caring towards that something or someone — or group of someones.
Focus on your own personal changes you need to make to become the best you. Our greatest power is in becoming who we want to become. We use little to no effort when we focus on judging and pointing fingers. Ancient wisdom teaches us, again and again, that we can do far greater work and have a longer-lasting positive change in the world when we focus on changing ourselves first.
4. FOCUS ON TRUST
It’s important to trust yourself, and the process of life, regardless of the difficulties you face. We all have what we need to get through our challenges, and when we doubt ourselves, this can cause our strong emotions to feel endless and overwhelming. Many find that focusing on and deepening their spiritual path, which can take many forms, helps to build certainty and trust. Based on whatever it is that inspires you, try creating empowering mantras. I'm a big believer in actually saying these out loud, because this practice brings us that much closer to manifesting. You can really feel the difference. Here are some examples that might build greater trust in yourself and in your life:
- "I love and approve of myself."
- “Regardless of the difficulty in front of me, I have everything I need to prevail.”
- "Every circumstance is a chance for me to become closer to who I want to be."
- “All I can do is my best — and my best is good enough.”
- “Everything I face is to bring me to another level of spirituality.”
- "My consciousness plays a major role in my success."
- “I choose happiness and appreciate the many blessings I have.”
- “I am right where I need to be.”
- "I trust the process of life to bring me to my highest good."
I actually collect these, so please feel free to share some favorites of your own. :)