What is spiritual peace and how do we attain it? The word ‘spiritual’ is from the Latin spiritus, meaning ‘of breath’. Peace is ‘freedom from disquieting thoughts’. Spiritual peace therefore means ‘breath that is free from disquieting thoughts’.
Of all the breaths you take each minute, how many are free from disquieting thoughts?
Our lack of spiritual peace
“The average person has 2,000 to 3,000 thoughts a day. 60 percent of the these are in chaos. The superstar athlete has only 1,100 to 1,300 thoughts a day. They eliminate worry, envy, jealousy, embarrassment and anger. The superstar thinks a lot less and holds a thought longer.” – Performance coach Jim Fannin
Using Jim Fannin’s description of an athletic superstar, we can be our own spiritual superstars by doing two things:
- Think a lot less
- Hold a thought longer
How to think a lot less
How do we go from 3,000 thoughts a day to less than half of that? Since about half our thoughts are of the negative, chaotic, or disquieting kind, we can start by eliminating these.
This doesn’t we become ‘slow’ or limited mentally. In fact, it’s the opposite. By choosing to think a lot less, we are exercising more mastery over our minds and spirits than a person who has no control over their thoughts at all.
Here are a few ways to reduce the number of thoughts going through our minds each day:
1. “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.”
By controlling our tongue, we can discipline our thoughts. Try this for just one day. I did, and that day I hardly spoke at all! If you think about people who are spiritual masters, you’ll probably find that they speak little, and when they do they speak gently.
2. Stop watching TV
TV bombards our minds with an endless stream of input, most of which is not positive. I kicked the TV habit years ago and it did wonders for my happiness. And I’ve never heard of any spiritual master who spends a lot of time watching TV.
3. Be still for 10 minutes a day
This is a very simple form of meditation in which you just have to sit still for about 10 minutes a day. When you find a thought floating into your mind, observe it from a distance and let it float out again. One easy way to have a still mind to to light a candle and watch the flame. The mind can hold only one idea at a time. So when it’s focused on the dancing light, other thoughts are less likely to intrude.
How to hold a thought longer
Once we’ve halved the number of thoughts we have by eliminating the negative half, we need hold the remaining positive thoughts longer. Tthese are practical ways to do that.
1. Read and reflect
In some religious traditions like the lectio divina, we are taught to read a passage from Scripture and pause to reflect on what that means to us. I’ve used this method when reading secular works like novels, autobiographies, or newspapers. You can pause any time to reflect on what you’ve just read, thus prolonging the mind’s focus on that subject.
2. Write down the thought
When a meaningful thought comes to me, I grab my journal and start writing. It takes more time to write down a thought than to merely think it. Furthermore, the writing process usually crystallises and fleshes out the thought even more.
3. Repetition of a phrase
Monks chant mantras when they meditate. Athletes repeat instructions or personal war cries over and over again. Others have discovered the power of affirmations. and some people use daily affirmations. Find something that inspires you, and repeat it to yourself over and over again throughout the day.
Spiritual peace and quiet
Thinking less and holding a thought longer help us to declutter our minds of disquieting thoughts and fill them with more positive, useful thoughts. We can breathe freely with a quiet mind, and this is what spiritual peace means.