Clarity with Inner Peace

Yoga for inner peace in breast cancer recovery

Often in a yoga class, the teacher will say at the beginning of class “Set your intention for the practice”, and I think this is a great way to focus your mind on something that is important to you, rather than letting the mind run off on your grocery list, or what you should have said to that jerk who was argumentative with you yesterday, or whatever other wild stuff our minds tend to do. We are taught to set the intention in the present (ie “I am xxxxxx”, rather than “I will be xxxxx”), to just go ahead and bring it to life in the now, rather than imagining something that might happen in the future. And of course, you can choose any intention you want, be it “I am healthy”, “I am resilient”, “I am content in the now”, “I am loving awareness”, “Abundance flows to me”, “I trust in the universe”, or whatever speaks to you. You choose what you want to embody, and then you use the energy of the practice and your focus during the practice to help make it so.

For me, pretty much every time I hear “Set your intention”, the word PEACE is what comes to me. Inner peace seems to be the thing that I hope the cultivate the most. Of course, other intentions come up occasionally, but “I am peaceful” is far and away the most common. Inner peace, to me, carries with it so many things that I want to develop more of in my life. As Rumi says in the quote in the photo, when we develop inner peace, allowing the waters to settle, an intense clarity comes along with it. This clarity helps us see things as they are, without all of our emotional overtones clouding or distorting the truth. And it also helps us to see the big truths, like the moon and stars mirrored in our own being, rather than just staying stuck in the weeds of small thoughts and concerns. And of course, seeing the big truths with clarity will help us to know what we truly want out of life and how to get there.

This image of settled water and clarity, or clear reflections off of still water, is used often, and I find it a great analogy to our human predicament. When we are stirred up and agitated, of course we can’t see or think clearly because our emotions and thoughts don’t allow it. But if we can take a few deep breaths, and find that space of inner peace, often we see the situation in a completely new light, finding clear and easy solutions to our questions that, before, were really stumping us.

One could also think of the concept of inner peace and how that state affects our nervous system. You know I’m fascinated by the phenomenon of sympathetic system overdrive (which happens with chronic stress) and all of the bad things that happen in our bodies with that (chronic inflammation, cardiovascular disease, mood disorders, immune system dysfunction, and on and on). Sympathetic overdrive would be analogous to a turbid, stormy sea, with big waves disrupting the stillness of the water. The parasympathetic system, on the other hand, is active and balancing out that sympathetic activity when we are in a state of inner peace, when the storm calms and the waters settle. And when the parasympathetic system can achieve this balance, the body has the clarity to heal itself.

And finally, maybe in the simplest terms, I just feel better when I am able to cultivate this sense of inner peace. It just doesn’t feel good to be agitated, stressed, angry, fearful, and disturbed. So why would we allow ourselves to stay in those places if we had the choice. And fortunately, most of the time, we DO have a choice. We may not realize it when we are in the midst of some upset. But we can learn to notice quickly when we get off track, and to respond calmly and intelligently to right our own course. (See the video on Meditation to learn more about programs like Mindfulness Based Cancer Recovery and how they teach us to do this).

In summary, cancer and cancer treatment sure can feel like a huge never-ending tsunami, which distorts and agitates the water of our being. But we can learn to restore inner peace and tranquility, stillness to our waters. And this inner peace will help us have more clarity of mind, to be physiologically healthier in our bodies, to heal, and to just feel better. Yoga can help us get there. See you on the mat.

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