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Five tips for acquiring and maintaining peace of mind

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Aliénor Strentz - published on 01/06/24

In today's restless society, you really have to go against the grain to find and keep peace of mind. Here are five keys to the path to peace and holiness.

God became a little child to save humankind and bring them peace. How can we make this peace our own throughout the year? According to St. Seraphim of Sarov, obtaining and keeping peace of heart is the primary objective of our Christian life. 

1
ACCEPT AND REJOICE IN OUR POWERLESSNESS

There are many reasons for losing peace, but none of them are good (even if they may be legitimate!). We worry that our projects aren’t progressing as quickly as we’d like, we fear the various dangers of life for ourselves and even more so for our family, we lose patience and frequently become annoyed at the behavior of someone close to us, or we worry endlessly about this or that decision to be made. This is just a brief sampling of our many possible worries, which often boil down to a single one: we’d like to control everything, which is literally impossible.

This desire for control can even find expression in our spiritual life. We become discouraged and lose our peace when we realize that we keep falling into the same sins. We are troubled by scruples, but these scruples are sometimes more the sign of wounded pride than of a true awareness of having offended the love of God and neighbor. Perhaps this is why St. Thérèse of Lisieux wrote that the greatest thing the Lord had done in her soul was “to have shown her her smallness, her powerlessness.”

So, to have peace of heart, the first key is to leave behind our egocentrism and focus on the merciful love of the Father who always forgives us and raises us up after our falls. By rejoicing in our helplessness like the greatest saint of modern times, we accept the idea of falling and making mistakes without grieving inordinately, since we know that our offenses are “but a drop of water in a burning fire” of love.

2
ANCHOR OUR PEACE IN CHRIST ALONE

A second key to acquiring peace of heart is to seek it where it truly is, and not elsewhere! If we expect peace from the whole world being at peace or from favorable circumstances in our own lives, then we’ll never have peace, or at least it will be ephemeral and full of illusions. Who can assure us that our plans will come to fruition as we wish, that we will always be in good health, or that our country will still be at peace tomorrow? More prosaically, bad weather can annoy us for a good part of the year. As these simple examples show, external circumstances cannot guarantee us serenity and peace.

Our peace must rest on a rock far more solid than external circumstances, one that is unshakeable. That can only be Christ himself, his unconditional love for us, and faith in his promises, including victory over evil and death. We can confidently repeat to ourselves the words of the apostle Paul (Romans 8:35-37): “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (…) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

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3
DAILY RENEWAL THROUGH PRAYER

The prophet Elijah learns on Mount Horeb that God is not to be found in a hurricane, earthquake, or fire, but in the “sound of sheer silence” (1 Kings 19:11-12). This is a lesson in humility for the prophet, who has just realized shortly before that he is “no better than his ancestors” (1 Kings 19:4).

To keep the peace of our hearts, we must offer our vulnerability to the Lord, and receive his divine peace from him alone. He has assured us in the Gospel that he “leaves us peace, that he gives us his peace” (Jn 14:27). To receive it, we need to spend a special time with God every day. It’s in silent prayer that we can draw from his very Heart the peace, serenity, and joy we need to face all life’s trials. We can also simply pray to him: “Father, you know what I need. I’m handing this complicated situation over to you. I don’t want to worry. Keep my heart in peace.”

4
SLOWING DOWN TO LIVE MORE MINDFULLY

We live in a rush. We struggle to wait in lines because we feel we’re “wasting our time.” We’re also impatient when it comes to fulfilling our most cherished projects. How many single people, for example, are overly concerned that they still haven’t yet found their soulmate! All this impatience is very human, but it testifies to a lack of trust in God’s providence and perfectly controlled timing.

We sometimes want the right thing, but in the wrong way. Certainly, St. Martha wanted to receive Jesus with all due honor, but her eagerness, coupled with self-love and a touch of jealousy towards her sister, did not please the Lord. (Lk 10:41).

In the same way, we can lose our peace at work because we’re afraid of missing deadlines. But it’s precisely when stress mounts that we should take a break, get some fresh air, close our eyes and breathe deeply for a few minutes to synchronize the rhythm of our breathing with that of our heart, and above all place our heart in God’s hands.

MINDFULNESS

Thus, a fourth key to keeping our hearts at peace is to deliberately slow down our actions and words, to live them more mindfully. Fr. Jacques Philippe, who writes about peace of heart, advises us to follow St. Thérèse de Lisieux’s secret of holiness. This means doing “little things out of love,” “quietly and without nervousness” and avoiding “excessive haste.” These are what he calls “small gestures of collaboration with grace” which will enable us, day after day, to keep our hearts and minds centered on Jesus Christ.

5
WORK ON YOURSELF WITHOUT GETTING DISCOURAGED

A fifth key to nourishing peace within ourselves is to become aware of our weaknesses and failings, and to work on ourselves without becoming discouraged. By getting to know ourselves better, we can discern the reason or reasons why we regularly lose our peace. Do we lack trust in Providence? Are we afraid of suffering? Do we care about human judgment?

Whatever the case, God does not want us to live a life of fear and withdrawal. We can entrust our anxieties to God and let Him help us to overcome these fears by taking small daily steps. Some of our experiences may have been particularly painful, and we might need to work harder on ourselves to gain peace. But it will be a peace all the more mature for having triumphed over life’s difficulties. 

Finally, what better thing can we offer our suffering brothers and sisters than a peaceful, trusting and joyful heart, a reflection of the Father’s love for each of his children?

Tags:
Catholic LifestylePeaceSpiritual Life
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