“If you cannot be compassionate to yourself, you will not be able to be compassionate to others.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Day 20 Prompt: Tell us the story of your most-prized possession.
Today has been the best day I have had in a while because I have felt a genuine sense of peace.
As I thought about what to write for today’s prompt, I realized that the thing I treasure the most is not a thing at all, or even a person; it is my own peace of mind. This may seem somewhat self-centered at first glance, as if I only care about myself and what makes me happy; however, that assumption could not be farther from the truth.
For many years, I sought peace of mind in the ways in which most people do – by my experiences, by the things I acquired, the places I’ve been, and by the people who came into my life. Don’t get me wrong, all of these “things” have shaped me in one way or another. It is just that none of them define who I am as a person, any more than an ocean can be defined by the ships that pass through its ports each day. If I don’t have peace of mind, it doesn’t matter how big my house is, how great my job is, how many exotic places I’ve traveled, or how many wonderful people I know.
At an early age, I began to realize circumstances in life could be unfair and cruel. I spent many years questioning how someone like my mom, who was trying to be a good wife and a good mother, could end up with an illness that caused her so much pain and frustration. I was confused by some of the explanations I received, like that God was testing us/her, or that maybe her illness happened because of lack of faith, or because she had sinned. Even worse was the thought that perhaps life was futile and meaningless, and none of it mattered anyway.
As time passed, I figured out that perhaps I had been asking the wrong questions. Instead of focusing on why this happened, I could be asking how do I make peace with what has happened? How can I live a life that isn’t contingent on circumstances being the way I wanted them to be at all times? How can I learn to find peace when things go wrong and I don’t get what I want? How can I find peace when I realize the things I spent a lifetime acquiring won’t bring back a lost loved one, or heal a broken heart?
What I’ve found is that peace of mind isn’t about the big things in life. It is about focusing on all of the little things that I can do each day to make my world a little better. It isn’t about comparing myself to what others are doing. It is about being okay with doing the things I need to do to take care of myself. It is about finding ways to accept who I am today, in this moment.
Part of being human is to suffer at times, and to experience great joy at times. That is why I am most thankful for the moments in which I do have peace of mind.
When I experience peace of mind, it is a gift that allows me to think more clearly and make better decisions. It is a gift that allows me to treat people better and to understand their vulnerabilities. It is a gift that allows me to give more freely to others and to myself.