Life is stressful. Anyone who says otherwise is either delusional, or trying to sell you something. In fact, if you ask the average person what their top goals are, chances are that “finding inner peace” will be among them, since so many of us find ourselves harried and overwhelmed on a regular basis.
Below are a few quotes that may help you to find some of the inner peace that you seek. They won’t flip a switch and suddenly transform you into a worry-free Bodhisattva, but they may prod you into a bit of introspection and personal growth, which can in turn quell some internal storms and inspire a bit more serenity.
Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.– Buddha
This may be the most important and most powerful quote you’ll read here today.
Many people make the mistake of seeking peace and tranquility in activities or experiences, from romantic relationships to intense yoga practices, in an attempt to escape their inner turmoil.
They think that by immersing themselves in something, they’ll soothe the storms within and find the peace they need… but that can never happen. It’s only by turning inward and working with one’s shadows that peace can be found.
You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.– Eckhart Tolle
You’ve probably heard the same thing from many people who have lamented the circumstances they’ve found themselves in: that once X thing happens in their life, they’ll be able to be happy. They’ll be free. They’ll be at peace.
The problem with that line of thinking is that we’ll almost always find ourselves in some situation that causes us distress.
Much like the Buddha quote above, what’s important is not trying to change your life circumstances to attain peace, but rather sorting out who you are: a spiritual being having a human experience.
Once you come to this realization, you can really focus on being present in the moment and responding to what’s going on around you with curiosity, rather than reacting to it as though being injured by circumstances that will never be within your control.
In a similar vein…
Surrender to what is, let go of what was, have faith in what will be.– Sonia Ricotti
One of the greatest sources of anguish and frustration is when people wish things weren’t as they are. You know the expression “pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional”? Exactly that. Throughout your life, you’ll find yourself in all kinds of situations, but it’s by labeling them as “good” and “bad”, or deciding that you want one kind, but don’t want another, that you’ll end up suffering.
That isn’t to say that if you’re in a bad situation you should just remain in it without taking action: rather, you can accept that you’re in a bad situation and acknowledge that action needs to be taken to change it, instead of just wishing things would change.
Accepting what is, without want or aversion, is a huge benefit to cultivating a sense of inner peace. When you’ve attained that peace, you have the calm and strength to do what’s needed to better your circumstances without anxiety or fear clouding your judgment or paralyzing you.
Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.– Thich Nhat Hanh
At any given moment, our minds are racing with hundreds of different thoughts and anxieties. “A work assignment is due. Did I remember to turn the oven off before I left the house? Is my relationship going okay? Did I say something wrong when I spoke to my kid yesterday?” etc.
This never-ending stream of worry draws us away from the present moment and forces us to freak out about things that we really don’t have any control over: that which has passed is past, and the future hasn’t been written yet.
All we have, all we EVER have is THIS moment, THIS heartbeat, THIS breath.
Return to it.
When you find your anxious thoughts spinning out of control, take a moment to just focus on your breathing: inhale for the count of four, hold your breath for the count of four, and exhale for the count of eight. Repeat several times. By focusing entirely on your breathing, you can’t help but be present, and that will still the racing worries that plague you.
Other quotes you may enjoy reading (article continues below):
Expectation is the root of all heartache.– William Shakespeare
Wise words there, Billy.
A lot of our inner turmoil comes from the fact that we are constantly creating expectations – both of ourselves, and of others – and when/if those don’t come to pass, we lose our sh*t.
It’s very, very difficult to live without expectations, but remarkably freeing if you’re able to do so. If you don’t have expectations for other people to behave a certain way (for example, as YOU would in a particular situation), then you won’t be let down when they don’t.
Same goes for life experiences: no expectations for what may happen when you’re on vacation, or in your romantic relationship. Getting attached to expectations and daydreams is a recipe for stress and sorrow, so try to let go, and come back to the present moment.
When I am able to resist the temptation to judge others, I can see them as teachers of forgiveness in my life, reminding me that I can only have peace of mind when I forgive rather than judge.– Gerald Jampolsky
This follows on the heels of the quote above, and has a lot to do with not allowing our happiness and peace of mind to depend on other people’s actions. You may find yourself frustrated with your partner, child, or co-worker for not doing the things that you feel they “should” be doing, especially when their actions (or lack thereof) have an impact on your own life… but we never really know what another may be dealing with, do we?
From an outsider’s perspective, we might see a person who isn’t communicating; who’s dropping the ball, letting us down, not allowing us to proceed with what we want in our lives. We may feel frustration, anger, and even contempt because they’re not behaving as we would.
We might not see the crippling depression they’re struggling with, or how sick family members have kept them up night after night so they’re barely able to string a sentence together, let alone communicate effectively. There are so many factors we don’t see that we cannot judge the fragments we’re privy to.
By letting go of expectations of others, we let go of our anger, contempt, and frustration. There is remarkable peace to be found in forgiveness and unconditional acceptance.
Where there is charity and wisdom there is neither fear nor ignorance.
Where there is patience and humility there is neither anger nor worry.– Francis of Assisi
When our primary focus is on our own happiness, we’ll get frustrated when our hopes, dreams, and plans don’t turn out as we’d imagined, but when we focus on other people’s happiness, we can’t help but feel joy in turn.
If we find ourselves worrying about a topic, educating ourselves about all aspects thereof can diffuse all manner of emotional upheaval… and if we’re angry and worried because plans aren’t turning out as we’d expected, coming back to the present moment and being patient with ourselves, as well as others, brings peace.
Do you have any favorite quotes about inner peace that inspire you? Feel free to share them with us by leaving a comment below.
Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec's Outaouais. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.