When deciding to answer this question, I debated for a while about which category to post it under-- Should I talk about Psychological Peace, Relational and Familial Peace, the Peace that comes from having a good job? Finally, I realized that, whether we know it or not, all peace is a Spiritual Peace, and cannot be separated from God.
Let me also say that I am no expert on peace, I have felt it at times, and strive for it, but I am not one who always has "inner peace". I don't know if many people do though. However, anyone can talk theory, and so after much introspection, prayer, and "psycho-philo-anthro-theologizing", I have developed what I perceive to be the 5 most important elements of receiving "inner-peace". And with those caveats, forward we journey.
The 5 Steps to Peace
1) Create Purpose--Peace comes from fulfillment, and fulfillment from purpose. The first, and most general step in living a peaceful lifestyle is to create or find purpose for yourself. Find a career or job that you actually enjoy doing--money by itself will not make you happy or peaceful. I would rather work a lifetime in a job I loved, making little money, than one day in a job I hated, making a million dollars. Find hobbies that you enjoy--go fishing, make music, cook, create art. Finally, surround yourself with people that give your life meaning.
2) Integrity--Peace is impossible to have if you are always dealing with cognitive dissonance. Integrity is the congruence of value and action. In other words, if we act in accordance with our morals and beliefs, we avoid cognitive dissonance and thus will be better able to achieve inner peace. Also, in order to be integritous one must know what they believe--so take some time in your life to figure out who you are and what you believe.
3) Detachment--Detachment is a primary principle of Zen Buddhism in particular, but also has roles in many of the worlds greatest religions and spiritualities. Detachment is not a form of apathy, rather it is a realization that control of one's emotions will not be dependent on the results of an expectation. As humans, we naturally have expectations and emotions, but we also are unable to control a good majority of things in which we invest our emotions. When we become emotionally attached to the "result" rather than the idea or the process itself, we are more likely to be disappointed. Detachment takes control of our emotions and finds peace in adverse outcomes. It is not an easy concept to understand or practice.
4) Love-- Humans were created for love--it is in our nature and is one of our most basic needs (Maslow would call this "Belonging"). Therefore without both loving and being loved, it is impossible to achieve peace, as we are not living according to our purpose. The three groups of people whom we should love are Ourselves, God, and Others: if any one of these are missing then peace will be hindered by lack of personal fulfillment and cognitive dissonance. Also, a key in the step is to practice forgiveness. Forgiveness is crucial in love and peace, as harboring negative feelings towards others or yourself will prohibit positive feelings and thus peace. Note also that forgiving does not necessitate forgetting, but does require a detachment from the negative emotions concerning the act of the person whom you are forgiving.
5) Health--The last step in living a peaceful lifestyle is to make sure you are healthy. This includes your Mind, Body, and Spirit. To keep your mind healthy, engage in stimulating debate and conversation, learn new things, challenge yourself through logic puzzles, and try to see others' point of view. To take care of your body eat nutritious foods, exercise, and get adequate amounts of sleep. All of these physical aspects will release positive chemicals into your body that will make you both happy and peaceful. Finally, and most importantly, to be spiritually healthy take time for prayer and meditation, as well as cultivating healthy relationships. Since this is the part of the being from which peace emerges, it is essential that you take precious care of it.
I believe that these steps are both simple and complex--self-evident and yet revealed. I also believe that, because of the human condition, true and consistent peace is hard if not impossible to come by. It is indeed the journey of a lifetime. However, I hope that these 5 steps speak some truth to you, and that they may aid you in your journey. It all starts with a choice to live out these five steps and to start working for peace. Remember: the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.
© 2010 R D Langr
Emily on June 22, 2011:
I voted Health. Because your description of it involving Body, Mind and Spirit seems to encompass all the other categories you described :)