Looking for Peace in a Frantic World?
The answer may be just outside your door.
Posted May 13, 2017
The solid earth is our foundation.
The calm center prevails in a whirlwind.
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching).
Over twenty-five centuries ago, Lao Tzu discovered a calm center of peace wandering in the woods, observing the patterns in the water, the wind, and the changing seasons. He recorded his insights in the ancient Chinese book of wisdom, the Tao Te Ching, which has been translated more than any book in the world except the Bible. We can experience the peace of nature for ourselves by walking in a nearby park or finding inspiration in our gardens like many leaders of the past, including Thomas Jefferson and Winston Churchill.
Although spending time in nature seems far removed from the daily whirlwind of life, psychological research has revealed nature’s profound effect on our physical and emotional well being. Relieving stress, dispelling depression, and aiding recovery from physical illness, nature strengthens and heals us on many levels (Kaplan & Kaplan, 1990).
In our culture of 24/7 connectivity, incessant demands, and imbalance, too many people become workaholics, so exhausted and numb that they don’t know when to stop (Kesebir & Kesebir, 2017). Amid life’s hectic demands, it takes courage to acknowledge your own needs and discipline to set aside time to spend in nature.
Can you find ways to reconnect with the natural world by:
- Taking a walk in a nearby park during your lunch hour?
- Stepping outside for a break, taking a deep breath, letting the fresh air fill your body?
- Spending a few moments in your garden?
- Enjoying a hike or picnic on weekends?
Mindful people respect their personal resources and their own natural rhythms. As wise stewards of their energies, they know when to spring forward to meet a challenge and when to recharge.
To become more aware of your own energies, the next time you notice your mind and body racing, take a deep breath and ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”
- Is this a real emergency or just mindless reactive behavior?
- If it’s an emergency, your body’s fight or flight reaction will serve you well.
- But if it’s reactive, frantic behavior--stop,
- Take another deep breath,
- And ask yourself, “What do I really need right now?”
It might just be a welcome break—taking a moment to step outside, stretch, go for a walk, or pause to look up at the sky.
Becoming more aware of your own energies and recognizing your connection to the natural world will help you stop mindlessly reacting, gain greater perspective, and discover your own center of peace.
Kaplan, R. & Kaplan, S. (1990). Restorative experience: The healing power of nearby nature. In M. Francis & R.P. Hester, Jr. (Eds.). The Meaning of Gardens (pp. 238-243). Cambridge, MA: M.I.T. Press.
Kesebir, S. & Kesebir, P. (2017). A growing disconnection from nature is evident in cultural products. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12, 258-269.
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, chapter 26. Translation by Diane Dreher. For contemporary insights into leadership, personal balance, and the ancient wisdom of the Tao, see Dreher, D.E. (1996). The Tao of Personal Leadership. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
Diane Dreher is a best-selling author, positive psychology coach, and professor at Santa Clara University. Her latest book is Your Personal Renaissance: 12 Steps to Finding Your Life’s True Calling.