Finding Peace

If I told you that peace can be found in a quiet room, between a stack of books at a library, in a sunlit copse of trees, on a boat in the middle of the ocean, or perhaps even in the smell of lavender or coffee, you would probably believe me, right?

Because in our minds, these are peaceful things. They seem to invite us in, they are quiet and comforting, and, whether we realize it or not, we expect them to grant their effects instantaneously. For example, wrapping your hands around a warm mug of coffee on an autumn day with the steam rising in your face is going to immediately transport you into a relaxed, if not comatose, state, is it not?

But unfortunately, peace can’t be found in a thing. It can only be found within you.

How do I know this? Well, as you know, I’m struggling to keep my blood pressure down, and one of the biggest problems I have is that I keep thinking about how high my blood pressure is. Which, as you could have guessed, raises it further (maybe if I stop talking about it every night on this blog I would see a difference?)

And if you’ve ever been told not to think about something, then I don’t have to tell you that it’s all you think about. So, knowing that I simply need to calm down and stop dwelling are two different tasks. But nonetheless, I’ve attempted to seek peace to lower my BP. I’ve hummed my favorite songs, counted my breaths, and even tried yoga positions in the shower, to no avail. I keep telling myself, All you have to do is calm down. That’s it. If you just relax, you won’t have to feel this way anymore. 

Which is all fine and good. Except, telling yourself to relax is like trying to tell an elephant not to be so large. You can’t help the way you are made. So, I have also turned to the initial methods that I described: envisioning a calm ocean, sipping on tea or coffee, and smelling lavender to distract me further. Also to no avail.

Of course, we all have a hard time realizing that peace is simply inside of us. Because we think, If I can just set the kids down for a nap or If I just take a long weekend next week or If I just drown myself in good music and good books then I can become centered and stay afloat.

But my body knows that isn’t true, and so does yours. Because the more you try to ignore your problems (like blood pressure) with meaningless images of quiet rooms or trees or situations where you can “finally” kick back, the more you stress out by trying to get there, ignoring the present moment completely. If you stop trying to find peace, ironically, you’ll find it.

Why? Because you will already be living it.

Blood Pressure on an Elevator

So, after two weeks of dieting, I have another food allergy!

You wouldn’t think that I would be excited about that. But it can really give you a new outlook on life when you realize how much stuff you can’t eat anymore. It makes you appreciate the stuff you can eat. (Okay, when I’m not poring over nutrition labels, praying I don’t see the one ingredient I am looking for and weeping over empty pizza boxes without being allowed to taste their contents.) Then, I am pretty excited about my new food allergy.

What I’m upset about is my blood pressure is still high. Like really high. And this can come from a variety of influences, obviously. Stress being one of the largest. So, I’ve been trying yoga, sniffing lavender, and counting breaths, but to no avail. It is still rather elevated, which is making me feel rather down in the dumps. I can’t seem to find a way to calm down enough to see some low numbers. Even talking about it now, I’m stressed.

And don’t get me started on that blood pressure cuff. Really, who invented that? Oh, I know, let’s make people really uncomfortable so that we can tell if they have a healthy stress level! I can’t stand that tightening feeling, or the sudden rush of all my blood through my arm so loud I can almost hear it as well as feel it. The act of taking my blood pressure makes me stressed out, which, as you might have guessed, does not give me good results.

So, why does this matter to you (other than documenting a case of some severe TMI from me)? It’s because there is a really important lesson wrapped up in this, coursing through the veins of the matter, if you will.

It’s the simple idea that if you over think something, it becomes harder to attain. I mean, have you ever tried to “calm yourself” down while sitting in that doctor’s office? What about trying to “slow your heart rate” when the nurse is squeezing that little torture device that makes the cuff constrict on your arm? It’s really hard, isn’t it? Actually, it’s damn near impossible. There is a reason for that (and maybe even an app for it, too).

It’s because you are focusing on what makes you stressed, when you should be letting everything go. Simple, right? So, you just have to think about something else…except that’s hard, too. Really, it’s the moment that we ask “What? Me? Angry?” when there is a vein throbbing in our forehead. These are the moments we all need to pay attention to more. The times when our emotions don’t really match our thoughts.

In the end, we need to stop forcing it (whatever “it” may be in your life) and start letting some things come naturally.

So, if you want to relax, if you want to calm down, if you want to be at peace, then put down the lavender and listen. But don’t listen to me. Listen to yourself and your own needs. After all, unlike your age, your blood pressure isn’t just a number. It’s a greater expression of the number of breaths you may be able to take in this life, so every single. one. counts.