Catching It Early
The greatest chance you have at keeping internal peace is to catch the suffering when it arises.
We all know it's hard, oftentimes impossible, to snap out of a bad state. Someone cuts us off in traffic, the boss critiques our performance, or worse, we're diagnosed with a serious medical condition. When these things happen to us, our conditioned response takes over, the outcome of which is rarely beneficial.
However it manifests - whether it's getting tense, angry, anxious, or sullen - the net result is that we fall into a state of suffering. First comes the physical response, and then to perpetuate the matter, the mental narrative follows suit. That is, our minds create a story around whatever happened and what it means for our individual life. This keeps the cycle of suffering in motion.
The quickest, and arguably easiest way to get out of this cycle, is to simply catch it early when it arises. Of course, in order to do this, you must be aware.
That's where meditation and spiritual practices come into play. They invite you to look within and witness the inner turmoil taking place. Without this inward attention, you simply don't notice what's taking place. It's no different than not knowing what's going on behind you. You're not looking.
When you get in the habit of looking inward, regardless of what you're doing in the outer world, you gain the wisdom needed to take control of your inner state.
For example, let's say you're in a particularly draining business meeting. You're confused, people are talking over each other, and you can't seem to get a word in. I've certainly been there before.
During this meeting, as soon as something sets you off, you have a choice. Fail to notice the inner turmoil while it takes over, or, you work to immediately let it go. Let what go? Let your resistance to whatever is happening in the meeting go.
Someone said something that upset you. Fine. In this moment, your body will probably feel some uncomfortable sensations, and your mind will start shouting back. You didn't do that. Your body and your mind did. So what can you do in this situation? You can step in and say no, no I'm not going there. You can relax and release this tension before it gains complete control.
You can continue, moment by moment, to relax your body, take deep breaths, and bring your attention back on the meeting. Each moment is a new opportunity to let go of the garbage going on inside of you, and instead to serve whatever life is giving you in the moment.
Your journey to inner fulfillment starts with you paying attention to the energy shifts taking place within. It starts with you noticing just how much trouble your mind gives you.
Sure, you could argue that our minds are just trying to protect us, looking out for any potential threats. While this is generally true, there comes a point when we have to step in and gain control, particularly when there is no immediate physical threat. We need to get good at discerning physical threats to our bodies from psychological threats to our egos.
In the end, the ego must die. That's what it means to die to be reborn.
In order to free yourself from the suffering of the egoic mind, you must learn to let go of it, essentially killing off that part of your self. This doesn't necessarily need to happen all at once. In fact, it rarely does for people who are earnest in their pursuits of inner fulfillment. However, it can happen over time, especially when you learn to catch it early.
Live with substance!