It’s hard to keep calmness of mind. But there is a great payoff to remaining calm under pressure. Inner calm is actually something that we can cultivate and will reap us dividends. Norman Vincent Peale said that, “the cyclone derives its power from a calm center. So does a person.” We can actually find great power through the cultivation of calmness. So today, I wanted to talk about the benefits of keeping calm.
Benefits of Calmness
The Dalai Lama also encourages us to remain calm. He said, “A calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence,.” Calmness can help our health, our serenity and our overall wellbeing. It is important to remain calm in the face of not only adversity, but in the face of uncertainty. I don’t have to tell you that there is going to be a lot of unrest in the next few weeks. (Or in life in general!) So, the quicker we learn to be calm and train our minds, our souls and even our tongues to remain calm, the better off we’ll be.
I can’t tell you how many times as a clergy person, I’ve received an email that set me off. I had to really restrain myself from reacting to it on the spot. I had to work to remain calm under the pressure to not only respond, but to trounce my congregant and “be right.” It’s natural to get angry and to lose our inner calm, but it puts us in a negative position, and one that can have disastrous consequences for a long time. So it’s best to train ourselves to keep a calm center, no matter what is happening both inside and outside of ourselves.
When we get stressed, it sets off a chemical reaction in our bodies. In short bursts, it is okay. However, damage to our nervous system happens when stress repeats over and over. So, in a fight or flight situation, those hormones help us outrun the tiger. But keeping calm can also help us back away from the tiger. Did you see the story about the man who remained calm as he backed away from the cougar that was stalking him? I can’t make this stuff up! Here is the story: https://bgr.com/2020/10/13/cougar-attack-stalking-utah-hiking/
Calmness and Holiness – How To Cultivate a Calm Center
There’s a saying in the book of Proverbs that says, “Slowness to anger makes for deep understanding; a quick-tempered person is foolish of spirit.” It behooves us to practice calmness of mind and spirit. Here are some tips to help cultivate a calm center:
- Practice deep breathing. I never realized how much calmer I could be by breathing more deeply and filling my lungs and diaphragm with air.
- Learn how to breathe properly. In just a few deep breaths, I can begin to feel more at peace and ease. Did you ever see how a smoker inhales a cigarette? I would venture to say that when smokers stop smoking, they miss not only the rush from nicotine, but also the rush from the deep breathing of smoke from the cigarette. We can still get that rush of air from pure breath.
- We can begin to practice meditation. I’m not a huge fan of meditation. If I get 5-10 minutes of real meditation in per day, it is huge. But I find that when I begin my day with quiet focus on the breath, the day goes more smoothly. I am in less danger of getting anxious and angry. I can feel a difference on the days I take time for active meditation.
- Stay mindful. When we are aware of how we feel in any moment, we can stay connected to our souls. I find that when I am not feeling grounded, I am in danger of ‘flying off the handle.” There is a reason why we have these phrases!
- We can actively think positive thoughts to counteract the negative stimuli. If I can’t self-talk my way out of a situation that is vexing me, I can reach out to someone for help. Agitation is a “call your spiritual advisor” opportunity!
- Doing physical activity and exercise helps keep a person calm as well.
We Can Train Our Tongues To Be Calm
Not only should we train our minds and bodies to remain calm, we can also train our tongues to be calm. There’s a saying in Alcoholics Anonymous that says we should practice “restraint of tongue and pen.” This means, we should stop and pause before reacting to a situation.
- Before we lose our cool, fly off the handle, otherwise negatively emote.
- When we hit the ‘send’ button in response to an email, without letting someone else see it.
- Before we ‘unfriend’ someone on Facebook.
- Pause before we get too angry and react negatively toward someone.
These are the ways we can ruin our mood, our equilibrium and even ruin a relationship. But by practicing pausing when we get angry, we can train ourselves to slow down and not react. This gives us space and time for God to enter our hearts and our minds and help us make a different decision.
One of my favorite images is that of Michael Phelps before a swimming race. Have you ever seen him? It is like he is sitting there without a care in the world. But that is because he has practiced clearing his mind of any anxiety and practicing calm. From the time he was an anxious child, his mother read visualizations to him to help him relax and focus. At first, he would fall asleep or doze off, but eventually, he learned to train his mind to ‘see’ himself winning races. And between his rigorous training, and his diet, he added practicing relaxing and focusing techniques to his regimen, which kept him calm, cool and collected. And catapulted him to victory time after time.
We can do the same thing – we can train ourselves to remain calm under any circumstances!
A few months ago, I was getting particularly anxious about leading my congregation. Let’s face it, there is no playbook for leading a house of worship during a pandemic. My friend Mike told me the story about how General Grant acted during the Civil War Battle of the Wilderness. When Grant didn’t know what to do, he sat on his horse, smoking a cigar. In this particular battle, where both sides suffered many casualties, instead of retreating, he calmly pointed his men southward and carried on. Mike encouraged me to relax and know that I would not fail. I could remain calm, not react, but rather respond, and I would be okay. And guess what? I believed him! It seems counterintuitive to practice calm in the face of stress, but with practice and intention, it is possible.
Let me know in the comments if this was at all helpful. I know that I need these kinds of reminders – especially during times of extreme craziness. Until we meet again, may you be blessed along your spiritual journey!
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