Is inner peace possible, when you’re surrounded by disarray?

person sitting on rock on body of water
Photo by Keegan Houser on

 I’ve just finished reading Anne Lamott’s ‘Bird by Bird’, (which isn’t about birds!) It’s quite hilarious at times and rich in warmth and down-to-earth wisdom. At one point there is an account of her visit to a priest because she is feeling chaotic and vulnerable in her writing. She talks about the unpredictable nature of being a writer, of working  in a space where you can go from success to failure in the blink of an eye, or the turn of a page. She feels thrown by the fickle way the world responds, by never knowing how a piece will be received, wanting the positive response (of course) but not knowing what she will get, from one book or essay to the next. The priest agrees that she is in need of some peace and quiet and reflects on her search for serenity amidst all the chaos that she feels. Abbreviated, he responds as follows: “The world can’t give you that serenity. The world can’t give us peace. We can only find it in our hearts … But the good news is that by the same token, the world can’t take it away.”

“The world can’t give us peace” I have thought about this a lot. I have thought about my recent post here where for weeks I was trying to get a particular matter resolved, one that some people said was not even my problem, to the point that I felt angry and frustrated and depressed about the situation. (For anyone who has checked in on that post, the matter has thankfully since been resolved) The thing is that somehow in the midst of chaos, in a world gone wrong in so many ways, where we all need help sometimes, where you don’t know if you are going to get the response you hope for, or when the wheel will finally turn in a different direction so that we might all finally enter a different trajectory, one that moves in line with the greater good- within all the fear and uncertainty, we need to find peace as individuals in our own hearts, a kind of a still point and sense of stability. We need to find peace within an uncertain world. We need peace despite the world. And even as we often turn to the beauty and wonder of nature as our solace, we know that sadly nature is part of the world too, and we know it is at risk, under threat here too, and could be ‘taken away’ from us. So what then? Do we need to go deeper, and find other things in our hearts, other tools to help us? Maybe a spiritual life- prayer or meditation, or a passage in a book we love, a verse, an essay, a poem, something innocent that you happened to overhear: those pockets of wisdom, and gifts from the hearts and minds of those individuals that we love to see in writing or to listen to, because what they have to say just helps us to feel better about things. So yes, we figure out that there is enough wisdom in the world to offer us sanctuary. And hopefully we have enough of our own wisdom to recognise that we all need to turn to those things that make sense to us, that resonate in our hearts when the rest of the world seems so troubled and unstable.

Pantajali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga talks to us about, amongst other things, non- attachment to outcome and contentment within uncertainty (in Sanskrit: Santosa) as cornerstones to peace of mind, to peace in the heart. I try to keep that in mind, because really, we can’t rely on other people’s responses, we can’t wait for people to change, for the world to change, so that we can feel peaceful. Somehow we have to be peaceful anyway. So if I decide to get on the phone to the relevant authorities, to do my civic duty or because I believe that our natural resources need to be protected, or if I put a lost dog in my car, at physical risk to myself, and take it to the vet, that is my choice. I choose to get involved with things that are outside of my own house and home, not knowing if or when I will get a favourable response. I am doing what feels right to me anyway. That is one way to find peace in your heart: to do the right thing anyway, without being attached to outcome, and to make peace with that fact. You do the thing that your heart tells you to do, despite uncertainty, even if others don’t agree or understand. And in my experience you can always find someone who understands what you are on about. You ‘dance like no one is watching,’ because usually someone is, and they may even wish to join you. So yes, we can return to those same sanctuaries, the things we believe in and love to do or to read about or to listen to again and again especially when we feel that the rest of the world is just not on our side. And you carry on with the things that you are passionate about. The world is in fact abounding in wisdom- with words and deeds that are powerful and compelling and inspiring. And if you are looking for something to turn to for today, here is the beautiful and heartfelt Desiderata.

13 thoughts on “Is inner peace possible, when you’re surrounded by disarray?

  1. zelmare 2020-10-28 / 11:06 pm

    Peace. One of my favourite words, and probably the one thing I missed most of my life. But as I got older, I realized that I had to change certain things in my life to feel/experience peace. My reaction to certain things happening around me is one of those things. It is not easy, but I think I’m moving in the right direction. Hope you find peace too. 🌸

    Liked by 2 people

    • amandAVN 2020-10-29 / 9:49 am

      Yes, I think the idea is to grow in wisdom and peace with age! We find our way over time….

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Content Catnip 2020-10-30 / 9:51 pm

    Loved this post Amanda and I could definitely relate to all that you said. Particularly that if you dance to your own music others will join you for whom the dance resonates as well. I have read Bird by Bird too, isn’t it wonderful! she is such an inspiring woman and a great writer. Definitely agree that it takes courage and integrity to keep doing the right thing despite the disarray in the world. I think you might like a book that I am reading will do a review of it soon. It’s called Standing at the Edge and is written by Buddhist Monk and Anthropologist Joan Halifax it’s amazing

    Liked by 2 people

    • amandAVN 2020-10-31 / 1:18 pm

      Thank you! I clicked on the link, and yes this looks like one of those books that offers the kind of perspective and support that we all need in our lives sometimes. I look forward to reading your review

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Content Catnip 2020-11-01 / 6:40 am

    Thanks I should get my act together and do it soon hehe, this is motivating thank you. I hope you had a nice Samhuinn/Halloween xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • amandAVN 2020-11-01 / 10:06 am

      Yes I listened to a radio station which was featuring vintagey creepy themed music tracks for the occasion! Was quite fun. South Africa is not traditionally a Halloween country. The kids enjoy it though…. I don’t know about Samhuinn; I will have to do my research there. Hope you had a good one


  4. jkaybay 2020-11-03 / 1:19 am

    The thought that the world can’t take your peace away is an important idea.
    One to bear in mind tomorrow in the US 😛
    Can I share my new blog with you? It will focus on highlighting ethical products for people on budget – I feel that it’s an important topic as we face climate change in the face of a pandemic-induced recession.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. amandAVN 2020-11-03 / 8:56 am

    Yes, today’s proceedings will be a test for many on the ability to ‘carry on regardless’! And we need to protect our own sanity in these trying times, so we owe it to ourselves to dig deep when necessary. Good luck 🙂 And thanks for the link… I look forward to checking it out. I think it’s a great idea, well done. Budgeting is Always an issue, and it’s sad that we can’t always shop wisely because of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jkaybay 2020-11-03 / 8:29 pm

      Thanks Amanda! I appreciate your support.
      Today’s a sunny day and I’m going to go shopping for fruit and veg and hope for some good election news later 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. gabychops 2020-11-26 / 1:05 pm

    It is rare that I feel so elated after ‘stumbling’ on a new blog, but you are so inspirational and interesting that I am hooked. You commented on the very beautiful photograph of an old woman, shepherdess in a remote village in India, taken by Narayan, and that is it how I got to know of you.

    What you write, Amanda, are so much my own thoughts/convictions that I would like to ask you to be kind and look up my blog – especially as this Saturday I am writing about an author
    who is one of the greatest nature writers, with a quote by Narayan. Jasper might be interested in my post In Praise of Cats but this is not a recent one.

    Thank you.


    Liked by 1 person

    • amandAVN 2020-11-27 / 10:13 am

      Thanks for your lovely comment, Joanna, and for following my blog! I went over to yours, which looks to be something truly special, and I have specially bookmarked your post on India from last month. So rich in detail- I need to give it a proper read! I was hoping to find an About page on your blog- I enjoy getting to know a bit about the bloggers that I follow and like! I will certainly let Jasper know about In Praise of Cats- thank you 😉


  7. gabychops 2020-11-27 / 11:45 am

    My blog represents my interests. I live in England, about 30 min from London. I graduated in philology but have two years of Medical School plus postgrads in advertising, PR.
    My great passion are sciences, literature, history, and gardening, My post Spring into Summer in my Garden -revisited will show you what and how I grow everything in my organic, wildlife paradise.

    I came from a medical family, on my father’s side, mother was a poet, published. Father created a rehabilitation hospital for the children disabled by mines.

    Here is a bit about me, for you because I love your words and interests

    Thank you.


    PS Please read my post tomorrow, you will like it!
    Regards to Jasper, a very handsome cat.


    • amandAVN 2020-11-27 / 12:50 pm

      Thank you… you have an interesting history and ‘personal environment’!


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