I used to think that peace was something that either was, or it wasn’t. It was something that was outside of me, and that I got to experience peace depending on where I found myself at any given time. I knew for sure that I was not peaceful inside, at least in my mind. For much of my life, my mind was anything but peaceful.

What I did not realize is that peace is something that can be learned, cultured and nurtured internally, in my mind and heart. I can develop my own experience of peace, as a spiritual practice.

In order to consider such a radical idea, I had to first realize that I had been giving my power away to people, to circumstances and to situations. I had been allowing things outside of myself to determine whether or not I was peaceful. I thought that was just the way things worked, until I realized that I have some choice in the matter.

Peace is an aspect of Spirit, an essential element in creation. I look to nature to learn about things, and what I see there is a largely harmonious co-existence of all life. Everything is interconnected, interwoven, and interdependent. Sure, there is life and there is death – that too is an inherent part of life’s design. But creation is not conflicted with itself. Maybe that’s a good working definition of personal peace: to be unconflicted with ourselves.

This is not to say that things aren’t going to happen in life. They will. Life is also an ongoing series of learning opportunities that are not always smooth and seamless in their design, nor in our experience of them. The ride can get a little bumpy sometimes. Sometimes, a lot bumpy. But I still have choice.

The experience of peace is not dictated by what happens in our lives. It is determined by how we choose to navigate what happens in our lives.

An Israeli teacher named Haim Ginnot speaks to this well when he writes, “I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides…”

Once I became aware of this, a new prayer presented itself to me, one that has become a very valuable tool that I now lean on, or perhaps more accurately lean into, on a regular basis. My prayer for myself is simple, and it is for a greater experience of peace of mind, and peace of heart.

I have come to the liberating conclusion that if I have that – peace of mind, and peace of heart – then I can navigate, gracefully, most any “opportunity” that comes my way.