5 Steps to Living Peacefully When You Don't Like Your Circumstances

Immaculée Ilibagiza survived the Rwandan massacre by hiding in a tiny bathroom with 5 other women for 3 months. She not only survived, but also found incredible peace in the midst of insane circumstances. She came to know deeply that God was with her and that she was safely held and loved. In that teensy bathroom she got the vision that she would survive, learn English and go to work for the UN.

She did all of that and more. You can read her story in Live To Tell. 

1. Identify Your Circumstance

What, exactly, is it that's bothering you? Nailing it down exactly is a huge relief. When you have a vague sense that something sucks, it's easy to look at everything negatively.

Are you running late?

Carrying 25 extra pounds?

Feeling ignored and lonely in your relationship?

Working at a job you can’t stand?

Struggling to make money in the business you’re pretty danged sure is what you’re supposed to do?

2. The Upside of Crisis

Imagine that you have no choice but to be peaceful in the middle of your situation.

It’s easier to behave skillfully–with grace, compassion, and serenity during crisis than it is during a normal day. When my son, Max, was 5 weeks old, he got really sick from RSV. He was hospitalized  for 10 days, several of which he spent in Intensive Care. 

I was pretty calm during that whole thing. It was so clear that if I lost my cool and participated in hand-wringing and drama, I wouldn’t be able to be totally present and advocate for him when he needed it.

However, give me a regular ole Tuesday and it’s much easier to lose focus. So many other things have my attention and, because the stakes are much lower, I’m more likely to engage in drama than I was when I was in real crisis.

3. Accept Your Situation

Change only happens from a place of love and acceptance. Accepting doesn't mean that you have to keep your situation. As long as you argue with reality by saying that something shouldn't be the way it is, you'll feel frustration and tension.

You can be happy and not like your circumstances. I'm sure Immaculée didn't like living in a bathroom for 3 months. I didn't like watching my baby struggle to breathe. Yet there was peace in the middle of it.

4. Play-Act

Pick someone you admire and handle your situation like you imagine they would. Pretend that you are them with your specific circumstance. 

How would Pema Chodron behave if she was 15 minutes late? 

What would Mother Teresa do with 25 extra pounds?

If Immaculée didn't like her job, how would she handle it?

5. Visualize

Imagine yourself in your negative circumstances. And imagine yourself in peaceful circumstances. Now Imagine that you feel that peace in the middle of the negative situation. How would you act and feel? Walk through it in your mind. If you can cross the peaceful feeling with the situation you don't like, even in your mind, you're on your way to practicing it in real life.


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