Searching for inner peace suggests an awareness of inner turmoil, something restless within ourselves. We can easily attribute that to a myriad of modern stresses and general relational roller-coasters. But something still tells us that within all of that, there is inner peace to be found.
Once upon a time in Britain that might have been found in the Church. A place of sanctuary, a place to get away from everything and find rest. Now people see it as so restful, it might be easier to grab a bit of shut-eye than find the inner peace we crave.
So in the perceived absence of a peaceful God, where does the average 20/30-year-old go to find inner peace?
Many people I’ve come to know are looking to more eastern traditions, including Buddhism and Hinduism, with more of an emphasis on self than on God. Coupled with a move back to old European paganism, in areas of new age we see a smorgasbord of mystical tradition and practice to get to grips with. And it would seem anything goes.
Though there are many distinct areas of belief, like Buddhism, it is also fairly common to find cross-over and development of individual beliefs to find new combinations of similar names. Therefore, I’ve found it best to ask people about their own journey before I put my foot in my mouth and confuse everyone.
A popular practice in many arenas is meditation, which focuses the body, mind and soul to bring respite, peace and healing. This is done through breathing, repeating phrases or ‘mantra’, as well as focusing in on a part of your body or an imagined scene. Another aspect that attracts people to new age settings is a desired connection with the earth or nature. When we’re searching for peace I think we desire to see it in all things, ourselves and lives around us, including our environment. You often hear of people heading to the country for some head space and new age paganism offers us this connection.
In the last few years I’ve attended London’s biggest Mind Body Spirit fair and held stalls at smaller fairs in the shires of the south-west. I’ve met people from all walks of life searching for something – anything – to satisfy their soul. Many people are surprised when Christians get involved in these events. Surprised, but not averse, they don’t have a problem with the Church; they just didn’t consider it ‘spiritual’.
Maybe as a nation we’re beginning to distrust the classic ways of finding peace; through institutions and hierarchy and discovering a less prescribed but still spiritual approach to peace.
I have a number of close friends, some of whom have been involved in the Church in the past, who now class the new age community as their home. Their journey has taken them to meditations and ceremonies that connect them to each other and something higher without feeling judged or told to live a certain way.
There’s something pretty attractive about that. Low on accountability, high on affirmation. Perhaps there’s something we can learn from this? Instead of coming together and straight away pointing out our differences of opinion, we could come in affirmation of each other’s spiritual journey without presenting a list of standards to conform to in order to join the club.
A friend of mine said there was so much expectation on her to come round to a certain way of thinking and behaving that it created more inner turmoil than it solved.
I’m not suggesting we do away with discipleship or standing up for what we believe in. But what we believe in is a God of peace, a God who calms fears, brings strength and courage, who stands up for the weak and accepts us as we are in all our mess. A God of hope. If we were really doing a good job of displaying those qualities, would people be looking elsewhere?
I’m encouraged that our generation is seeking after peace in different areas of life. I love that people are standing up for creation, regardless of whether it was created or exploded. I love that people are seeking something outside themselves for wisdom, protection and peace. I love the creativity in communities that emerge to chase after peace among each other and I love that people are chasing after a somewhat elusive peace in a world of chaos, because I believe God promises just that, and will willingly give it regardless of the way it is being asked for.