Inner peace does not come from transient things such as wealth or fame. Inner peace comes from a purified mind.
There are three kinds of mental states:
1. Mental states that are unwholesome, unbeneficial and unskillful; these kinds of thoughts create bad habits that lead one away from having a purified mind.
2. Mental states that are wholesome, beneficial and skillful; these kinds of thoughts create good habits that lead one to having a purified mind.
3. Mental states that are neutral; these kinds of mental states are functional. For example, mental states that are part of the process of seeing or hearing are neutral; it is what the mind does with the sight or sound that leads one closer to or further from a purified mind.
There are three categories of unwholesome mental states
1. Mental states with a root or foundation in greed, attachment, craving and clinging
2. Mental states with a root or foundation in hatred, aversion, fear and guilt
3. Mental states with a root or foundation in delusion, ignorance and mental blindness
The mental states that are wholesome have the opposite roots; roots of generosity, loving-kindness and self-awareness.
Mental states are constantly changing; they arise naturally triggered by two things:
1. Whatever the mind is thinking about at that moment (the object of thought)
2. (Mental) Habits, tendencies or accumulations that constantly work in the background
A mind with bad habits naturally inclines toward more mental states that are unwholesome. Similarly, a mind with good habits naturally inclines toward more mental states that are wholesome. In this way, habits are naturally self-perpetuating… habits constantly reinforce themselves.
How does one break this natural cycle to nurture more good habits and diminish bad habits? Here are three strategies to train the mind:
1. Make a conscious effort to be generous. Giving money to charity is easy (but still a good thing to do). Volunteering your time for a worthy cause is more impactful in terms of developing new good habits. Do it on a regular basis for constant reinforcement.
2. Reserve ten minutes, once a day, to send thoughts of loving-kindness to people you know (start with yourself, move to individuals and then think about groups of people). Doing this regularly, ideally at the same time each day, is the key.
3. Regularly practice self-awareness or mindfulness. Observe the mind carefully to see how one thought triggers another. If whatever you are thinking about triggers unwholesome mental states, then focus on something neutral such as being mindful of your breathing. Watching how your breath flows in and out gives the mind a new object to think about, thereby stopping the mind from spinning out of control with unwholesome mental states.