Gandhi once gave a  call-to-action, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” How have you responded?  For me, I am fully aware that unless I find peace within, I cannot provide a peaceful space for others. I cannot be a peacekeeper if I do not know how to be “peace-filled.”

My return to inner peace began with the awareness that my belief systems, thoughts, and values create the life I experience. What I now know is that as I challenge these belief systems, rather than avoid them, I open the doorway to my higher consciousness.

My inner peace was disrupted at the age of seven with the sudden death of my father.  In that moment, because it was so painful, the only way I knew how to find tranquility was by controlling my emotions and pushing the pain away.

While I thought I was fighting to maintain my inner peace, I now realize that I had abandoned it by vowing to never experience that kind of pain again.  What I didn’t realize was that in doing so, I limited my ability to be fully engaged emotionally in all of my life experiences, whether joyous or painful.

I controlled my feelings for several decades before I began to notice that my incessant resistance to feeling any pain, and my relentless need to manipulate my emotions, was becoming increasingly exhausting. The burden became so great that I simply wanted relief.

But how could I do that without feeling completely exposed, vulnerable, and open to pain? First, I found courage.I took an honest look at how I was relating to the world and determined whether or not my behavior was serving my highest good.

Second, I allowed myself to be vulnerable. I allowed myself to feel the emotions of the painful life experiences I had pushed away and most importantly, the grief I felt when my father died.  This step was crucial because once I allowed myself to feel my grief, I was able to release it.  I was astonished! It was that simple.  The suffering no longer had a hold on me.

Third, I took ownership of all of my life experiences and recognized that I created my own suffering through limited thoughts and irrational beliefs. The empowering part of this awareness was understanding that I actually possessed the full authority to choose whether to suffer under the weight of these stories or to be free from them.

No longer fearful, liberated from stifled emotions, and free from limiting thoughts, I realize that I now have the liberty to create a new beginning. The possibilities of what I can become are much greater than ever before.

To me, inner peace means having the courage to surrender control and allow myself to be vulnerable enough to embrace my own suffering.  When I embrace my suffering, I conquer it.  In that moment, healing can occurs and I am able to overcome pain in exchange for a sense of peace.

I think that having inner peace is a necessary first step for any peacemaker. We have to know peace within ourselves before we can help others find it in themselves. We have to have gone through the process of embracing our own suffering if we are going to stand a chance guiding others along that road. Aligned in harmony and “peace-filled,” I now am the peace I want to see in the world, and I am able to share that peace with the world.

by Kanoe Wheeler

Kanoe Yim Wheeler is a Relationship Manager with the Agency for Dispute Resolution. She has over 20 years of management experience in the legal field. Most recently, she worked as the Executive Director with Kabateck Brown Kellner, LLP. Prior to that, she was the Administrative Manager at Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher & Flom, LLP’s Los Angeles office where she was a key player on the Management Team supervising a support staff department consisting of over 60 secretaries.