One reason why negative states sneak in so easily to steal our peace is that we have been conditioned to believe in their right to punish us. Here is proof of this dark conspiracy:
We can be seated at a nice quiet table in a restaurant, have enough money to buy a fine meal for ourselves, have on nice clean clothes, be by ourselves or with friends, and for all of our good fortune, we will get upset because the waiter didn't bring our toast buttered on the right side! As silly as this may sound, it's true: Negative states such as these, born of nothing other than conflict-filled, comparative thinking, steal into us to squander our peace one hundred times a day.
We do not have to yield ourselves to such meaningless states, nor live the life of the sorry self that revels in them. But emancipation will take a special effort on our part.
Following is a list for special Self-study to help get you started up the path of spiritual freedom. After a careful review of these peace-stealing conditions, take time to make a list of your own. Keep it simple. Use casual observations of yourself and others around you to be a spiritual detective.
UNMASK THE THREE THIEVES OF PEACE
One of the first thieves of our peace is spending time thinking about what others are thinking about us. Can we see that the only reason we are concerned with what others may be thinking about us is due to an imagined fear that they may have some power to take away what we are clinging to for our equally imagined peace? Let go! No one has the power to take peace away from you. It isn't theirs to give!
Another thief of peace is building a "case" against anyone for any reason. No one can steal our peace, so finding fault with another for how we feel is like falling asleep under the sun and then blaming it for the burn we get! The only way we lose our peace is when we mistakenly identify with some painful thought that would draw us into its petty life. Let go of being little. Drop whatever you have been tricked into resenting and watch peace return to take its place.
And last but not least, another common thief of peace is trying to measure ourselves. For instance, have you ever noticed how, most of the time, we cannot have a conversation with someone without walking away and measuring our own performance? Even walking through a supermarket we wonder whether people are looking at us or not, and then we act accordingly. Step out of these mental movies; their producer is the misery of self-measuring. Let go because you know that it's impossible to be self-conscious and also be at peace.
There are many other ways in which our peace is stolen, such as when we find ourselves caught up in the excited anticipation of something, good or bad, coming our way or in the endless comparison of our lives to those of others -- friends and strangers alike! Hoping to find a sense of peace in any form of comparison or anticipation is like waiting for a dark, overhead thundercloud to rain sunlight. We must aim to be this honest with ourselves in each moment.
For extra benefit, and as a way to amplify the impact of these last lessons, take a piece of paper and write down on the top of it: "Known or Possible Suspects Who Are Stealing My Peace." Then make a list of those thoughts, feelings, habits, or beliefs you have that you think need closer observation. This simple exercise will help you to exorcise those inner thieves that are intent on stealing your contentment.