A major obstacle to peace of mind is violent thoughts. Violent thoughts are the thoughts that harm you or others. You can be the peace lovingest, tree huggingest person there is and still upset your pursuit of peace by entertaining all kinds of violent thoughts.
The violent thoughts we think of others can be less harmful than the violent thoughts we think about ourselves. Violent thoughts about others are generally symptoms of our own suffering. Violent thoughts about others are not usually things like, I’m going to rip your arms off. They’re more like, you stupid idiot, don’t be such a moron. We may think these things about people who stand in our way for very brief moments and whom we will never see again. Yet the thoughts we have about them upset our peace. The violent thoughts we have about other people hurt them when we open our mouths, lean on our horns, or somehow convert those thoughts to actions. The unconverted thought though, still hurts us.
If we are not prone to unleashing our violent thoughts on those around us, then the violent thoughts we think about ourselves are the more damaging ones. They are damaging because we don’t know them as violent, so we just think they are the truth. These thoughts are things like: how could I be so foolish, I wish I were better looking, I’m hideous, I’m stupid, I can’t take it, I’m not good enough, nobody loves me, I wish I were dead, this sucks. When these kinds of thoughts find their way into your awareness, it is important to recognize them as violent thoughts. You’re beating yourself down with them. If you have such a thought it is not a problem. When you don’t recognize it as a violent thought and passively believe it, it becomes a problem.
Violent thoughts come with suffering. As you practice recognizing when you are suffering, you will see that suffering brings on violent thoughts. If you practice recognizing violent thoughts, you will see that they come when you are suffering. Whenever you recognize suffering in yourself or others, the desire to ease that suffering that comes with the recognition is compassion. If you notice the suffering first, you will have compassionate thoughts before violent thoughts. If you notice the violent thought, you can assume there is suffering and undo any potential damage with a compassionate thought such as, I’m sad, I’m scared, I’m bored, I made a mistake, I’m stressed, I deserve to feel peace, I need a hug. Compassionate thoughts help.
When you practice watching your thoughts you will become better and better at seeing when you are thinking violence. As you recognize the thoughts and feel compassion, you will find more peace. As you find more peace you will suffer less and you will have fewer and fewer violent thoughts to notice. You’ll still have plenty of compassionate thoughts.