Barb Schmidt has studied with notable figures in spiritual circles from the East and West. Credit: Jeffery Tholl
Barb Schmidt had it all: a business empire, beauty, a handsome husband — the good life. But she also had a problem, and when it led her to seek therapy she found the happiness that had been missing all along.
“As a child, I wanted to obtain everything – money, fame, riches. So when I got all of that and still wasn’t happy, I didn’t know what was missing,” Schmidt says.
She didn’t realize that she had a problem until reading about the death of Karen Carpenter, of the singing duo The Carpenters, at age 32 of anorexia - and realizing she could face the same fate.
“Bulimia is one of those diseases that takes a big physical and mental toll,” she says. “My inner voice said, ‘You need to get help, this is a problem.’”
Therapy “had to crack me open,” she recalled, and the regimen didn’t allow any contact with the outside world. So, she began to explore her inner world.
“You’re reading, you’re going inward, you’re purging all these feelings and events that happened in your life,” she says. “When I left treatment, it propelled me on this search to stay clean from bulimia, but also propelled me to deepen my conscious concept of God.”
With that goal in mind, Schmidt sought out the books and teachings of spiritual leaders from around the world like Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, Deepak Chopra, and spiritual and political activist Marianne Williamson, among others. Her new book, “The Practice,” a three-part guide to daily life and cultivating inner peace, is the culmination of 30 years of education and the motivation behind Schmidt’s wellbeing nonprofit Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life.
By structuring her method around how she’s applied them during her own life experiences, “The Practice” is more self-help autobiography than a strict guidebook.
“If I want to reach people, I need to be able to share anything about me,” she says, and that includes the sudden death of her first husband and the painful loss of her father. Dealing with these difficult times “really says to any person that picks up the book or any person who wants to follow a path that it can be done.”
"The Practice" is available now. Credit: HCI Books
And because you’re not going to find inner peace anywhere but inside yourself, “The Practice” is about spring cleaning the soul of some bad habits.
Get to know yourself One of Schmidt’s goals is to “demystify” meditation and reduce it to the simple act of shutting out all distractions and being with yourself. “The more we do that sitting process the more we get connected within, and the more we find that inner strength,” she says. “We don’t have the impatience, the anger and the violence that surround us.”
Make your mind your ally For many people, being left alone with their inner thoughts just brings more frustration and a need for distraction. “The mind is at the root of our heartaches; the mind will tell you you’re not good enough,” she says. But negative and positive thoughts can’t coexist; you decide which path to take. “I want my mind to be my friend.”
Stop trying to control everything The irony of the brain, our logic center, is that it tries to control the external world, where it is powerless. “What I found is that I can be in charge of my internal world, intercept the negative thoughts with affirmation, mantra or breath,” Schmidt says. Acknowledge your limits and choose how you respond to a situation.
The three steps
Waking Up: “For five minutes, collect yourself, get to know yourself. Let the energy of your body and your heart connect. Start with peace and strength to ground yourself, and you’ll carry that connectedness - a deep sense of knowing that you can handle anything - all day.”
Living Present: “When you’re talking with someone, be there with them. When you’re watching TV, pay attention to the program. Train your mind to be present. When you recognize them, ordinary moments can become extraordinary.”
Letting Go: “We can look back on the day and take a different action tomorrow, but we can’t change anything that’s happened. Take note of what happened - good or bad - and learn from it, then go to sleep without conflict.”