I tend to feel vulnerable as the holiday season approaches – especially since becoming a entrepreneur. It is a time when I reflect on the uncertainty of the upcoming year within my business and of course there is always the worry of paying the holiday bills and managing my cash flow. I know I am not alone in experiencing these feelings of uncertainty. I came across this blog post from Tiny Buddha that I found helpful and I thought perhaps it would help you as well.
“All great changes are preceded by chaos.” ~Deepak Chopra
A personal tempest blew through the doors and windows of my life and I am forever changed. Think major upheaval in every area of your life. Conjure Dorothy Gale, Robinson Crusoe, Job, yeah them.
In the process, I’ve learned that the disorienting storms of life are not just about survival but of learning to thrive. It is not in spite of daunting circumstances that we grow but because of them.
For three years, painful and unexpected events descended all at once. My long-term marriage, often filled with anger, hurt, mistrust, and not surprisingly, a lack of intimacy, was imploding. My teenage son, who had been very ill, was hospitalized.
In the midst of this, my three children and I moved from our family home of 20 years to a new town. When things seemed to quiet down, my eldest daughter was diagnosed with a chronic and life altering disease. Oh, yes, and I was restarting a career.
Chaos. The utter confusion left in in its wake caused me to stop and reevaluate many of my assumptions about myself and life.
What made this period even more difficult to endure was a sense of abandonment by some whom I thought would always be there, yet perhaps through a sense of helplessness or their own fears could not. Maybe they thought I was contagious. I started to wonder about that myself.
The irony of all of this was, through the lens of the outside world, my life had been seemingly idyllic before. Or had it?
I began to see that my tendency to avoid chaos at all costs lead me right into the belly of it. As humans, we desire harmony and seek order, in our surroundings, our relationships, and in our daily routines. We all crave certainty.
I found the paradox is that when you cling to the illusion of safety, you chain your ability to change.
I also discovered several anchors that kept me grounded in the midst of feeling uprooted. In fact, they never failed me.
Here is what I’ve learned that “worked’ consistently:
This is a difficult concept to grasp on an emotional level. This is because when we are experiencing turmoil, we are hard wired evolutionarily to fight or to flee. This response served us very well when we were being chased by a saber tooth tiger.
Unfortunately, it creates more conflict internally. It takes courage to allow strong uncomfortable feelings, whether they be grief, anger, or loneliness to just be, instead of trying to force them away. But acceptance brings relief.
Someone once told me to meditate as if my life depended on it. I do, because it does. Desperation does wonders. My more formal practice consists of 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the early evening, sitting quietly and focusing on my breathing. If my mind is especially active on any given day, I use my “mantra” (the word joy) as I breathe.
Throughout the day, I strive to practice mindfulness, which simply means to bring my full presence to all that I do. Conscious attention to each activity and interaction brings a calm to my mind and heart. It brings me back to myself.
Another meditation technique I found to be extremely helpful during a sea change of hard times is the meditative practice called tonglen.
Our pain can feel such a heavy burden at times. Tonglen helps by easing the sometimes intense sense of our own suffering by powerfully connecting us with the struggles of others.
Instead of primarily focusing on our own set of difficulties, we purposefully visualize and take on the suffering of others on the in-breath and release happiness for them on the out breath.
It may sound counterintuitive, but I found it relieved me of my own sense of isolation and gave me the gift of perspective. It also helps me to develop greater compassion for myself and others.
3. OBSERVE NATURE.
When a storm is coming, they hunker down. They prepare the best they can. Birds’ nests and beavers’ dams are fortified. Food is foraged. They don’t foolishly (read: egotistically) try to soldier on.
They wait it out. They trust the process.
When our own personal storms occur, we simply do what we need to do to protect ourselves. For me, that means to stop rushing around accomplishing “one more thing.” I take safety in the shelter of my own home, having stores of healthy and comfort food on hand, books and magazines for fun and for personal growth to read, and the perennial elixir, bath salts, to recharge.
I do not have to fully understand in the moment why or how the storm came to be or if there is a lesson to be learned from it. I simply have to get out of harm’s way. We can analyze to no avail now knowledge that will come effortlessly to us in retrospect.
4. LEAN ON OTHERS.
We all know that family and friends are often a precious salve during times of crisis, change, or loss. Reach out. Stay connected. And realize that if you can’t immediately find someone to give you the kind of support you need, there are those to help you see the situation with new eyes.
People came into my life during this period, serendipitously so, who were engaging, loving, and continue to help me expand and grow. The universe opens up a host of unexpected resources when you risk being vulnerable.