The past few years up until right now, our “personal world’s”, and our world have been shaken beyond what even seems possible. A pandemic, a largely divided nation on many fronts, even a threat of another world war, unthinkable in our generation, is now knocking at the door.
I have noticed on several levels, the amount of stress and anger, edginess, and even rage that has developed in people as time has ensued. Drivers are angry, (more than usual), people are quick to react in anger, crime of course is out of control countrywide. Suicide rates have increased dramatically.
Then there are the personal stressors of economy, relationships, and, in certain cases like mine, and others, a serious health issue that requires things of us that we don’t readily have at our disposal… we’re usually simply not ready for many unexpected things that suddenly become a part of our lives.
What are some necessary things that we should be doing NOW, (and should have been doing all along), that make the unexpected things less damaging to ourselves and others.
In their book “Customize Your Life”, Tony and Frances share this:
“You can be the most positive person in the world, but face it,
when you get the diagnosis of cancer or face a global pandemic,
even the sunniest of dispositions can start to see the rain clouds on the horizon.
There is, however, one thing that can strengthen your resolve and boost your positivity no matter what the uncertainty is that you face-a purposeful mindset. A purposeful mindset is a powerful way to live out your customized life with energy and power, no matter what curves are in the road ahead. Some people wait until they get the news that their world has shifted and only then begin to plan for the future.
Don’t be one of those people! Life will happen to you, and when it does, you must be prepared. Things won’t always go according to plan.
It’s what you do now that makes what happens then manageable. When you have a purpose that is bigger than you, it makes the obstacles you will inevitably face just one more sentence in the paragraph of your life story. Those obstacles add flavor and build character. Growth comes through struggle, and the most impactful victories come when you push yourself to your limits and do more than you thought you could.
In these uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to connect with your purpose.”
I wholeheartedly agree. In the EIS world, we always start with a definition of purpose that is this: Know myself intimately, by being and becoming the most authentic version of me that already is. Be in a process of increasing self-awareness, or you will not be able to draw upon the strength that is available to you.
In conjunction with this, find your spiritual life. God is the source of strength, and there needs to be an equally authentic faith reality, to root and ground you. Here you find courage. Courage is not the absence of fear, but intimacy with it. When you know yourself, and your God, and are intimate with both, you are less intimidated by the unknowns of life that will happen, as noted above.
Another element, I believe, to help counteract the stress levels and even anguish that we can experience, is learning to be gentle with ourselves, and consequently others. Interestingly, this is a part of the first point. It’s hard to mature in these areas if you’re too hard on yourself, and others, angry, bitter, unforgiving, judgemental, resentful, feeling threatened all the time. In her book, “When Things Fall Apart”, Pema Chodron points this out:
“Not wandering in the world of desire is another way of getting there. Wandering in the world of desire involves looking for alternatives, seeking something to comfort us – food, drink, people, etc. The word desire encompasses that addiction quality, the way we grab for something because we want to find a way to make things “okay”, all the time. That quality comes from never having grown up.
We still want to go home and be able to open the refrigerator and find it full of our favorite goodies; when the going gets tough, we want to yell “Mom!” But what we’re doing as we progress along the path is leaving home and becoming homeless in a sense. Not wandering in the world of desire is about relating directly with how things are. My perceptions in life create perspectives, that create expectations. If we expect “positive outcomes” every singe time in life, we are setting ourselves up for stunting our growth, being angry, resentful, etc. Life is chock full of loose ends. You can decide that this is true and learn to live differently in response.
The things in life that trouble us do not need to be “solved.” The same is true for any other experience we might have. What we need is to sanely, healthily, and maturely be able to engage in the difficult things of life that will inevitably come our way.
Another aspect is not seeking security from one’s discursive thoughts. The rug’s been pulled out; the jig is up; there is no way to get out of this one! We cannot seek the companionship of our own constant conversation with ourselves about how it is and how it isn’t, whether it is or whether it isn’t, whether it should or whether it shouldn’t, whether it can or whether it can’t.
When we proactively engage in a process of perpetual transformation of these perceptions, we do not expect security from our own internal chatter.
That’s why we are instructed to take our thoughts captive. Our thoughts are not the final reality. They have no objective reality. Our narratives are innately flawed without the connections being made that we are outlining. We can engage in the chatter and let it go, not allow it to rule my life. As a man thinks or believes in his heart so he is.
Self awareness and a heightening emotional intelligence pursuit allows us to look honestly and without aggression at our own minds.
We can gradually drop our ideals about who we think we ought to be, or who we think we want to be, or who we think other people think we want to be or ought to be. We give it up and just look directly with compassion and humor at who we are. Then disparity and the fact that I am not perfect, no one else is perfect, is no threat or heartache, no punishment. No need to be better or worse than anyone else.
But keep in mind, self awareness doesn’t instantly provide any resolution or give us ground under our feet. This is what we want however… this is why we grasp at things to hold on to for comfort. More money, alcohol, drugs, food, things… you name it. None will work.
It challenges us to step into a world of no reference point without polarizing or solidifying. This is called the middle way, or the sacred path of the warrior. The “Both/And.”
When you wake up in the morning and out of nowhere comes the bad news that no one ever wants to receive, could you use that as your opportunity to become? Rather than persecuting yourself or feeling only that something terribly wrong is happening, right there in the moment of sadness and longing, will you, essentially by faith, take the risk of believing that all of the requests to “become the best version of myself” has just presented me with the opportunity to step into the unknown as the place of the present moment? That moment holds all the possibilities that the human heart can ever hold.” It’s a pathway to “becoming the most authentic version of ourselves.”
If you embrace the great nowhere of God in these moments, and make it your pathway, it will not always feel good, provide instant relief, take away all pain, etc. It will however, bring you to an intimate relationship with yourself, God, others, and fear, as you have begun to learn some of the elements of being gentle with yourself. Indeed… a gentle warrior.
Because fear breeds anger. Become intimate with fear, yourself, God and others.
BH/Canva Pro/Pema Chodron – Adapted excerpts from “When Things Fall Apart.”