December 7, 2006
FINDING CALM WITHIN THE CHAOS OF TODAY
Here’s a question for you. Could the world get any more unsettled than it is now? News of natural and man-made destruction travels from one end of the world to another in real time. That is a far cry from the days when the news that a war was actually over often did not get to the front lines for days or perhaps weeks. The big bad wolf may huff and puff and blow the piggies’ houses down in our fairy tales, but that is nothing compared to what big bad Hurricane Wilma did to its victims years ago. The 2004 tsunami devastated lives all over Asia and actually made the entire universe “wobble.” Lets not forget about the catastrophic earthquake that shook Haiti and the rest of the world last year. Then, like some kind of bad joke, as the same people are recovering and getting back to normal, another earthquake buries their fragile dreams and inflicts more potential for disease and death. Although this happened to “them,” there is an underlying knowledge that next time it may be “you.” Life often seems like a game of Russian roulette.
And if these natural disasters aren’t enough, what about the human-made devastation caused by visions that clash – by ideologies that want to control the universe because they are the “right” way. Oh please. The times they are a changin’ for sure. And all we can do is cling to our seats and try our best to keep our composure during the ride.
So, in light of the changing world, here are some tips to keep you sane and still passionately in love with the twists and turns of time.
IT'S JUST AN ILLUSION
In the Buddhist tradition, it is thought that everything is illusive and transient. Nothing is permanent and real. There is merely cause and effect and nothing more. A good practice to borrow from this tradition is to meditate on the transient nature of the universe and how you are evolving and growing through every situation. Imagine coping with every obstacle that comes your way, and understanding that every problem that arises is temporary and can vanish as quickly as it came.
CREATE DAILY HEALTHY HABITS
During times of change, remain grounded by creating healthy daily rituals that give you a sense of control. Get up at the same time every morning and get into the habit of starting the day with a mantra: “The day loves me as I love the day.” Or “Today I have love for everyone I meet and they have love for me.” Or “Today I will hear some fantastic news.” These mantras are just internal thoughts and should replace the habitual uncontrollable negative thoughts that sometimes arise during times of chaos. How often have you thought, “Oh no, I don’t want to face the traffic”? Or “Oh, let me sleep another hour.” It is your task to change these messages that instill anxiety into your day. Focus on something good about the drive to work. Happiness and joy takes practice.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF
It is ironic that during times of stress and change, we often get annoyed with ourselves. Instead of being supportive, we blame ourselves for a negative circumstance or for feeling weak when we should be strong. However, a better way to deal with times of change and chaos is to support yourself and love yourself even more than usual. This means to pull the reigns on negative self-talk and refuse to entertain it. It means refusing to worry, and trusting in yourself and the laws of change to come through for you. It means indulging in the good. That could mean booking an appointment at your local spa for a facial, getting a manicure or surrendering all your worries to a hot, steamy bath. There are many ways to support yourself and to help yourself through times of change.
LAUGH IT OFF
Laughter can cure all ailments. Toxins are released and happy endorphins help heal the body. So seek to laugh. Find the humor in everything, including chaos. You can laugh because you know it won’t last forever and because everything has a funny side. Your job is to find it. Don’t ignore the seriousness of chaotic situations, but reduce their power to overwhelm you with fear. Humor is the greatest healer of all time.
THINK OF EVERY EXPERIENCE AS A TEACHER
We have been educated to think of circumstances as either good or bad, but in many traditions, there is no ‘good’ or ‘bad,” just circumstances that must be attended to. Some of these produce pleasant feelings and some feelings of sadness or fear. However, every experience can be used as a vehicle to help you grow and better understand yourself. If you approach every situation as a student, much of the anxiety from feeling helpless is dissipated. Why should you know how to deal with this situation? After all, you are just a student and the experience is your teacher.
FORGIVE AND MOVE ON
It is easy to criticize the “system” as failing. It is easy to snarl at the folly of leaders and get bitter and twisted about the ways of the world. What is actually harder is to forgive. But you must forgive and move on. Don’t get stuck on how things should be, but surrender to the way things are. Once you do this and let go of your feelings of angst or bitterness, things will often change of their own accord. It’s a tough one, but what if you could be truly happy no matter what? According to the great sages, this is not only possible, but ultimately each individual’s goal.
THINK OF EVERY SITUATION AS RELEASING ENERGY
In ancient traditions, healing of the body is achieved by allowing the energy to flow freely without obstruction. When energy becomes blocked, this affects the healthy functioning of the body and eventually there is some kind of illness. Think of the outside world in the same way. When energy is blocked — if there is oppression — if there is loneliness — if there is anger — it is a symptom of blocked energy. Your task is to rebalance the distribution of energy in your life. If you feel angry, then get it out safely. If there is anger around you, let it play itself out. It is hard perhaps, but try to respond instead of react. A reaction is impulsive and thoughtless. Look for the right way to respond to each situation without causing needless stress and anxiety.
LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE
Have you noticed how perfectly tranquil the world looks when sitting above the clouds, looking down? The countryside looks like a tapestry of colors and you are removed from the details that are taking place within the little houses that you see. From a distance, you could have the view that everything makes perfect sense, especially if you think of the world like a living organism, releasing energy when it gets imbalanced. When viewed from this point of view, the concepts of chaos and destruction lose their “random” edge and become part of the dance of life. This may not make the outcome any prettier, but it does make the situation necessary, as opposed to “pointless,” even if on face value the destruction looks absurd.
It sounds so simple. Breathe. But have you noticed how you don’t breathe during stressful situations, or how when you’re scared, you hold your breath or take the shallowest sips. This is a fact: If you can remain focused on your breath during even the most stressful times, you will reduce the impact these moments have on your body. With each breath, you can slow down your heart rate and help eliminate toxins from the body.