Life is busy.
That is quite possibly the biggest understatement of all time. We go around from work to home to family to friends to a second job to picking the kids up to dropping them off…. It is all so busy and we do not have time to slow down.
What this boils down to is disconnection. We get so caught up in the momentum of life that we lose track of ourselves, our families, and our place in the universe. In the process of working so very hard to try to keep everything going, we become disconnected from what truly matters, and we start to wither or arguably worse, become bitter.
I have an acquaintance that was working in an addiction treatment agency. During one time doing a group session outside, he was trying to just take the clients through some simple breathing exercises in order to just pay attention to their bodies. The purpose was just to help them reconnect with themselves and start to pay attention to what is actually going on around them. Unfortunately he was spending a lot of time in his head wondering if the group was getting anything out of this, or if he was doing the wrong thing.
His moment came when he was just staring at the ground breathing and he watched an ant crawl across his foot. The ant was going about its business and very focused on its task. The thought entered his head, “it’s not all about you.” The ant was connected to its colony, and he realized he needed to be connected with the group and not lost in his head. It was his moment to shine as he started asking them what it felt like breathing deep and slow. What did they hear. What thoughts did they find coming automatically in their minds. Slowly, the idea of reconnecting with everything around them became more obvious.
You can see that in this example he was so lost in his own head and worries that he was not paying attention to the people that were within feet of him. While we may not all be that lost, it can be very easy to get too focused on our routines and daily chores that we just forget what is within feet of us.
IT'S TIME FOR US TO RECONNECT.
Let’s all take a moment to reconnect with ourselves first. That’s all, just take a moment. One large inhale, then slowly let it out. In then out. Just pay attention on breathing. Feel your heart beat with each breath. Listen to your body as it talks to you with each breath. You don’t need a blank mind, just pay attention to what is actually going on. What thoughts and feelings are coming, even outside your conscious control. This is not even around you; this is what is going on inside you!
Take another moment, just one moment, and listen to the world outside your own mind. Listen and identify as many of the sounds that you can. Are there new sounds that surprised you? What do you feel on your skin? Is the air flowing in any particular way? Is there a taste on your tongue from the air? Slowly you are reconnecting with life. Not your life; with all life.
The universe, your higher power, and your spirit are talking to you with the breath you are taking and with the sensations you are having. With each emotion you feel, and sound you hear, you are beginning to reconnect with the divine. The spark of the divine is in the life all around us. And it is a joyful and glorious thing to remember.
We live in a beautiful area and when you have lived here long enough, the beauty becomes commonplace. You forget to pay attention to the majesty of nature when you see it every day. Today is a wonderful day to take just a couple moments and reconnect with that beauty and joy. Reconnect with life around you, and especially reconnect with your life, and the lives of your loved ones.
I was sitting with a child client this week and he sang me the above lyrics. We all have those special plans. It’s is so exciting to think about how life will be so much better after we graduate. It will be so much easier when we get the new car and we don’t have to take the bus anymore. Or when we are finally married and settle down. And probably every one of us has thought the same thing...
“When I finally do x I’ll be happy.”
And so, we are happy for a while, we feel we are in the “right neighborhood” and life is grand, but then unhappiness begins to seep in again. We had a sad day for no reason. We yelled at our spouse. Or the depression and anxiety started again. We aren’t happy anymore. And we begin to look around to find what needs to be fixed to get back to that happy state.
The unfortunate truth is: Happiness is not forever.
Learning this secret can be one of the most painful and freeing events in our lives. The good news is that sadness is not forever either. All emotions, and in fact everything we experience, is just a temporary event in a lifetime.
I was recently in a beautiful relationship. I had longed for a good partnership for years. I had done visioning and “Calling in the One” classes and ceremonies in other countries, match-makers and dozens of first dates, all to manifest this desire. Once I found this amazing man and was in that relationship, I was elated. He was perfect and I was happy to be creating life with him. But soon anxiety that we wouldn’t last started to creep in, and differences in what we wanted started to show. And suddenly my happiness had shifted. But what I am learning is that feeling sad doesn’t actually mean that anything is wrong. It just means the energy has shifted, an event has ended.
Acceptance of the temporary nature of everything does not mean that you let whatever bad feelings or bad events just happen. No, it means that you let yourself have that sadness or defeat in the face of change and not fight it, or yourself. Give yourself permission to feel this way, and move on from there.
Why am I talking about the acceptance of these feelings? One of the problems that often happens is we start kicking ourselves when we are down. We have the idea that we are supposed to be happy. We did it. We accomplished that amazing goal. We should be happy. But we still aren’t. And that just makes things get worse and worse. We are upset, and then we get frustrated because we are upset, which makes us more upset, and we get more angry at that, and then…
You see how it spirals out of control? Acceptance that we are feeling this way, and that it is normal for feelings and events to be temporary. As the famous quote from the Bible says, “This too shall pass.” This goes for our happiness, our sadness, our anger, and everything else in life. Acceptance that life keeps moving and changing will go a long way towards minimizing how painful and saddening some things may actually be.
I lost someone close to me a few years ago. When they died, for me the world stopped. I sat in my home and watched the world still moving around and around, not knowing how life could keep going when it felt like my world had just ended. That was part of the beauty and mystery of life. It keeps going no matter what. Eventually, I was able to rejoin the world, and then was slowly becoming myself again. I was happy, then I was sad again, and then regretful, then joyful. It kept moving, and I had the opportunity to flow with it all. The beauty of acceptance is that you get to move with the experience, and don’t waste your precious time and energy fighting it.
The other piece of this I want to point out is how acceptance does not mean we just sit back and let life happen to us. No. We have every right, and every responsibility, to take what control we can of our lives, ourselves, and our emotions.
If one part of our lives is not working for us any longer, and something we desire is causing us more frustration and regret than anything else, it is time to change it. Allowing ourselves to sit in misery, and let things that are obviously not helping us continue is not ok.
We are dynamic and tenacious beings. We have the capacity to accomplish so much, and yet we limit ourselves to thinking that if we do this one thing everything will be ok forever. That is delusional. Accepting that things, events, feelings, the high, are all only temporary, and we have the capacity to keep searching and finding new ways to bring ourselves joy is such a gift. We deserve to give that to ourselves. Although it has been said in other ways, pain is inescapable in life, but suffering is optional. Keeping on the journey and working towards goals, accomplishments and other things that bring us joy and fulfillment will lead us to happier places with enriched lives.
Like many people, I have struggled with anxiety since college. I had panic attacks just thinking of saying hello to people. Over the last 17 years my anxiety has become almost a non-issue. Although since we all live with fear as a normal, natural phenomena I find that at times it rears it’s head. Sometimes unexpected.
The other day I had an experience of sitting with intense fear for many hours. I was in a meditation circle where a woman was having a very challenging physical experience and thought she might be dying for hours. It was completely terrifying. In the end she was fine and even reported that she felt she needed to have that experience, but hindsight makes everything so easy. It’s in the moments of uncertainty that we are gripped with an almost unbearable anxiety. In those moments when you truly don’t know if you are going to be okay or just how long the suffering is going to last, and the horrible ways your mind tells you it might end.
In this experience I had been working with the way I speak to myself, learning to listen to what I say to myself and to choose to be at cause for how I want that dialogue to go. To choose what I want to say to myself instead.
I found that the fear was so overwhelming that I could not simply tell myself “You are safe.” There is no way I would have believed it. And in fact, I shouldn’t. That part of me that is yelling, screaming at the top of her terrified lungs that it is not safe has in fact kept me safe and alive my whole life. Indeed it is exactly that part that has kept all of human society surviving. We are the stewards of our bodies and it is important to listen to when their vulnerable flesh might be at risk. So to dismiss it as a simple ego-voice that needs repatterning would be dishonoring and, I believe, impossible. However, what IS possible is to repattern the RELATIONSHIP I have to this fear voice.
Karen Wolfe, MFT offers depth therapy with practices to deepen your connection to your Self and to others for individuals and couples in the Bay Area and via video conference across California