Tips for Dealing with Life’s Ups and Downs
Last week a dear friend was in tears because she had one more lash in what has been seeming to her like a whipping coming from the employment Gods. She has had a streak of bad money luck.
My first thought was something that my friend Jodi once said. It is a quote I loved and think of often “If all you have are money problems then you don’t really have problems”. The idea being that money problems are more based on our malleable and transient wants and desires. There can be many solutions to money problems but things like broken marriages, family estrangements, disease, and death of a loved one…These are problems that sometimes have no worldly solutions.
I thought about this but I didn’t tell it to my friend because when you are in the throes of Financha-phobia or feeling like a loser because you have been fired, those problems SEEM insurmountable and that would have been useless.
Instead, I drew her this diagram:
What Goes Up…
This is a simple drawing that illustrates the movement of life’s journey through our circumstances in the modern world. Sometimes up and sometimes down.
Whether you chalk it up to the planets shifting in our horoscopes, our Karma unfolding, our biorhythms, or lessons that God or Goddess is trying to teach us, the fact is that our circumstances are continuously rising and falling.
As much as we want it to look like this:
Coming to a theatre near you!
We are not here to keep going up, up up, experiencing only ever-increasing happiness. And I think the reason why is that we would be bored out of our skulls if we did. It would be as if all 500 channels on your TV set were Hallmark Hall of Fame movies with Michael Landon. I am not saying it is good or right I am just saying we seem to love plotlines where the heroine has obstacles. If Scarlett O’Hara looked at Ashley Wilkes and said “Oh Ashley I love you!” and he said “I love you too Scarlett, let’s get married!”, Gone with the Wind would have been a greeting card instead of a novel of 1,000 pages and an epic film.
We watch sports not because want to see our team score more and more points but rather because we want to see the opposing team try their best to stop our team and then have our guys score enough points to win just in time so we can sit in the stands with our hearts racing.
We love drama and obstacles and couldn’t live without them. We don’t love TOO much drama at once or for TOO long without a break but take away the ebb and flow and there is not much spark.
The day we as a species wake up and discover that there are no challenges to living is the day we will set our extinction in motion. Fortunately, we are a million years away from THAT problem!
Freedom is a state of mind
I am not suggesting that we just resign ourselves to being unhappy or be complacent or fatalistic. I am simply suggesting that we shift our focus away from the idea of trying to find a happy moment in time that we can freeze-frame and instead focus on building a place within ourselves where we are free. Free from the trap of having difficult circumstances AND the burden of fear and judgment of them.
I am convinced that the energy we spend resisting our circumstances because they don’t match the up, up, and away trajectory is the greater cause of misery and stress than the actual bummer circumstances.
We can get so caught up in our plot that we forget we are the audience and lose our access to the tools for finding solutions to life’s challenges.
I have had moments where I was very much an audience to my movie without attachment to outcomes and without deep anxiety that can be the accepted norm of daily living and I have known it smack dab in the middle of some real crummy circumstances and it is a very powerful feeling. It generates a feeling of strength, unlike anything I have known.
In recent years I have spent less time doing this and I can feel the difference in my body.
Cultivate our inner Audient
I am writing this to you today to remind myself of this formidable power hidden secretly inside of all of us. Won’t you join me in strengthening a voice within -or an aspect of your mind -that can “be with” and absorb all of the twists and turns of our story-line without losing touch with the feeling that we are the audience who bought the ticket to the show?
A couple of the techniques that I have used that have helped me are:
- Journaling in the 3rd person – Try writing about the details, circumstances, thoughts, and feelings of the day as “he”, “him”, “she” “her” instead of “I”. Writing as if you were a character in a novel is a great way to create distance from your drama and identify more with your humanity. It will seem silly at first but it will become fun. Warning: I don’t recommend you start talking that way to your friends and family, they will think you have gone nuts or become a rap artist.
- Sitting as the Witness – Although I would never recommend anything as boringly awful as meditation (yuck!) this technique really works and at the risk of overselling it, can change your whole life!
Try sitting in a chair with your eyes closed and simply notice the physical phenomenon of the rising, pause, and then falling of each breath. Do this for about 4 or 5 breaths. Then begin to watch your thoughts as they go by one after the other. You will be tempted to judge them, wish them away or wish them to stay -especially if they are thoughts of baked goods and you are hungry- but treat the thoughts as if they were clouds floating by on an early spring afternoon and YOU were laying in a meadow watching them drift by. After about 20 minutes of this, you can get to a place where you not only separate from the story-line of your circumstances, you find deep compassion and love for the character you are playing in this movie, and the clarity can last sometimes for weeks. But again do not mediate!
Can you imagine the possibilities if we all stopped expecting our lives to get better and better and instead intended that they get freer and freer of expectation and attachment? That our intention was not about avoiding bad circumstances but rather in using ALL of life’s circumstances to become deeper human beings? Whew, it sure takes a lot of pressure off!
What are YOUR thoughts?
“Doug” thanks you for reading this 🙂