We’ve probably all had this experience: Life is rippling along like a sweet summer brook, and then a sudden storm of change shows up and disrupts the serenity. Old enemies we think we’ve defeated—fear and insecurity, for example—return, throwing us off kilter. Our minds frantically try to find a solution to “fix” the issue, the challenge, the perceived problem, adding to our internal chaos.
How do we stay calm, cool, and collected when we find the world around us has become chaotic and out of control? How do we learn to stare down any situation with inner peace and an ability to remain tranquil?
Build an Inner Sanctuary
One of the first things we can do when attempting to navigate a bumpy crossroads is build an inner place of peace. Taking time to cultivate a practice of quiet breathing and sitting still for long enough to feel a sense of sacred space within can offer significant benefit in times of turmoil and stress. Our subtle energies are just as essential to our well-being as activities such as eating, sleeping, and exercising are.
Modern society often yanks at our attention, conning us into thinking it’s critical to answer emails or respond to social media posts and messages immediately and that these activities would serve us better than shutting our devices down and making time to go within ourselves. However, taking a break from mental and physical demands for even 15 to 20 minutes a day can help re-establish a sense of internal balance, renewing our relationship with ourselves and helping us reconnect. We make sure to spend time with our loved ones, so why do we neglect developing a relationship with ourselves?
Let Go of Judgment
Instead of judging ourselves and our emotions, we can work to accept them by recognizing them for what they are instead of viewing them as the sum of us. We are not the valleys and peaks, but the steady soil that lies underneath, supporting each shift in the topography.
We make sure to spend time with our loved ones, so why do we neglect developing a relationship with ourselves?
When we stop condemning ourselves and begin to understand we are loved and supported by the universe, fear often subsides, allowing us to keep a clear mind and make decisions both healthy and in our best interest. Living in a constant state of emotional mayhem is exhausting and can contribute to the confusion we are often more likely to experience during difficult times in our lives.
Examine emotions directly, then step back and take a moment to breathe and settle in before succumbing to anger or fear. It’s not that we should never feel these emotions, but rather that we must learn to respond to them differently. Letting go of judgment helps us become more of a witness to an experience than an active participant in the drama of challenging events.
Be Aware of Thoughts to Create Change
We might feel we have no control over our thinking but in actuality, we do. Even those diagnosed with an obsessive-compulsive disorder can often learn, with positive behavior modification and therapy, to embrace thought patterns and harness healthy thinking. By loving ourselves and letting go of the inner critic, we can learn to sweep away the stories that keep us feeling powerless.
How do we do this? How do we change our thoughts? It’s possible by being aware of them, realizing many of them stem from fear and insecurity, and replacing these feelings with understanding, kindness, or love. Remember Henny Penny, the chicken who ran around screaming, “The sky is falling” when in reality it wasn’t? When we choose to focus on the here and now, instead of fearing what may be, we are likely to feel re-rooted in what is real, not what is projected.
The only person or thing we can control is our own self. We are not able to stop a jealous sister or brother or friend from snarling at us, but we can choose to not respond or to calmly have a discussion with them. When a car cuts us off on the freeway or a stranger hurls a sarcastic remark at us, we can practice loving-kindness to maintain a calm interior and avoid engaging in the same behavior.
Acceptance does not come naturally to most of us. It takes practice. However, it can be learned and, if implemented, is likely to become a beneficial habit. If we let others govern our thoughts and choices, we will be pulled and splintered. Realizing no one can push us off balance without our permission helps us understand the only way we can “fix” a situation is by accepting it.
That does not mean we have to put up with abusive behavior, it simply means we understand it is the person who is abusive, not us, who has the problem. Acceptance stops us from being judgmental over incidentals and things we have no control over—bad weather, inconveniences, a disgruntled person. We can choose to be happy and uplifting despite rain, a missed bus, or grumpy behavior.
Life is dynamic and ever-changing. Events both good and bad are likely to hurtle toward us without a moment’s notice. We may be sailing smoothly along when suddenly we are thrown into a hurricane of sick loved ones, personal illness, financial troubles, and so on. But when we realize we can build a sacred space within and find safe harbor from which to watch the storm pass, we may be able to find peace and harmony, no matter the circumstances.
© Copyright 2017 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Mara Fisher, LCSW, MCC, therapist in Miami, Florida
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