Sun, Jan. 26

Column: Stormy times

For me, these last few months delivered me some tough times. Themes of loss and scarcity have threatened to overpower me. I supported a friend who had made an unpopular decision, and I took some heat for it. I lost financial income. In the last month, three people fairly close to me have died.

Through it all, however, I have felt relatively calm and peaceful. I attribute the serenity to an ability to remain inwardly in the calm center of the hurricane while it rages around me.

My inner serenity comes as a result of four skills and tools that I’ve been practicing over the past months and years. I offer these to you, in case they’re helpful in supporting you to navigate your own personal tsunamis.

1) Spend time in quiet every day. Some people call it meditation. I do it first thing in the morning, then again before sleep. Sit and empty your mind of as much chatter as possible. When the mind gets busy and creates inner noise, keep returning it again and again to that quiet, chatterless place. This practice, if you engage in it consistently, eventually carries over and creates calm during times of stress and anxiety.

2) Look for the good. This discipline can quiet inner squalls and tempests. Let me give you an example. Remember the Mago statue? While I have respect for the rights of others, that statue bothered me. Because of its large size, it distracted me from the beauty of the landscape that would feed my spirit as I drove to Sedona.

I remembered that, unless I give them permission, no one and no thing can disrupt my peace. So, whenever I passed the statue, I chose to focus on the beauty of the landscape around me. I took my mind off what annoyed me and placed it onto what gave me joy. In that way, I was able to pass the statue, do away with judgmental thoughts and resentful feelings, and maintain my serenity.

You can apply this skill to the unemployment rate. If it makes you anxious, instead of focusing on the 10 percent who are unemployed, think instead about the 90 percent who have jobs.

It’s possible to do the same in your relationships. When you focus on the positive traits in others instead of characteristics that annoy you, you empower yourself to get along better with them. You even create a space for them to show up as the people you want them to be.

3) Accept your feelings. Strong emotions often accompany challenging times. You lose a job or a relationship, and you feel anger, resentment and fear. Someone close to you dies, and you feel deep sadness and grief. Whatever the circumstance, allow the emotion to be present without fighting it. In this way, you move through it faster. If you resist the feelings and treat them as intruders, they will hang around longer.

4) Develop a sense of gratitude for everything. Yes, even the strong winds of turmoil. Even when it seems impossible to believe it, the storm appears for a purpose. There’s a gift in everything, even in the blustery gales of tough times. Life only delivers what you can handle and what will contribute to your soul’s growth, if you let it.

So discipline yourself to stay in the eye of the hurricane. Practice makes permanent!

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