What helps you find peace these days?
With so much tumult in the country/world and Thanksgiving gatherings fast approaching, what will get you through this season and the coming year with minimal suffering and relationships intact?
Lately my inner peace feels tested on multiple fronts. Anxiety, guilt, fear, regret, and insecurity accelerate their rotations through my limbic brain. Thankfully, with age, therapy, and loving, compassionate friends, I have let go of self-judgment for experiencing stress and distress. I don’t resist negative feelings as much as I used to. I wish I could say this makes them less unpleasant, easier to tolerate. Sadly, no. But I am better able to let them pass through me, to ease into peace.
The more I observe, the more I notice that rather than allow and release our emotions, we tend to either deny/repress or fixate on them. The consequent suffering can be disabling. I started wondering how peace comes so much more easily to me now than before. Below is a partial list. What would you add to it?
Rose may have saved my career. One day early in practice, running around exasperated and cranky yet again, I returned to my spot at the counter to find “TAKE A DEEP BREATH” posted in large font on the wall in front of me. It was one of those immediate and profound, perspective-shifting, life-changing moments. One. Deep. Breath. Everything goes smoother and happier since that day. Later I learned about tactical breathing, which trains inner peace both mentally and physically. I’m not facing mortal combat (primitive stress reflex responses notwithstanding), but it helps me find peace all the same.
Smile (especially when I see my kids)
I was a dormitory resident assistant my senior year in college. Though it was my job to serve as counselor and guide to college life for my fellow residents, it was a wise freshman who taught me about exercising agency in the face of adversity. I can still see her joyful, welcoming face and posture, feel her free and loving spirit. I wish I had gotten to know her better. She wrote on my message board, “Smile, Cathy, you’ll feel ten times better!” Of course she was right. Over the past 25 years I’m proud to say that I’m much better at finding my smile now. Thank you, sweet girl.
Quote Michael J. Fox
Focus on the Now
My daughter had an anaphylactic reaction while I was at work. The sitter called and I could hear my preschooler stridoring in the background. My son called 911 as I raced out of the office to meet them at the emergency department. I was shaking and could barely see straight—how was I going to drive? What if she died? I still had to keep it together for my other kid. That was a morbid turn, I remember thinking. How quickly we catastrophize. Thank God for the mindfulness training I had recently started. Right now, everybody’s still alive. Paramedics are on their way. They already did the EpiPen. Things are okay right now. This mantra occurred to me as I pulled out of my parking space. It carried me through that crisis and has held me up through numerous others since. Mindfulness works, my friends.
Let Go Outcome
See quote by Michael J. Fox. No matter how much we plan, what we expect, or how prepared we are, we just don’t know what will happen. This practice is also an extension of mindfulness. I can only control my own attitude and action right now. I can cultivate relationships that influence others, attempt to enroll them in my ideas, and recruit them on my mission. But I cannot control their reactions, their behavior, or the myriad circumstantial dynamics that facilitate or stymie our activities. If we work steadily for our highest goals, stay on the path of honesty, integrity, and authenticity, and commit to ethical process, then we can deal with any outcome.
Stop Chasing Confirmation
Early in marriage and parenting, I used to fight. I would flood my family with more and louder words, convinced I could prove my point and win. The more I spoke (yelled), the more blank and silent my loved ones became, and the louder and larger I got in their faces, demanding understanding, agreement, acquiescence. [Please feel free to laugh out loud while cringing here.] These encounters inevitably ended in frustration for all of us. Somewhere along the way I noticed people demonstrating the behaviors I demanded, even though they had never agreed to them. Maybe there’s a better way? Perhaps if I state my case calmly and lovingly, and let go of the immediate outcome, the doors in their minds might stay more open and I can still get what I want, without all the hurt feelings and wasted energy. *sigh*
Four more days, friends. Almost there! Thank you for your views, likes, and comments!