The election results knocked me to my knees. Fear, rage, and anxiety set up camp in my heart. The worst part has been the steady undercurrent of helplessness. It’s true, I am helpless when it comes to changing the minds of those coming into power. This feeling of helplessness affected my sleep, my moods, and my view of the world. My joy of life was being eaten away by the emotions raging inside my heart.
After 2 months of such high-intensity emotion, I decided something needed to change and it had to be me. Here’s what I recommend if you need to make this shift.
Oh Rena, you always talk about breathing. Yes. Yes I do.
Breathing brings oxygen into the blood stream, which sends oxygen to the brain, which enables us to regain control over anxiety, and all other emotions flying through us. It’s good stuff, air. The best drug around and it's free.
Want to feel in control of something? Pause, close your eyes, and take a deep breath in through the nose and slowly release it through your mouth. Yum.
This is the hardest part for me. It’s been a painful journey to move from fighting what’s happening in our country to surrendering that which I can’t control. I’m not surrendering to anyone or anything. I’m not accepting, embracing or finding contentment in things I despise. I’m freeing myself from the unrealistic idea that my rage would change things.
But, Rena, the stakes are too high to just sit back and surrender!
Darn right the stakes are high. That’s why it’s urgent, crucial even, for us to surrender the fight to change that which cannot be changed and to shift our focus to what can be changed. That can mean signing a petition, changing jobs, or eating healthier meals.
Surrendering control over something we can’t control just makes sense. If it sounds un-empowering, look at it again. You don’t have that control anyway, so stop pretending you do. Move from that helpless feeling to a place of action. There is something I can do! Now you can use your energy, intelligence, and passion to bring positive change realistically, literally, and tangibly.
It comes down to focusing on you. Your thoughts, actions and values. And that’s where we start to heal.
The way I experience these tumultuous times is this: do I choose to raise fists or breathe in compassion? The only thing we can truly control is how we react to the world. I choose compassion, most of the time. I’m human, people! I can’t be compassionate all the time. No one can. Even the gurus don't reach guru status.
Start with compassion for yourself. It sucks to be unhappy. Acknowledge that. It’s a hug to your Self and feels good.
Next, see if you can find compassion for the person causing such unhappiness. What led this person to be this way? Compassion is a trigger word for many people. Compassion for such a hateful person? Maybe not right away, but finding compassion for those you despise is a truly empowering experience. It doesn't mean loving this person! It means seeing the whole of this person – the hateful parts and the hurting parts that lead to hateful behavior and ideas. It’s a coexisting truth that someone who is hateful probably has a hurting heart. Maybe it stems from an abusive childhood or maybe there’s a chemical imbalance. It doesn't matter the origin – we don't need to know the details. We can assume (yes, go ahead assume!) that something awful brought this person to a place of hateful behavior. We can find compassion for that and despise what this person is doing simultaneously.
Why compassion for a hateful person? Because it puts us in the seat of power. Their actions may affect our external life, and that’s terrible. But they can no longer rule our internal experience. That’s where we are in charge always and forever.
Say hello to the pain, sadness, fear, rage, hurt, sitting in you. They need loving attention. Talk to them; let them know you understand. This loosens their grip. You can say, “Hi fear. I see you and understand you. It’s a scary time.”
I’m not crazy, really. Emotions are what we feel, they are not us, and we can manage them best when we acknowledge them. It puts us in the seat of power, the one driving the bus, rather than at the mercy of them. Naming fear (or whatever emotion you choose) moves it from in us to next to us.
5. Change focus
What’s good about this? My grandma used to say this about anything that went “wrong.” Stuck in an elevator? We get to spend time together. It’s scary and we may fall many floors if they don't fix it correctly, but in this moment, we get to be together and enjoy each other’s company.
Scenario: You work for someone who is thrilled with the President elect. What’s good about this is that you are able to separate out personal and professional, or you are evolving to be able to separate the two. You are finding new ways to Be without needing others to agree. You may even be figuring out how to have compassion for this boss who chose the opposite of what you believe is good for the world. The act of finding compassion for this person is a gift in itself. Your day to day may be difficult, but the inner evolution is life changing.
If you can’t get to compassion yet, identify good things happening in your life. Simple things like a great meal, a fulfilling conversation, or a funny movie.
Look for the good. Name it. Shout it. Write it. Share it. It’s needed, urgently. People are thirsting for good news, good ideas, good feelings. They will drink it up and that will slate your thirst.
6. In this moment
The key to getting through tough times is to stay in this moment. Not the moment, this moment.
There is only this moment. Truly. The past moment is done. The next moment hasn't happened yet. All we have is right now, this moment. Make it count! Pause, and experience it. Smell the snow falling lightly all around you, see the grey tweed fabric of the cubicle, taste the salty french fries, listen to the house creaking as it expands, touch the smooth, bright paper you printed on. Be in this moment.
In closing, I say this: Hold your heart lovingly with your hands in front of your chest. It’s hurting like a child with a scrape from the playground. Be gentle with yourself and kind to your emotions.
Where there is bad, there is also good. Our task is to find the good and shout it from the rooftops of our soul. Tweet it or just breathe it. As long as you feel it, you’ve done your part in making our world a better place.
Image by Erich Ferdinand