This post was originally featured on HerAfter.com, a blog about life after cancer, overcoming struggle, and living beautifully, stylishly and consciously.
There are days when the message of my blog HerAfter -- which is, that the divine bliss of simply existing is everywhere in everything, and especially clear through all the topics that women love most -- reaches many, many readers. There are days that letters come from across the country to say thank you or to resonate through a shared experience of survival and compassion.
And then there are days when only a dozen people read it. When a small group of people that could fit in my modest New York kitchen have seen all the blood and sweat and tears I've put into sharing this truth and attempting to help other women feel beautiful and at peace.
There are good days and bad days. Big days and little days. And it's not always easy to "stay the course" as my father always said. "Stay the course," he'd tell me, "I can't wait to see what you'll do in your life." But it's easier said than done. The course doesn't always look so appealing under a thundercloud.
The problem is: Whenever we are praised for our accomplishments, the satisfaction of feeling that others approve of you can become poisonous without our even knowing it.
As a yoga student training to become a teacher, one of my mentors gave me the best life advice in this topic:
"When you have a great class and your students complement you on a job well done, take that great feeling and hold it in just for a few seconds, then release it. Do the same with a bad class. When you have a terrible class and it went horribly and you feel disappointed, hold that feeling in, and then release it."
We cannot count on our efforts always paying off in accolades. We cannot rely on our work always being well received or appreciated or even accepted. It is the opposite of humility to seek, and especially to expect praise.
Just as well, we cannot always view our work as a potential failure, we cannot always deem it unworthy of love and appreciation, though I think many more fall into this habit than it's reverse.
What we can do it continue to work. We can remain humble. We can accept the time as fleeting and passing. We can take in the good and the bad, hold it only momentarily, and let it pass with the moment as it should. If we don't, we risk holding onto the lie that is time, grasping on a moment that has passed and is now a memory, is no longer occurring, and forcing it to fit the mold of our current moment. Forcing the past moment to be our reality. Telling ourselves repeatedly that because once, in a time now over, we failed, and so we will always fail.
You will fail, you will succeed. You will stand tall and you will crumble downward. You will do a variation of these acts in random order over your entire life. The point is not that you found a pedestal and managed to balance your entire life. The point is that whether you failed or succeeded, you continued to do your work in forward motion. That you continued to make your difference regardless of how big or little an impact it makes at every turn.
Accepting And Releasing:
A How-To Guide
At the moment you have either been praised or criticized, your heart will undoubtedly begin to race and your blood will pump through anxious veins in an effort to run from or catch that illusive adrenaline. The ego will do many things in this moment. It will tell you that you are worthless and stupid for a failure, or it will inflate and outsize your perception of yourself to others.
In either case, here's how to both capitalize on and let go of whatever tricks the ego might try to pull. Then you can not only more fully experience the moment and all it's worth, but also keep it from hindering you as you continue forward.
First, notice what is happening physically
Is there fear boiling up in your heart? Are you starting to blush or smile or cry? What are the physical sensations of knowing the result of your work? Feel them in every part of the body, allow them to express themselves from head to toe, and relish in this moment. Even if it is a painful moment, allowing the physical experience to happen can keep it from creating a callous in your heart around the subject, or even a tightness in the muscles. As a yoga teacher, we often saw students stretch out a muscle and be overwhelmed by an emotional memory hidden inside. As crazy as it sounds, I fully believe that muscles do hold memories.
Second, look around
After you have allowed your body -- especially your heart -- to express and digest these feelings, look around you. What around you has helped you get to this moment? What or who helped you to accomplish or fail? Realizing that it is never only you alone to accomplish or fail can help you feel less isolated and/or help to humble the ego's rampage toward self indulgence.
Third, release... release... release...
You have allowed the feelings to fully sink in. You have given some breathing room to whatever has just happened. The moment, always quickly passing in a constant current, is already moving on with or without you. So whether it was a great day or a terrible day, a good class or a bad class, a promotion or a firing, know that you have not denied the situation but instead accepted it. And now it is time to release it to the moment, to the immediate past, and to look forward again to what you will do next...
And lastly, say, "Thank You"
Every time I am praised for something -- after blushing and getting really awkward -- I always say "thank you." It sounds as though I'm simply saying, "thank you for the compliment paid." But actually, I am saying "thank you" to everyone who helped me do whatever I'm being praised for, whether they are present or not. It's like a tiny little "I love you, I appreciate what you did" sent through my own energy across miles, into the hearts of my comrades.
I also try my very best to say thank you for criticisms. It's not a thank you for the humiliation or negativity it brings up, it's a thank you from the future-me. The me that can see what there is to learn from this situation or person. It's a thank you from a good place I know I'll soon be in. Because like everything, this moment of disappointment will pass, and it is up to me to build the bridges to cross beyond it.
But I recommend you don't stop there. There are a million ways and reasons to be grateful. Say thank you that the moment and opportunity exists at all. Say thank you that the bad news was finally delivered and there's nothing left to fear. Say thank you that it happened, that you survived, that you are smart enough and capable enough to do more after this task. Gratitude is absolute key to happiness.
For more on gratitude, read this post.