Don’t Worry, It’s Just a [WTF] Phase.

Don’t worry, it’s just an extreme wtf phase – or, year.

So how are you holding up?

I shared the poem below recently during a yin yoga class that was focused on working with the energy of our heart, and the understanding that we nourish our heart by allowing ourselves to experience the whole spectrum of our emotions, not just those we like or find comfortable.You’ve possibly heard this Rumi poem before – it’s a popular one in yoga classes and mindfulness circles! Give it a quick read and then let’s talk about why it’s so essential for dealing with the messiness of our lives right now:

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The Guest House
by Rumi
 
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
 
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
 
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd a sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture, still,
treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
 
The dark thought, the shame, the malice
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
 
Be grateful for whomever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
 
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-Trust in the WTF Phase-

To put it plainly and way less elegantly, what Rumi is saying here is that just by being human, sometimes you’re gonna find yourself smack dab in the middle of a wtf phase.

I couldn’t help but realize how applicable this is to our lives right now.

“Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture…”

Yeah it’s kind of been a year like that, hasn’t it?!

Intense; bizarre; challenging; raw; forced surrender; extreme wtf phase.

Those are words I’ve heard others use recently to describe what’s going on in their lives right now – ok, that last one ‘extreme wtf phase’ was mine.

Do any of these words capture your experience of this year? Of these last few weeks?

But this is the part I love about that poem, that hearkens back to that whole “practicing surrender” thing that we explored via the last newsletter/blog about How to Become Wise: “still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.”

As in, trust in the process. Trust in this wtf phase. Trust that some good will come from it.

It’s been one of those years where every time I start to experience a deep-seated and long-awaited feeling of ‘ahhh everything finally seems ok and I feel at peace in this moment’ then BAM something exceedingly strange happens and I’m thrown back into that ‘extreme wtf phase.’

Here’s one example: within one week earlier this month I experienced two tornado warnings, one that occurred while having a lovely afternoon…in a boat in the middle of a lake.

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Let me see if I can paint this picture… I was deep into one of those ‘ahhh everything is finally ok’ moments: blue skies and sunshine as far as the eye could see, the wind in my hair, good tunes, happy friends, bottled mojito, red swimsuit, fully sunscreened, a perfect moment of joy and peace.

The literal calm before the storm.

We arrive at our destination – the much-anticipated turquoise waters of Big Trout Lake. We test one swimming spot – way too shallow. We move the boat and test once more – ahh perfection.

One human in the water, the rest of us mid-dive and – what’s that? Lightning in the distance?

Phones blowing up with Emergency Weather Warnings that we are now in the middle of a tornado warning between NOW and the next thirty minutes. Thank you, meteorology forecasts for being quite successful at reporting whatever is happening RIGHT NOW.

Suddenly a mass exodus of boats, a cluster of everyone sailing past each other, no regard for the giant wake being kicked up from behind that smacks you in the face as boats careen in front of one another.

These must be the same humans that bought up ALL the toilet paper, I think. Every man for themselves I guess…

Six lakes and nearly an hour away from home we kick it into high gear as the tornado sirens start blaring. Luckily the hubs is skilled at emergency situations and also gifted with an innate sense of direction and ability to read maps.  Always useful to hang out with a first responder.

He co-pilots skillfully and serenely as my friend handles the boat and I keep an eye on the sky and pray to my spirit guides for our protection. I mean, we all gotta play to our strengths.

[Ok, Mom and Dad, if you’re concerned, we did have a Plan B – it was something along the lines of pulling up to a stranger’s dock and running up to their front door to beg for shelter?]

By the time we arrive back at the cabin battered and bruised from the rain pellets, adrenaline crashing, the sky is clearing and we experience a mix of relief and annoyance at the utterly ridiculous timing.

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The second tornado warning is slightly less intense as I’m safely indoors in our home later that week –  but it follows the same ‘ahhh everything is finally ok turns into extreme wtf phase’ patten.

Moments away from sitting down to our delicious meal and the long-awaited relaxation of the day, I’m suddenly standing at the window watching the wind swirl underneath the large tree in our front yard as it threatens to uproot the whole damn thing with every swoosh.

The power cuts out, the sirens blare, mealtime turns into a very dark candlelight/flashlight dinner in the basement. I’m crossing my fingers the power returns and trying not to sweat the nearly $400 of groceries we purchased just hours prior now sitting in a non-functioning refrigerator.

Spoiler alert, the power did not return and I DID sweat it, getting way too stressed out about shoving all the food into coolers and the possibility of ALL this delightful food going to waste. I mean, did I mention we had just purchased A LOT of food?!

Well…life’s a practice and not a perfect, right? Sometimes we handle things really well and sometimes we also…don’t.

The morning after we wake up to storm cleanup instead of breakfast on a patio downtown, which had been our attempt at planning something normal (pro tip – just don’t plan anything normal this year.)

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-Flow Like the Breath-

Interestingly, the astrology app that I’m obsessed with called “The Pattern” has recently told me this:

“It’s a sober and serious time that can’t be overridden by trying to escape in the ways that normally make you feel good.”

Um, yes.

Months ago, it was just the inability to escape by not being able to plan a vacation – my usual go-to when I needed something to look forward to.

This last time I was simply looking forward to sitting down, on the couch, staring at the TV, and relying on the technology of refrigeration. Come on, this is just taking the inability to escape to a whole new level!

And it’s not simply intense weather throwing a wrench in our relaxation plans. Life, health, career, relationships, the entire social fabric – everything is being put thru the wringer this year. And our ability to check out or escape? Uh-uh, nope.

I find myself returning again to the Rumi poem:

“This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.”

How many different “unexpected visitors” have you been made to sit with this year?

Fear, disappointment, annoyance, overwhelm, grief, frustration, loneliness, discomfort, depression, confusion, helplessness, exhaustion, anger, worry, guilt, insecurity?

And yet…

“Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they’re a crowd a sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably.”

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In a recent yin yoga class, we explored the idea of working with our emotions much like we work with our breath: fully in, fully out.

If emotions could speak to us I imagine they would say, hi there – please love me by acknowledging me and then, let me go.

We can tie up a lot of our energy in trying to keep certain emotions away. We create emotional tension by pretending we aren’t being faced with some uncomfortable emotion we don’t want to experience.

We also exhaust ourselves by trying to hold on to certain emotions we don’t want to let go of. We create energetic blockages by not allowing things to flow.

Emotions are meant to flow like the breath. Nothing to be afraid of. Fully in. Fully out.

We don’t even have to THINK about the importance of breathing in and out, our bodies so intrinsically understand our need to do this in order to survive.

When it comes to our emotions, though, our pesky minds often get in the way and prevent this natural flow.

Nope, don’t want to look at that.
Nope, don’t want to feel this.
Oooh WANT to feel this, don’t want to let that go.
Don’t particularly want to feel this, but can’t seem to figure out HOW to let it go.

Notice how we try to hold on to both positive AND negative emotions – resentment builds when we don’t let anger go; disappointment sets in when we try to hold on to happiness and find that it, too, eventually passes.

So try this mantra the next time you’re faced with some uncomfortable emotion that you don’t want to experience and can’t seem to escape OR you find yourself unable to let go of some emotion you’re holding on to. Take a deep breath and with it, say:

Inhaling, I fully meet whatever emotion I am feeling. 
Exhaling, I fully let it go. 

The process of fully meeting and fully letting go of an emotion won’t happen as quickly as the time it takes for one full breath, but it helps us to start working with our emotions in a much healthier – and I think less overwhelming – way.

So maybe it’s not one breath, maybe it’s ten breaths, or a whole week of breaths but in this way we allow ourselves to eventually fully meet and eventually fully let go of whatever “visitors” come our way.

Think of yourself less like an extended stay motel and more like a bed and breakfast.

It’s a practice we are going to need as we continue to move forward through this year, and through our own personal wtf phases.

And just like that realization I had above, remember that this too isn’t a perfect, it’s just a practice. The important thing is simply to practice.

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So allow yourself to be emotionally challenged or triggered by this year (that won’t be hard to accomplish!).

It’s a year that is asking us over and over to let go of numbing, pretending, distracting, escaping –  defenses against our emotions that really don’t serve us and keep our hearts from existing in a fully open state.

Allow yourself to sit with whatever it is you are feeling.

It’s a year that is urging us to go deep inside ourselves, to explore this unknown terrain, in order to come out the other side more complete, more alive, more whole.

2020 is a year of clearing out the old in order to make space for the new.

“The dark thought, the shame, the malice meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in…Even if they’re a crowd a sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.”

Allow yourself to be cleared out, even if it’s messy, uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Allow yourself to FEEL.

The wtf-ness of this year symbolizes the part where things get worse before they get better.  They might get messier still, they might not get better when we want them to.

But they will get better. 

We are shifting into a whole new way of being in the world.

“New delights” await us on the other side. All we have to do right now is our work. Start with this: Continue to breathe. Allow yourself to feel.

Fully in. Fully out.

“Even if they’re a crowd a sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

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Be sure to check out the upcoming Fall Session of Yin Yoga + Mindfulness Meditation to learn the skill of stress resilience to bolster you through the inevitable wtf phases of life.  Next VIRTUAL session begins September 8th –
details and registration here!

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