Hello my friends,
How are you?
These are interesting times for sure.
When you feel powerless to change what is happening, it can be helpful to remember the idea that: it’s not always about changing your life, sometimes it’s about changing the way you experience your life.
So let’s keep exploring the tools, practices and mindsets that can help us during this time. Today…let’s learn the skills needed to make peace with the present.
Yes, these are interesting times. You no doubt have felt pulled at, triggered, or pushed into discomfort. And not just the outer discomforts of social distancing and working from home, but the inner discomforts. Not just the discomfort that arises from having to change how we “do” but the discomfort that is arising from having to change how we “are.”
We are masters at distraction. When uncomfortable feelings arise, we will do anything to not have to fully feel it. Usually the world encourages this, encourages us to stay busy and keep moving faster.
But right now the world seems to be asking something new of us. Seems to be asking us – gently or painfully nudging us – to sit with the feelings we have inside.
If you find yourself lately consumed with more uncomfortable feelings than you’re used to feeling, know that you’re not alone. And know that it serves a purpose.
Sure, these uncomfortable feelings we feel right now may simply be the byproduct of an inconvenient time that reminds us how much better life will be once everything returns to “normal…”
Or these uncomfortable feelings you feel right now may be the accumulation of years, possibly decades of refusing to truly feel. Previous traumas, childhood wounds, past life karma – whatever it is that needs processing, is asking you now to process it, release its energetic hold on you, and allow yourself to move forward in a completely new way.
This ability to truly feel – to learn to be comfortable feeling discomfort – is what helps us to make peace with the present moment.
How do you do this? Begin with a practice of noticing every time you’re catapulted back into the present moment.
I, for one, am a master at living in the future. I can get through anything by distracting myself with the next exciting thing. I used to make my way through day jobs I hated by excitedly looking ahead to the moment I was done and could go hang out with friends. I can get through a challenging workout session by dreaming up my next delicious meal. I can make it through my least favorite seasons of late winter and early spring by pinning my hopes and dreams on my next big vacation.
The hubs has caught on to the fact that whenever I start obsessively dreaming up our next vacation that there’s probably a deeper underlying reason…like feeling frustrated with or unfulfilled by my life at that moment.
I personally found myself “catapulted back into the present moment” the last time I tried to shift my brain into “let’s fix these uncomfortable feelings by planning a vacation” mode and realized…I couldn’t. We can’t plan our vacations right now, we can’t even pin our hopes and dreams on those beloved weekends which look suspiciously familiar to the rest of the week. Seriously, what day of the week is it?
When does this happen for you right now? Are you catapulted back into the present moment every time you want to pick up the phone on a Friday and invite a friend over to hang and then remember that you can’t? There you are again with you, all of you and all of your feelings. When you excitedly jump into a big house project only to find yourself stuck halfway through when you need to call in external help? There you are with you, and an inability to keep moving forward. When you realize you haven’t showered in a week and basically have no reason to leave the house? There you are with you, and nothing to look forward to.
It’s tough, right?! We’re so used to replacing discomfort with excitement, with distraction, with accomplishment – and right now sometimes we just can’t.
Being “catapulted” back into the present moment can sometimes feel like a violent awakening. A catapult isn’t gentle. But this is the process that can shake you back alive.
When I was going through another challenging time in my life, spending half of a summer in a hospital room, I came back to this Byron Katie quote again and again and again:
“Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don’t have to like it…it’s just easier if you do.” -Byron Katie
It may feel like all of this is happening TO you against your will, but I promise you this is happening FOR you. Because this is the practice. This process of returning again and again to the present moment. Life happens in the present moment. This is the only place life is happening and it will happen with you or without you. Life is meant to be rich and complex, colored by our emotional experience.
As you find yourself now returning again and again to the present moment, start by asking yourself what it is that you’re feeling. Don’t worry if it doesn’t make sense. Be ok with whatever comes up right now. If you feel like screaming, scream. If you need to sob, sob. If you need to kick a pillow, kick a pillow. If you need to go for a walk and just process, allow yourself to process.
If you want to get out scratch paper and write down every heavy, terrible “negative” thought and feeling you’re having just to get it OUT of your own energy field, do that and then rip it up or burn it. It can be very cathartic. I know, it’s messy work and not very glamorous. But this is how we will begin to make peace with the present.
When in doubt, follow these six steps:
1. Return to the present moment. Ask yourself what you are feeling.
2. Allow yourself to have your messy moment or allow yourself to go for a walk or get out the scratch paper and just process. The only rule is that you can’t take out your messy moment ON someone else.
3. Now get curious. Poke around. Go deep, go back in time. Ask yourself what these feelings are trying to tell you. The most important part when it comes to your emotions is to PAY ATTENTION. Emotions are not your problem, they are your friend, they are messengers. Listen to them.
4. Think of your emotions like children…don’t always ACT on their suggestions as some of them will be ridiculous, but it’s important that they feel heard. But these are wise children: they will communicate to you in messy childish ways, but their wisdom lies in the fact that they are pointing you towards something that needs your attention. Perhaps it is something that does need changing in your external world, or perhaps…and more commonly…it’s an inside job, a piece of your heart or soul that needs healing (remember it’s not always about changing your life, sometimes it’s about changing the way you experience your life).
5. After you’ve processed and investigated, take 10 deep breaths and with every exhale imagine or feel yourself letting go of anything that feels heavy, anything you’ve been holding onto from earlier this week/month/year/lifetime, anything you’re ready to let go of. These deep breaths also activate your Parasympathetic Nervous system, the “Rest & Digest” or calming response that puts you in a place where you can access calm, peace, and healing.
6. Give yourself space and grace knowing that building the skill of emotional awareness is a process. It’s going to feel weird and messy and uncomfortable as you reestablish this healthy working relationship with your emotions again. It’s ok if it’s messy at the beginning – you’re building the awareness that leads to emotional intelligence. As this awareness continues to point to the places inside of you that need healing – and if you do the work to heal them – the entire process will become more refined.
The message right now? Stop running from yourself. The world has literally grounded us in our place.
The lesson? Learn to make peace with the present. You ARE capable of this. This is the path to more clarity in your mind and peaceful calm in your heart. You will feel stronger, more in control of your life, and more deeply connected to the rich experience of your life.
One of my absolute favorite quotes about building this skill to make peace with the present is by Yin Yoga Teacher & Author Bernie Clark – and it feels soo applicable right now:
“We awaken to the present moment. We touch what is happening in our body, and in our heart and mind. We don’t have to go anywhere. Right here, right now – this is life.” -Bernie Clark
Here’s to making peace with the present moment and letting the process shake you back alive.