“Who sits in solitude and is quiet hath escaped from three wars: hearing, speaking, seeing: yet against one thing shall he continually battle: that is, his own heart.” ~ Abbot Anthony
I was sitting by a beautiful lake at sunset being frustrated and distracted by little things; the moment wasn’t the perfect scene I had pictured in my head. There was a dog barking, cutting through the otherwise perfect silence, and I was being bitten by mosquitos, and I had a hundred and one worries running through my head. I’d been looking forward to getting away from the city and having peace and solitude at the lake all week, but then, once I got there, I wasn’t able to enjoy it. When suddenly I thought to myself “look around you, look where you are!” I looked around and really saw for the first time that day, and a sense of awe and wonder bubbled up inside me as I sat there on the dew dampened grass watching the fish jumping out of the water, and admiring the tall grasses waving in the wind; at that moment more beautiful than a colourful bouquet, their dark silhouettes set against the last light of day reflecting off the water. It is in moments like that, when “the wildness and the pang of life steals into our hearts and thrills them” (~William James) that you realize what it’s all about, that all life culminates in this one moment, and the need for everything to be “just so” disintegrates as you finally appreciate what is.
It’s easy to get “caught” in a bad mood; to feel like there’s nothing we can do to shake it. Cartoonists depict a bad mood as our own personal rain cloud following us around, and it can certainly feel that way; like a force of nature, but that story paints us as a victim. When we become a victim of our bad moods, we surrender control of our thoughts and emotions; the very things we have the most potential to control in this ever changing life.
When we give up control; because it is a choice, conscious or not; we start to feel powerless and “out of control” in our daily lives. We start to see everything in a negative light under that dark cloud: children’s laughter becomes annoying instead joyous, that beautiful sunny day is too hot and bright, everything our spouse says and does is wrong; it’s almost as if we start to look for things to add to our misery, to justify our bad mood, rather than owning our own feelings.
The problem starts to magnify as our bad mood effects our words and actions. We start to drift away from our core values and act in ways that go against our authentic selves: snapping at our children and spouses, losing it on the checkout clerk, cutting people off in traffic. All of this sets off a chain reaction as the people around us tend to react to our negativity in a negative way. Surrender to bad moods often enough and it becomes habit, part of our automatic programming; we drift on autopilot in a sea of negativity and we can drift so far away from our true selves, our highest potential for good, that it can seem impossible to find our way back.
The key to staying authentic, holding on to our truths, is to take back control of our thoughts and feelings: to take responsibility for our own moods. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and really own what you are feeling, right now, at this moment. No one and nothing “made” you feel this way. You made a decision, whether conscious or not, to feel this way, and you have the power to decide to feel differently. The power you have over your own emotions is incredible, and the more you practice consciousness of thought, the easier it becomes to stay in control.
This is why we have a “meditation practice”, because meditation is a practice for life. Not the practice of having an empty mind, but the practice of focusing your thoughts, bringing them back again and again so that when you find your thoughts spiraling out of control you have the capacity to bring them back to center again and again. Meditation is the practice of conscious thought.
OPPORTUNITIES AND CHOICES
“Every significant vital sign- body temperature, heart rate, oxygen consumption, hormone level, brain activity, and so on- alters the moment you decide to do anything.” ~ Deepak Chopra, The Book of Secrets: Unlocking the Hidden Dimensions of Your Life
You can make a decision, right now, to change your focus, to change your mood. Whatever situation or person you are holding responsible for your bad mood right now, free them of that responsibility. Put the power right back where it belongs: in your hands, or more accurately, in your mind.
That situation didn’t just happen to you; own the fact that you created it, that it is exactly what you need at this moment for your personal growth. Ask the question “what do I need to learn from this in my life right now?” Be grateful for the challenge and the opportunity to grow.
“On some dimension or other, every event in life can be causing only one of two things: either it is good for you, or it is bringing up what you need to look at in order to create good for you.
Evolution is win-win…life is self-correcting.”
~ Deepak Chopra, The Book of Secrets: Unlocking the Hidden Dimensions of Your Life
That person didn’t do that hurtful thing TO you; that person did something misguided and small. You chose to take it personally, you chose to be hurt by it. You can make a different choice. You can change your mind. Choose to see that misguided small person for who they really are: another Soul, lost and confused on the journey to enlightenment just like yourself.
Recognize parts of yourself in them, as much as it may pain you to do so. Learn true humility and look at the parts of yourself you are really scared to face staring back at you in their eyes.
Recognize that the fear and the pain come from not accepting those parts of yourself. When you are able to love those parts, you will be able to love that person, and be grateful they came into your life to act as your mirror and teacher. They are there to play a role in your life, as you are there to play a role in their life.
Recognize that we are all actors on the stage of life, and nothing is personal. In your eyes, they are just the role they are playing in your life, but in reality, they are a Soul, a heart, and a consciousness: a piece of the Divine.
Recognize the Divine in them, and the Divine in you, and the Divine at work in your life.
These are the tough lessons.
This is the real hard shit.
This is when you rise to the challenge, let go of your ego, and let yourself love yourself as you truly are, not as you pretend to be, or wish you were.
This is when you realize that everything you are is enough, and when everything you are is enough, then every need you have to be right, or to be validated, or to be justified melts away, and taking ownership of your feelings is no longer terrifying because there is no judgement at your own failings; no nagging voice telling you you are not good enough.
Love yourself enough to choose better things for yourself.
Love yourself enough to take back your power and remember that this is a journey and that you won’t get it all right all of the time, but every moment is another opportunity to make a better choice. Be grateful for the opportunity to shine.
“The truly courageous person is able to withstand harm without the mental suffering that hatred and anger bring.” ~ The Dalai Lama