How to Get out of the Deep End
Have you ever felt like you’re drowning, figuratively speaking, of course?
Between the headlines, the deadlines, the traffic and the shoulds and expectations in our world, you’d have to be otherworldly to never feel overcome and overwhelmed. I’ve been told that even highly spiritual people are overwhelmed with grief, suffering and doubts from time to time. So clearly, you’re not alone if even monks and other spiritual leaders are not exempt.
Knowing that you’re in good company not-withstanding wouldn’t it be nice to spend less time drowning (or treading water) and more time at peace in your life?
Life, our most precious gift, can sometimes morph into feeling like a curse – your mental, spiritual, emotional and physical faculties sometimes seem to conspire to keep us curled up in the fetal position, afraid to move, and angry at the world (or the Universe, or the people with whom we share our lives!)
If you feel like you’re drowning, here are some tips to get out of the deep end and onto shore:
- Find the source. Is this a physical situation, an emotional one, a spiritual one or a mental challenge? Locate where the despair is living and face it. This means you’ll need to spend some time with yourself. This can be done sitting still (no TV, no phone, no computer, etc) or out in nature (no phone, no walking partner, no doggies, just you, yourself and Mother Nature). During your stillness let whatever you’re feeling arrive.
- Let go of judgment. Our egos love for us to judge our feelings. Ego (Edging God Out*) likes to keep you off balance and struggling – the better to “protect” you by keeping you at the status quo. As your feelings or thoughts or repetitive inner “tapes” crop up, resist the instinct to quash them or to argue with them or to give them more wood for the fire. Simply let the feelings show up and pass on.
- Discover the truth. As the feelings occur and your need to judge them or own them takes over – ask yourself, “Is this true?” For instance, you might tell yourself, “I’m an AWFUL daughter, my Dad is sick and I haven’t been to visit him, he must hate me.” Is it true? Are you an awful daughter? What would that mean? Go deep with this exercise until you find the truth.
- Create the life you want. In your mind for now. This is probably the most potent exercises my clients use to move from where they are to where they want to be. Here’s how it works – instead of focusing on what you don’t want, start clarifying how you want to feel in the new and improved situation. Perhaps you cannot take another day in the life-sucking job that is quite literally making you sick. Instead of pulling out the classifieds or logging onto the job hunting sites, start imaging exactly how you want to FEEL in the new job. Get clear on the types of people you want to interact with each day, and how it feels to be doing your work. Do you want to be challenged intellectually? What does that feel like? Keep imagining the new situation and make it as real as you can – then you can start looking, trusting that the Universe is conspiring with you to make it happen.
- Write down your wins. Most of us spend an inordinate amount of free time focusing on what is going wrong and how it tags onto everything that’s gone wrong in the past. Instead, spend at least 15 minutes before hitting the pillow tonight writing down the things that went right. This doesn’t have to be a flowery recap of gratitude if that’s not your thing. This can be a bullet point list of 5 things that went right. Here’s an example from my recent list: 1) The irises finally bloomed; 2) Tick-free dogs; 3) Client breakthrough (finally) on her situation; 4) Planning call with L regarding retreat – should be a blast; 5) Dad’s responding well to chemo. I like to keep the list to five things and I like to keep it short. This process can change the way you sleep at night! Put it into practice now.
- Surrender your need to be in control. This is tough. We like to feel like we’re in control. When we worry about outcomes it feels like we’re ‘doing something’ and ‘taking charge.’ Truth be told, we’re only wearing down our bodies with stress. Whether you grind your teeth, press your tongue into the back of your teeth or tap your foot incessantly – you’re adding more pressure to your body. This can be relieved when you realize that the bravest and strongest thing you can possibly do is let go of your need to be in control. Surrendering is actually the sign of strength and wholeness you’ve been looking for.
So when you feel like you’re drowning, remember there’s always a life buoy close at hand. Take hold and make your way to shore!
* The first time I head the phrase “Edging God Out” in relationship to ego is while reading Wayne Dyer’s Wishes Fulfilled.