Last night at a holiday gathering, I ran into an old friend who I hadn’t seen in many years. As we were catching up, it was obvious that for her life seemed somewhat of a struggle. And there wasn’t going to be anything that I could say that was going to change her mind. She almost convinced me that I should change my perspective. When speaking about my book I’m frequently asked what advice do I have for those who are going through hard times.
We can’t ignore the fact that these are challenging times. There are many who are affected by the economy. Their problems are immediate. Others are affected by the every day imperfections of life; their careers, their relationships, their health and what isn’t working that captures their attention.
The bigger question is what enables some to keep smiling in the face of this adversity, while others are sapped of their joy and serenity.
The mind is fickle. There is always going to be something that captures our mind’s attention whether we want it to or not. It could be a headline, a story about someone we know or about what happened to us during our day. Quite often we don’t know what it is before it happens. To say it another way: Our mind has a mind of its own.
There is that thing—that circumstance in our life, which we believe prevents us from being happy. You know that thing. It more than bothers us—quite often we’re obsessed with it. We’ll wait it out we think to ourselves and things will get better. Eventually there will be a resolution to the problem or we’ll figure out a solution. Or maybe even the other person will change. And then we’ll be happy again—well maybe not happy, but at least we won’t be as stressed. It is this pattern that I see repeated over and over again.
Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. Although we might have a temporary reprieve from the recurring stress, it’s only a matter of time until the next thing occurs that bothers us. Let’s explore these tendencies by traveling back in time and discover what our history tells us.
Take a moment to reflect upon what you consider to be your biggest concern. Prior to this concern, what were you most concerned about. If you keep exploring this train of thought, you’ll notice that you can go on for quite a while. It works in the other direction also. When you travel into the future with the same frame of mind, you’ll only see a wall of worry.
So what am I getting at? Even though life is and always has been changing, the nature and source of our concerns doesn’t change much. There has been and always will be something that obsesses us. That’s the way life is. And on the path of awakening, we discover that we’re human, not machines that are suppose to be infallible. While finding solutions is important, the exploration needs to shift from trying to avoid these problems to seeing them as opportunities. We discover that even in the middle of the storm, we can experience that moment of stillness and clarity. We learn how to be and know what we have to do.
Not only are there external shifts in our thinking, there are internal shifts in our perception of reality. These shifts occur simultaneously. There is the external shift of how we see ourselves in the world. Most of us identity with what we do in the world and or from the circumstances of our life. Think about how you sign your name or what you say to describe yourself. Are there initials after your name? Is there a description of what you do or who you do it for? It takes a while to come to the realization that we are much more than the labels we use to describe ourselves and that we are much more than the circumstances we let define our lives.
If you have been a reader of my work for a while you know I was a trial lawyer for many years. My awareness of my true essence began when I started to meditate which was when I was in my twenties. I began to experience moments of peace and tranquility in the least likely of places. It could be in a courtroom. It could be in the midst of a stadium at a sporting event full of thousands of people.
As you cultivate a spiritual practice, you‘ll be able to shift your focus from the concerns of your daily life to the present moment, where you experience what I call “moments of grace.” These “moments of grace” are just the beginning. With consistent discipline, they become a sanctuary from the concerns of the world.
How you get to and discover this sanctuary is a unique experience for each of us that keeps evolving. Since I have written about this in other articles, I’ll only say a few things here. A word that I like to use this feeling is transcendence. We transcend our concept of ordinary reality. Our mind takes a holiday. Athletes experience it as being in the zone. Dancers and musicians become one with the rhythm. Runners feel it when the endorphins kick in. For many, including myself, writing has become a great way of tapping into this stillness. We can’t always get there. But when we do, it is a “moment of grace.”
I hope that I have planted a seed that you continue to cultivate. Hopefully by now you know that you will always have concerns. That’s life. But you can choose happiness. You can smile. You can laugh in the midst of it all.
Mark Susnow, is an executive and life coach, who inspires others to believe in themselves. A former trial attorney for 30 years, he integrates what it takes to be successful in the world with the inner wisdom unfolded to him through years of yoga and meditation. He is the author of, Dancing on the River:Navigating Life’s Changes.