Sunday, August 3, 2014

Adjust Your Sails: Nine Ways To Successfully Captain Your Life Ship Through Stormy Seas

Surprise!  Life is throwing you a party.  Big and little surprises are menaces in our path, or building blocks to our next vista.  The difference is often in how we handle the change the surprise brings.  I’m a young soul and so most surprises feel like new experiences to me.  I’m learning slowly how to deal with such changes out of necessity, but it’s not always easy.  How to cope?  Here are a few thoughts:

Look for the lesson.  Life is a great teacher.  Upheaval, chaos, or sudden change forces us to wake up, smell the coffee, see the difference between what really matters and what seems to matter, reprioritize our lives, and start moving towards a destination that feels better and makes more sense.  As the Buddhist proverb wisely notes: "When the student is ready, the teacher appears."

Reframe and respin.  Be your own spin doctor!  Not all unexpected events are negative, really.  While events may seem negative initially, the same may be a silver lining in a cloud.  Losing a job or a relationship may be difficult initially, but life may surprise us with a better work environment or a more loving relationship.

Always have a Plan B.  Plan A is the destination.  Having a Plan B destination ensures that we don’t allow ourselves to wallow in self pity or be immobilized by fear if Plan A doesn’t materialize.

Think long-term.  How will the unexpected events impact you in the future?  Will they matter in a month? In a year? In five years?  Try to gain the peace of knowing that life has a way of balancing out, the good and the bad, the happy and sad.  We all go through challenges, at least everyone I know.  The basket of awful stuff will be countered with a basket of at least as much good stuff down the road.  Be wise enough to spot the good stuff and start looking immediately.

Adjust your sails.  On the stormy seas of life, the sooner we adjust our sails, the better.  "We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust our sails," noted Dolly Parton.  Fix, improve, revise, and master the situation rather than allowing change to be overwhelming.  Give yourself time to change rituals and routines that once were, to welcome in what is waiting.  Distract yourself from the old by eating different foods, seeing old friends you’ve missed, or engaging in new activities.

Embrace the change.  Find one thing to like.  This can be so difficult, but it is essential to moving forward with a changed situation.   Thinking about or dwelling on the past is draining and unproductive.

Let it go.  Yoga teaches detachment.  Stepping back from problems, or at least from the negative emotions behind them, is essential to moving beyond them.

Exercise your resolve muscles.  So the expected happy ending became a nightmarish finale?  Resolve to control your mind and not allow the situation to rule your thoughts.  Think of the good that is within reach and the good that is coming.  Smile.  It’s around the corner.

Release your monkey mind.   Breathe in peaceful, calm, verdant thoughts for ten minutes a day.  Focus on your favorite mantra, place, or even a favorite color and fill your head with only that.  Sit quietly and dismiss all negative thoughts, memories, and thoughts of the past.  

Life is dynamic, always moving, ever changing.  Even the love between two people changes.  It grows or it withers away.  Acceptance, even when the change is difficult, makes us stronger.  German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche noted, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”  Ah so true.  Life experience teaches us that after a period of rough or muddy waters, a better, brighter tomorrow awaits on the horizon.