3 steps to working through uncertain times
3 steps to working through uncertain times
By Niveen Rajabdeen, Ananda Wellness Australia
The last few months for me personally and professionally have been intensely busy, demanding, challenging and uplifting. It’s meant stop-start projects of various kinds, not being around much for family & friends, breaking rest, questioning / going inward (svadhyaya – see below) and big fat states of change and uncertainty.
So, after the work was done, challenges met, decisions made, the uncertainty befriended and the chaos subsided the last few weeks have meant downtime - taking things super slow and easy, not doing much. It’s the best and simplest reward - like stopping here to enjoy this ray of sunshine on my face, feeling great to be able to choose to pause and reflect. In the words of @erykahbadu I tried to stay woke through this time of flux and change with daily introspection, mindfulness, surrendering to universal timing and the chaos it can bring.... and that’s been my biggest blessing.
At various points in our lives we are all faced with moments of uncertainty. Here, we often fret, fight, resist, panic, lose our power in the battle for control and guarantees. Most of us can relate to one or all of these sentiments… I want this new possession / status / growth. I need this idea to work faster. I wish he / she / they would (…your intent goes here). I want this cycle to end.
The truth is that trying to deny or fight the reality of a situation is like fighting a rip tide. The harder you push the more it resists, and the more agitated you get. There are the rare few that seem to have life come easy, seem to be ok with anything, and are rewarded with the sweetness of their desires coming true. What are they doing differently?
Learning to read and align with the reality of your circumstance, understanding yourself and the web of universal timing using pausing and reflection can help you find not just the sweet spot but also help you ride life in a way that opens up a universe of possibilities so that the world really does become your oyster with or without your need/wish/desire going the way you initially expected.
HERE ARE A FEW GUIDELINES THAT MAY HELP
> STEP 1: GO INWARD, PRACTICE SVADHYAYA
According to the 4th sutra (thread) of Yogic Sage Patanjali’s teachings, ‘Svadhyaya’ is the act of self-study. The word is made of ‘Sva’ meaning ‘own’ or ‘human soul’ and ‘adhyaya’ meaning ‘lesson’ or ‘reading’. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra says: "Study thy self, discover the divine". It is essentially the process of introspection with the objective of discovering who you are, by detaching from who you are not.
For context, let’s throw back to Freud’s personality theory (1923) that views the human psyche as having more than one aspect to it, separating it into the Id, Ego and Superego which effectively work as a system to manage and fulfil our primal and instinctive demands in a moral and socially acceptable way. More often than not, our daily commentary and guidance stems from our Ego, which is informed by the external world. The ego self is concerned with survival and getting what it wants in all situations despite the consequences. Monitored by the Superego for morality and virtuosity (basically the idea that one “should be (this or that)”, “should be stronger”, “could be a more successful person” etc) this dynamic leads to self-criticism, judgement, conditions, fears and doubts. Going inward through svadhyaya, allows us to pay attention to this dynamic so we can begin the process of understanding how it holds us back, before we can release it. This essentially serves as the first step to detaching from who we are not so we can unite with a more expansive form of consciousness, getting closer to our true Self (universal consciousness – more on this next time!)
To practice, sit in a comfortable way and reflect on what is my inner commentary – what am I saying to myself? What is it trying to achieve? What feels icky or stuck? If no words come to mind, instead of labelling or defining things – simply call out where this negative sensation is sitting in the body or mind (e.g. stomach, throat, chest). Then release ones that aren’t serving you or are underpinning the angst.
> STEP 2: PAUSE & STAY PRESENT, SIT WITH YOUR REALITY, MAKE FRIENDS WITH CHAOS
The great Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron says “The peace that we are looking for is not peace that crumbles as soon as there is difficulty or chaos.. the way to experience it is to build on the foundation of unconditional openness to all that arises. Peace isn’t an experience free of challenges, free of rough and smooth, it’s an experience that’s expansive enough to include all that arises without feeling threatened. Sticking with uncertainty is how we learn to relax in the midst of chaos, how we learn to be cool when the ground beneath us suddenly disappears”
When you can practice stillness to observe and bring awareness to the unpredictable moving parts, as well as their impact on your psyche and body (most times experienced as anxiety or tension, aches, pulls and pains) you begin to face the chaos with ease. When you can breathe easy with it, make friends with it and notice how it flurries around before settling (it eventually always does) you start to tune into a level of peace that enables you to treat joy, sorrow, pain and pleasure in the same way – with openness and acceptance.
A good place to start is the Breath. When we engage in shallow top of chest (short) breathing it often reflects tension or worry within us. Ask yourself does this matter right now… ask yourself what would happen if I just paused for a moment and allow my chest and throat to soften so I could breathe in deep? And then try it.
> STEP 3: GIVE IT UP. SURRENDER TO DIVINE UNIVERSAL TIMING.
Think about the last time you failed or missed out, on any scale. Lost a job and found a better one… had a split-second change of plans leading to averting danger or a run in… getting delayed only to be able to be in the right place at the right time.
What if challenges and push backs exist to break us open, releasing inspiration, creativity, opportunities that are boxed off by our avoidance of them? The safe zone of narrowly focusing on only one outcome and ignoring all others is the main way in which we shut ourselves off. Give in, let go – be alert and stay woke enough to embrace the chaos that comes when your carefully laid out plans are changed. Allow a more natural order to fall in to place – what if there is a bigger and better plan laid out than that which our conscious, rational, planning, controlling mind can imagine?
When we get to know who we truly are (svadhyaya) and make peace with the uncertainty of life, are able to engage in desiring but detach from whether those desires come to be or not, we build an all-encompassing confidence within ourselves. This allows us to face life in an open and curious way. Opportunities come. Luck changes.
Trust yourself and your ability to land on your feet. Navigate with your instinct and heart. Take the risk. Enjoy the possibilities that life brings. No matter what state it’s at, remember to pause and embrace your unique journey and give in to its flow.
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