Earlier today a friend came to me for a bit of advice. She asked how to stay still in the midst of other people’s chaos since she’s in a very peaceful place while others close to her seem to be experiencing their fair share of difficulty.
Welcome to the story of my life lately. It couldn’t be mere coincidence that she posed this question just as I find myself living the same thing. Someone I love dearly, wholly and differently from any other person on this planet is going through an awful time. While that is happening, my life is pretty darn amazing, and it can be challenging to reconcile the mix of emotions I feel as well as maintain my own balance. Needing to process all of my stuff as well as respond to my friend’s question, I began to write and see what came of it. The result? A series tips, in no particular order, that I hope will serve us all:
Tip #1: Use the challenge as a lesson.
When someone very close to you is going through a difficult time, it is bound to effect you. Assuming you have a modicum of compassion and empathy in your warm, beating heart how could you not be stirred by the suffering of one you care about?
Perhaps some of us take on more than we need to, while others don’t take enough. Who knows? Who cares? The point is, when a tough situation presents itself in this way, there’s a reason for it and there’s a reason you’re part of to it so you’re best served to figure out what that is. Rather than wallow in said stuff, thereby encouraging the sufferer to do the same, learn from it.
Without getting too stuck in your respective heads about the situation, look at it as objectively and creatively as possible to find the lesson(s) and perhaps even the solution(s) that the matter at hand has been delivered up by the universe to bring you to. After all, the trials and tribulations of life are never more than we can truly bear and they are here to inspire growth, healing and ultimately positivity.
So find that and share it. Share it with the person struggling. Share it with others who could maybe learn from the example. Share it because sharing lightens your load and deepens your bonds. It lets you know you’re not alone, and there is value to whatever is happening. (Side note—all the above applies to your own struggles too.)
Tip #2: What’s mine is mine, what’s yours is yours.
In close relationships we generally tend to encourage dissolution of many boundaries, material and otherwise. Generosity is pervasive, shared responsibility is necessary and there is a heightened intimacy that comes from having such freedom with another person. But this isn’t true in all areas.
We’ve all got our issues and our baggage. We’ve all got our problems and our hang-ups. When someone near and dear to us is caught up in all that, it is important to have a clear understanding of where their stuff stops and your stuff starts. Don’t take another’s issues on as your own. Recognize when you are falling into the trap of assuming their drama, or worse, blaming their issue/situation as the cause of your own feelings about it.
If we strive to be accountable, we have to know what is ours as much as when to release something that isn’t. You can be supportive and empathetic, yes, but there must be boundaries. Whether it is expressing that you’ve reached the limits of what you can handle or offer in an attempt to help, or acknowledging that you’re using the person as a scapegoat for your own issues, you’ve got to own it. You’ve got to be honest, with yourself and others.
Tip #3: Be the change.
In the wise and timeless words of the great Mahatma Gandhi, ” . . .be the change. . .” that the person struggling wishes for them self. Lead by positive example. If you are the one living healthy, making wise choices, doing good in the world, being responsible or whatever the positive example is, keep at it!
Don’t get dragged down into the depths of their difficulty.
Instead, be the light the shines above, illuminating the path toward whatever positive change and do not feel guilty about it.
Guilt comes up for a lot of us when someone close to us is struggling through something, feeling down perhaps, and we’re out there living large and happy. I know for me it can happen and it stems from a desire to share the wealth if you will. When I’m feeling good and my life is going great, I want to share that with everyone important to me.
I want to bring them all into the fold, and admittedly, I’ve experienced feeling a little guilty when I’m riding a high and someone I love is stuck in a low. But guilt doesn’t get us anywhere.
Fostering positive energy and example does. So stick with that and everyone involved has a much greater chance of reaping the benefits than if you succumb to guilt and sink to the low.
Tip #4: Take care of you.
In the face of tough times, whether yours or someone you love, you have to keep your strength up. So that means nurturing yourself, and maybe even pampering yourself a little extra. This goes for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual strength.
It is so essential to keep your foundation solid or you can’t be of use to anyone. For me, this means meditating and chanting regularly, getting in as much time on the yoga mat and exercising as possible, having fun and surrounding myself with people, places and activities that make me smile, laugh and feel inspired. It also means the occasional chocolate and peanut butter cupcake for dinner (like tonight) or rocking out like mad to some angry music or whatever scratches the particular itch that you need to get it at in order to show up as fully present and strongly reinforced as possible.
You should never apologize for taking good care of yourself, for taking time for yourself, especially when something challenging is looming. That’s when you need it the most.
Tip #5: Love holding love.
Focusing on the spiritual side of things for a moment, while you are the one holding a space of calm amidst the storm, hold a space of love. Embody love, be love, create love, share love, inspire love. Having pure, positive intention is powerful stuff. Let your intention be to promote love, healing, peace, joy, transcendence and liberation.
Create a space for all of this in your heart and hold it there for the one you care about. Hold it there until they are ready to occupy it fully themselves. Do everything in your power to sustain hope for and belief in brighter days. Just focusing your energy and intention on that has the power to make it manifest. This is so important, so fundamental.
So to everyone out there working to support someone they love, for everyone leaning on someone for support, take heart in knowing there is a reason for it all and there is the opportunity for much good to come from whatever struggles you face. And know for certain that you must have your own proverbial oxygen mask properly secured before you can possibly hope to help someone with their own. That’s life. Life it fully. Live it well.
Editor: Hayley Samuelson.
Jessica Avila is the founder of Ocean Om standup paddle yoga, as well as a Sivananda and vinyasa yoga instructor in Fort Lauderdale, FL. For her writing, like yoga, is a practice in spirituality, self-discovery and self-healing. Reach her at [email protected] and visit www.oceanom.com for more on yoga or jessavila.blogspot.com for more on what she has to say.