“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” ~ Thomas Merto
Life can be likened to the tides of the ocean, full of ups and downs, highs and lows, triumphs and disappointments.
During the triumphs, life flows with ease and may be accompanied by bliss. The abundance of blessings can be navigated without resistance. Then the tidal wave of a challenge threatens to suck us below the surface and we struggle against it, trying to keep ourselves afloat.
When this happens, all of our tools for coping seem to get washed away with the current. While inspirational advice is well intentioned, there never seems to be advice on how to deal with problems. How does one achieve happiness, bliss, calm in chaos, peace and contentment? Where is the “how to” manual on how to navigate life’s lows? How does one “enjoy the journey” when the journey is laden with bumps, gaps and giant walls?!
While I don’t have all of the answers to this I do know one thing is for certain. Dealing with the shit that life throws our way takes practice, patience and acceptance.
Balance can be restored by embracing an emotional equilibrium during the rough spots in life. The life preserver that keeps us afloat during the tempests of life challenges is the ability to maintain perspective and emotional balance through the ebbs and flows.
In other words, just ride those waves!
Imagine yourself as a surfer, paddling out against the current. You are tired from the strain and feeling a little scared. But here it comes, a giant tidal wave, the biggest one you have seen yet. You have choices now. You can try to duck under and through the wave, hoping your knowledge and skills of this maneuver will bring you to the other side safely. The catch is that yet another wave will inevitably be there and eventually you will have to try to catch a ride or you will be floating forever. Or, you could accept the challenge and paddle with the wave towards the shore.
Now here is where one of two things will happen. Either you will have complete success by riding that wave all the way to shore with feelings of triumph and success, or, you will be taken down by the wave, churned around a bit by its powerful energy, and then come up gasping for air.
You could choose to give up here, claim defeat and never conquer your fear. The other choice would be to take the experience from the last fall, realize it was not as scary as you first perceived, then apply the tools that you gained from being tossed around and paddle back out with strength and fearlessness. If you panic, you will have to try over and over again until you catch a wave and ride it in smoothly. I can guarantee that once you do, it will be more rewarding than you could ever imagine.
The point here is that when challenges arise, breathe; don’t panic and don’t give up.
It takes practice. It means remaining aware and mindful. It means practicing compassion for oneself. It means having empathy for others who are experiencing a difficult time. It means remaining open to the blessings that are already present. It means having faith that it will all work out and a new path will reveal itself at the right time. It means not resisting the inevitable and embracing the moment, otherwise the pain will persist the longer you resist. It means remaining objective and not judging oneself. It means not blaming ourselves or anyone else. It means holding ourselves accountable. It means forgiveness. It means remaining calm by taking deep breathes and repeating that as often as necessary.
How do we achieve all of this in the face of adversity? When things are so overwhelmingly wrong and hurtful, how do we remain humble and gracious?
By using the tools that are all around us.
“Practice [yoga] and all is coming.” ~ Guruji Pattabhi Jois
You probably knew I was going to say that, right?
All of the answers are right here inside us, buried deep within the ever loving well of our hearts. It is about surrendering to the moment and allowing the current of faith to carry us to our truth and therefore the answers.
The answers may not come in the form of words or exact direction. They will be whispered to us from our intuition. To hear and to heed the insight of our intuition we must silence ourselves and find stillness. This takes practice. And what helps us prepare for this? Tools like yoga and meditation, something that slows us down and allows for reflection. It may also come in other forms: a walk in nature, baking or cooking, writing in a journal, the smell of the ocean, a moment shared with a child, acts of seva (selfless service), sports, or anything that calms, soothes and centers us.
These activities become the training grounds for life. It takes practice to grieve graciously, to remain responsive rather than reactive, to experience and allow uncomfortable emotions rather than resist them. It takes practice to ride the waves of life all the way to solid ground.
Once we have a practice, we can apply it to life. We can practice with the little challenges so that we can be prepared for the bigger ones. I recommend starting small. Like addressing your anger in a traffic jam. Focus on the moment you are in. Take a deep breath and make a list of all of the good things in your life. Perhaps put on some music and enjoy the time to yourself. Count your blessings. I know that sounds cliche, but it really does work!
No matter how hard it gets there is always something to be thankful for. Even if it is simply that we are alive, we can be thankful for every breath we take. We can be grateful that every time we wake up we have the opportunity to take full advantage of the day ahead of us.
How do we make it through life’s challenges without resistance?
With practice we accept that the waves will continue to roll in until we find the courage to attempt to catch a wave. With practice and persistence we will not give up as the challenges continue to throw us off balance. With practice and faith that we will succeed, we will eventually ride a wave into shore with grace and confidence, in spite of our fears.
Nichole Gould is the founder of Barefoot Warrior Yoga in The White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a Student of life, yogini, yoga teacher, landscape gardener, single mother, organic pizza waitress and lover of all board sports, she considers herself a jack of much and a master of none. She can also be found dabbling with guitar playing, singing off key, reading from her many stacks of books or writing poetry. Feel feel to peruse her Facebook page or contact her via her website for more insight into her ever curious mind.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel