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January 27, 2018

7 Steps to Contentment in Challenging Times.

In the midst of facing fears or difficulties, you can still find a place of contentment within.

It won’t make everything go away, but it will reduce your stress and connect you to your true nature.

You’re not alone if you felt challenged with life lately. For many of us, last year was a doozy. Whether in world events, at work, or in our personal lives, difficulties arise in life, like potholes in the road, and they give us opportunities to grow in unprecedented ways.

But sometimes those challenges seem overwhelming. Our minds blow them up into crises, replaying the many terrifying possible scenarios over and over again in our thoughts until we become agitated, anxious, or immobilized.

Chances are pretty good that the scenarios we ruminate over in our minds aren’t happening in reality right now. But our bodies don’t know the difference. When our imagination creates images and thoughts that are fearful, our bodies react with the same stress response produced when we’re faced with a true threat to our life.

Creating Unnecessary Stress.

When we imagine frightening or upsetting outcomes, we create unnecessary stress and trauma in our minds and bodies that have little or no basis in reality. Does this help us solve the problem? Not likely.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can bring your mind back to reality, and back to inner peace. The yogis call this Santosha. Santosha is the inner feeling of contentment, of accepting what is, of knowing that underneath all the external appearances, some part of you is okay—even if life is currently challenging you. It’s a solid foundation within that is always available to you, and isn’t based on external circumstances. It’s part of your true nature.

Freaking Out or Calm, Cool, and Collected?

Tapping into contentment allows you to respond better in difficult situations. What is more effective in a crisis: becoming stressed and freaking out, or remaining calm, cool, and collected?

This doesn’t mean that you won’t feel upset. And you won’t become an apathetic slug, either. You will still feel your emotions. But you can root down into something deeper than your grief, stress, or worry, into the place that knows you’re okay, no matter what. That’s contentment. Contentment roots us into the Divine Self: ever-present consciousness, beyond all circumstances. This calms your nervous system and allows you to be the best you can be in the situation.

Try out these steps to finding contentment within, even in the midst of your challenges.

Simple Steps to Return to Contentment:

  1. Breathe. No matter what you’re doing, breathing is the first step. Be conscious of your breath. This helps to bring you back to reality in this present moment (chances are, you’re just sitting there, breathing, in front of the computer, not actually in the scenario you’re playing over and over in your head.)
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  2. Assess the situation. Take some time to consider what is actually and presently occurring in the situation. Stick with the facts.
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  3. Feel your emotions. Running away from the fear, or trying to deny it, only serves to intensify the problem. Feel the sensations of the emotion in your body, like tension, pressure, or restlessness, and breathe into the sensations. Try not to label them as “fear” or “anger.” Let go of the obsessive thinking or postulating and just feel. If you give this some time, the emotions begin to shift.
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  4. Consider your choices. Come up with a list of your options to respond to the situation, including no response at all. Feel into the ramifications of each action.
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  5. Act. Do what is appropriate to do right now. It can include the decision to wait a few days before you decide how to act. It may also include prayer, offering loving support, setting a firm boundary, asking for help, or no action at all. You may realize you can’t do anything right now. See what is available and appropriate right now.
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  6. Let it go. When you’ve taken whatever action feels right and is appropriate to do right now, then let it go. This means that we surrender our need to control whatever action we choose. The truth is, we can’t control it. When we let go, we allow something greater than us to do the big work. It is an act of trust that larger shoulders than ours carry this situation.
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    Letting go is a recognition that there is nothing else for you to do right now. If you need to follow up with another action at a later date, you’ll know. When thoughts return you to fear, worry, or rumination, do your best to release them again. When you are able to release the obsessive thinking about your challenges, you return to this moment, and contentment is possible.
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  7. Breathe. Be here again in this moment, just as it is. Breathing in, breathing out. Here, in the present, you are probably okay.

After doing all seven steps, feel the shift out of the mind and into the now. Although we may not always like the events in our lives, we can find a place within that transcends circumstance. It is the place of being, where contentment lives. When you’re just being, accepting who you are and what is, you’re okay for now. And probably the next now, too.

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Author: Rev. Connie L. Habash
Image: Pixabay/leninscape
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Lieselle Davidson

 

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Rev. Connie L. Habash