Monday, May 01, 2006

Coping with negative emotions

Life often pushes us past our comfort zones and the challenge is to be comfortable with our vulnerabilities. There is no such thing as right or wrong, so it's certainly not wrong to feel sad or angry, or experience any other negative emotion. Indeed, it is a natural and inherent part of being human.

The only proviso is that we should not feel negative emotions constantly, all the time. After all, we are here to experience the positive ones too.

Many times in our lives we are faced with challenges which deeply affect us on all levels of our being - physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. For example, a life-threatening illness, a serious accident, the breakup of an intimate relationship, or the death of a loved one will cause us to feel unbalanced for a greater or lesser time and we may have the acute sense that our world is falling apart.

Failure to accept a situation is really what causes our suffering. We can sometimes control external realities but often we cannot. In all cases, however, we can try to control how we feel and behave in relation to what is happening.

If we use the analogy of driving a car, if you hit an oil slick and go into a skid and you focus your attention on the nearest brick wall or lamp post, that is exactly what you will hit. If, despite the skid, you are able to focus on the road, you will most likely avoid crashing or any serious injury.

Sometimes in life, we go into a skid and too many of us focus on the wall. The next time life is throwing you a few challenges, dig deep and absolutely refuse to focus on the 'bad' situation. Divert your attention to a positive outcome. Think just one positive thought and hang on to it until you start to feel yourself lift out of the depression. Throw your shoulders back, stick your chest out, head straight and laugh or shout to get yourself out of the downward spiral.

Remember that the mind affects the body, but that the body also affects the mind.

Immediately, when your life is turning upside down, go and grab a pen and piece of paper. Any pen, any piece of paper. Write down what is working in your life, what you are grateful for, what is making you happy. Then read it over and over and over, until you impregnate your mind with a surge of positivity. Like thoughts coalesce.

Do not struggle against the situation because you will be struggling against the universe. Ask, how can I change my view? Ask, how can I feel differently about this? Ask, what can I learn from this? You may wish for things to be different but remember that everything is perfectly ordered at each moment of your life. It may not seem so but many times, the universe provides opportunities for growth through difficult circumstances. The quicker you can focus on the good, the quicker your adversity will change. If you re-act, this means that you are acting out of previous experience(s) and you will miss the opportunity. If you start to flip that positive switch you will re-create your circumstances anew.

It is the meaning we choose to give to each event in our lives that determines the eventual outcome.

Look within yourself and know that you have the power to move through any situation. It would be very wise to meditate for ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes in the evening, especially when your life is in disarray. It is within the silence that your inner voice will speak to you and where you will find inner strength and courage and, ultimately, peace. We live in a sanitized society, where we are given images of people practising yoga and meditation in peaceful surroundings. So, we naturally believe this is a precondition of engaging in such activities.

This is a terrible shame because all great spiritual teachers know the value of meditation, especially for finding the answers to difficult questions and life situations.

Do not beat yourself up if you find yourself falling apart at the seams - give yourself permission to be fully human and be gentle with yourself. Forgive yourself, as well as the situation, and you will be one step closer to peace.

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