There is something appealing about the old saying, “When life hands you lemons make lemonade.” As unpoetic as it may be, I would add, just give yourself time to find a pitcher, buy the sugar, and stir it all up.
Similarly, even the harshest reality is an opportunity to learn, grow, and develop if you give yourself permission to move at whatever pace feels right, even though it may be slower than is typical for you. During a transition, changing, evolving, and ripening into an expanded version of yourself not only means giving yourself the gift of time to tune in to what feels right for you now, but time to integrate new ways of being in the world.
Everyone and everything is in a constant state of flux. When you are in the midst of a major transformation, whether precipitated by a death, diagnosis of an illness, divorce, empty nest, retirement, new job, or a move, you are faced with the various and intense ways your life, perspective, priorities, and even values, may be shifting.
At those times, the best you can do is slow down and breathe.
By letting these shifts of consciousness and circumstance wash over you without taking immediate action, you allow their effects and your reactions to seep in. Once you have had a little time to process, integrate and imagine new ways of living your life, you can begin to slowly change your behaviors. On the other hand, if you leap into the vortex you may not have the inner awareness, stability, or perspective to navigate its swirling possibilities.
Proceeding slowly, with your eyes wide open, won’t prevent making mistakes, but it will reduce their number. Paying attention to your inner reactions, whether physical responses, emotions, thoughts, or intuition, helps you base your decisions on a deeper knowledge of what might really enhance and expand your life rather than limit or shrink it.
If you find yourself taking this suggestion too far, i.e. procrastinating, ask yourself if you are avoiding something or protecting yourself. The ability to plumb your depths and discern the difference can only come from years of life experience making choices and seeing which ones were helpful and which unhelpful.
If your goal is to evolve into your truest, best self you need time to discover what is most meaningful. Understanding your priorities, values, and aspirations helps you shape a life infused with purpose and joy. Making decisions before you have allowed yourself to drop the chrysalis is a bit like driving a car without lessons. You might make it safely home, but it will be a harrowing ride.
It takes great self-control to slow down, let things marinate, and even allow confusion. You won’t stay in limbo forever. After a shock, the best treatment is rest. Rest until you feel energized, mobilized, and focused. It’s natural to think you will never feel like embracing life again, but you will.
Forcing yourself to move on or make big decisions before you are ready, ultimately limits your options. Test the waters, experiment. Try different ways of being, whether they are social, vocational, recreational, spiritual, dietary, or romantic. You can ditch anything that doesn’t feel right, though it sometimes takes a little time to know what really feeds your heart, mind, and soul. Give yourself a cosmic permission slip to wait, to breathe, to open up to all the possibilities.
Here are a few experiments to get you started:
Make a list of 100 things you want to do before you die.
The way to do this most effectively is to number a page from 1-100.
Set a timer for 20 minutes, and write as fast as you can.
You may repeat anything as often as it occurs to you. This allows your mind to flow, unimpeded by self-censoring.
When you are done, it’s easy to group your list into themes by counting how many times each one has occurred. Since you have a list of 100, you can convert these into percentages to find out what is most important to you now.
Do something completely different from your normal routine. If you are very pro-active, lie on the couch for an hour, take a long bath, go to a coffee house and people watch. If your tendency is to chill 24/7 you might like to schedule yourself with a few activities, one right after the other. If you always eat your meals out, cook something. If you always cook, meet a friend at a restaurant. Whatever you choose, do something radically different.
Similarly, if you naturally gravitate towards solitude seek out company. There are all sorts of interesting social options, whatever your interests, on http://www.meetup.com. On the other hand, if you are a social butterfly, try spending some quality time alone.
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang
Time and Transformation December 7, 2010
The Most Important Relationship You’ll Ever Have May 31, 2009
The most important relationship you’ll ever have is with you. Considering that you are with yourself every minute of every day, why not make this your most loving alliance?
While there are many reasons for not having developed a great bond with yourself, there’s no upside in cataloguing them. In lieu of focusing on the past, here are some ways to cultivate an enjoyable, dependable, tender relationship with yourself.
As the Buddha said: There is no one more deserving of compassion than you. By fostering a gentle, patient litany of self talk you will reap more benefits than you can imagine. Think of all the harshness you have heaped on yourself. Perhaps, it was setting perfectionistic, unattainable goals, or an incessant catalogue of self-criticism. Decide today that you will counter those old tendencies towards self-downing with tenderness. If you hear yourself being judgmental of the way you are handling some aspect of your life, stop, take a breath, and talk to yourself kindly, the way you would calm a child. Those same messages will soothe you and, more importably, build inner trust. In time, you will be able to count on yourself for compassion and self-nurturing. You will be that safe haven for you.
It may sound banal, but taking good care of yourself begins with eating well, including treats. Unless you are someone who eats to live, and doesn’t really enjoy your food, eating something delicious every day is another way you show yourself that you matter. Getting enough sleep is crucial, too. Just like the people who think they can have one drink and drive, while every study shows they are impaired, many think they can do just fine with six hours a night. Perhaps, you are one of the very few who can, but most need seven to eight hours to function well. Last, but not least, is exercise. Move your body. It really doesn’t matter what you do, but do something on a regular basis and it will improve your outlook, as well as your physical health.
Meditation is a wonderful way to befriend and better understand your mind. What are its tendencies? Do you focus on all the tasks that still need doing? Are you preoccupied with everyone else’s problems, worrying day and night? Do you live in the future, waiting for your ship to come in, lose 10 pounds, or meet your ideal mate? Whatever your predilections, you can learn to re-focus on your breath and quiet some of the incessant noise. Meditation is also a great way to notice any tendencies towards self-downing, or habits of assuming the worst. Once you see a trend you can actively work towards substituting unhelpful thoughts for positive ones. (See Affirmations.)
Even your sex life can benefit from a better relationship with yourself. By getting to know your body’s reactions you can please yourself, if going solo, or help your partner understand what you like, if coupled.
Socially, you can develop comfort within yourself, so going out alone is not a hardship; but, something you might choose on a regular basis. After all, you are always available without prior notice and you already know what you like to do. For many people, this is a very difficult thing to imagine, let alone practice. I encourage you to bravely go forth: see that movie or art show alone, go out for a meal by yourself (you may want to start with breakfast or lunch as they are often eaten without company), take a beautiful drive or walk (you will notice more when solo), do all those things you know you would enjoy and you’ll probably end up making new friends (all those other folks who like the same thing you do and who didn’t want to call their friends to see who wanted to share the experience). I am sure that right after people’s fear of public speaking (the number one anxiety in this country), is venturing out by yourself. Wouldn’t it feel like a great coup to tackle that old irrational belief? You know, the one that says you’re a loser if you’re alone. You’re not. One third of all adults in the U.S. live by themselves.
Attending to your spiritual side, developing a deep bond with the ineffable qualities of life, and finding peace within are all ways of enhancing your joy. Trust that you will find your way to that still, small place inside where all goodness dwells. By practicing being there for yourself, in all circumstances and on all levels, you will watch joy ripen in your heart. You can choose to feel truly loved right this minute. Don’t take my word for it, just go for it. It’s a radical step, but one you’ll never regret.
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang