Seems like all you do is rush rush rush. You’re physically and mentally tired. You’re anxious.
There’s one crisis after another. Sometimes it’s worse because you didn’t cause the crisis — you’re just expected to fix it.
You’re wishing you could stick your head in the sand like an ostrich and just let the world whirl on by.
Some people have more (or less), hectic drama than you, but dealing with some trouble is normal for everyone.
Trouble, worry, anxiety, distress, unease, irritation, annoyance, exasperation.
And vexation. I like that word. Vexed!
I thought things were going well and wham! I am vexed! This is a lot of vexation for a simple thing like burning the party cupcakes. I’m totally irritated! I’m anxious and distressed!
Not to mention feeling exasperated with myself. Why, oh why, did I volunteer to bring cupcakes? Even if they do have the tastiest fluffy frosting I ever created.
We’ve all experienced some similar situation where the planning was good, but the execution and outcome were troublesome.
There are many kinds of situations that require your attention, your presence, and/or your action. You could choose to walk away. In some situations, that would solve the problem. But not always.
So what can you do to maintain your own peace of mind when trouble strikes?
“Everything you can imagine is real.”
― Pablo Picasso.
Your imagination is your best tool. Here are four ways to use your imagination to maintain your balance.
1. Creative Visualization
Do you feel like you’re in a storm that just won’t let up?… All you can do is stay out of the wind and stay safe.
Imagine a hurricane, with the wind howling and crashing into trees and buildings. Imagine bits and pieces of stuff — of people’s lives — blowing in the mighty force of the wind. All you can do is get out of the wind and stay safe.
What you can do: Imagine the storm in all its intensity. It’s blowing all around you. Bits and pieces are hurling and spinning everywhere. Water is rushing through the air sideways and you can’t see much farther than your fingertips.
You’ve seen pictures of hurricanes — the white whirling mass with an empty spot in the middle. Imagine yourself in the calm center of the hurricane. You are the Calm Center. Your strength and purpose as the Calm Center encourage calmness in those around you.
You reflect tranquility and serenity. You are peace personified. And they absorb these qualities from you, planting seeds within themselves that may help them move closer to serenity, too.
Good. You’ve done your job. Repeat.
2. Song and Dance
Do you know that singing can actually change the chemical mix in your body, allowing you to increase your own sense of well-being? Strong research finds that singing modulates mood and lowers stress. Better yet, singing with other people gives your mood an even bigger boost.
So turn the radio on and belt out your favorite tunes. We can all use an extra dose of helpful endorphins!
What about musical instruments? That’s a great idea! When I’m focused on playing my mountain dulcimer, ukulele or tenor recorder, that’s all I’m doing. Sometimes I have the added bonus of my thoughts sorting themselves out in the back of my mind and having a solution float to the top. (These instruments are inexpensive and there are plenty of lessons and music charts online.)
And dance. All you need for dance is your imagination. Dancing is good for coordination and balance, and strengthens your core muscles, too. You can find classes for Bellydance, Nia, Zumba, Salsa and other Latin dances almost everywhere. There are lots of videos online, too.
Creative Visualization, Singing, and Dancing can be done anytime, anywhere. But what if you’re more of a do-er? Or maybe you’re an outdoorsy kind of person.
3. Nature never hurries, and yet everything gets done
Studies have shown that something as simple as a potted plant in your home can increase your sense of well-being.
What if you just sit still and gaze at your plant? What if you focus only on your plant while you water it and snip dried brown leaves, imagining that you are snipping away your feeling of stress? What if you imagine your beautiful plant being healthy and happy, and imagine that happiness overflowing into yourself?
What happens when you go for a walk in the park? In the woods? In the National Forest? What happens when you go camping for a night or a weekend? Do you unwind?
What could happen if you plan nature days into your routine? Hmmm, can’t happen because you’re too busy?
Whatever you are doing,
Do that and only that.
My BFF’s husband says that archery practice is his meditation. When he is aiming at the target, he’s firmly in his body, engaging with Mother Earth and feeling firmly grounded. As he straightens his back, he engages his core muscles, being aware of his posture. As he holds the bow and pulls the string, he engages his shoulder and neck muscles, connecting with his core. As he focuses on the bullseye, he engages his mind, will and wisdom.
All this attention to his physical body, of coming into alignment with himself, transfers to his inner being. And for that moment in time, he is in perfect alignment with All.
4. Create Supportive Rituals for Yourself: Mindset
So how do you actually accomplish any of this? You’re busy! You need more sleep!
Chop wood, carry water.
Chop wood, carry water.
Solution: You need a different way to chop wood and carry water.
Perception is important. It’s all in how you look at it. Mindset.
Staying balanced is not something you do only when trouble threatens. It’s what you do every day, every moment of your life. It’s isn’t so much “what you do” as how you look at it. It’s how you perceive the stuff happening around you or to you.
So… What if you elevate your version of chop wood-carry water from a practice or chore to a ritual? Something you do mindfully, every day or so?
There are a few things that need awareness daily, even to the point of making it a daily ritual.
For example, when you wake up, you could stretch your muscles and breathe deeply — feeling the air expand your chest. This gives you the time needed for your dreams to recede and your awareness to settle back into your body.
The Dalai Lama says that thinking one positive thought in the morning can change your whole day.
Next, think of something that makes you smile. Think of what’s going right in your life. Be grateful for it and let yourself feel the happiness it brings you. Make this a daily ritual that supports your day, before you start the agenda of the day.
Now, I’m confessing that I get bored if I do the same thing too often. I fixed that by choosing several things that work for me and mixing it up as needed. Plus, different activities can have different results.
- We already talked about how music helps you feel centered and calm.
- Once or twice a week, take care of your houseplants or garden. Be present in the moment and think only of that. Listen to the sound of water gurgling from pitcher to soil. Appreciate the grace of being able to care for such a beautiful life.
- Brush your pet’s fur. Be present in the moment and focus on the feel of the brush stroke, the softness of fur, and the happiness radiating from your pet. Appreciate the deep friendship between the two of you.
- When you walk outside to your car or the bus stop, notice what goes on around you. See the birds and wonder at how gracefully they fly. Wow, that grass is really green! In your mind, wish every person you see to have a good day.
- I know of someone who cleans house when she wants time to herself. She says it’s almost miraculous, the way everyone clears out and she gets hours of alone time.
- I had a boyfriend early on who kept telling me to “take care of business and CYA,” but I didn’t understand what he meant. My choices and experience hadn’t taught me how to understand that one yet. But it’s exactly true. If you take care of your material obligations on time and as needed, there will be a lot less stress in your life
Serenity is a Choice
You are the creator of your own world.
I first heard that one way, way back when I was young. I didn’t understand it then. There were so many other factors affecting my life that I couldn’t see how to create a better world for myself and my little family. I’ve got a better handle on it now.
This is what I learned: You can live in an endless moment of stress and anxiety. Or you can live peacefully when all around you is chaos.
To live peacefully, you’ll need to develop your own practices and rituals that help you maintain your calm serenity. The choice is yours.
Serenity is something you build, moment by moment. You build it by standing aside from the drama at work. You build it by not taking on the obligation to fix something that isn’t your responsibility, such as someone else’s behavior or habits.
Everything is temporary.
You build serenity by understanding that everything is temporary. If it won’t matter in five years, then don’t give it more than five minutes of worry-time.
You build serenity by deeply knowing that just because someone said something doesn’t make it true.
You can re-create your world so that you are the calm in the eye of the storm. So that when people mention you, the first thing they say is how calm you are and how you help them stay calm.
How to stay balanced when trouble threatens is a daily attitude and practice. Yes, some practices help in the moment that trouble is threatening — breathe deeply and focus on the expansion of your rib cage — but true serenity is built day by day. Breathe deeply. This is the way freedom feels.
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