by Tracee Stanley
How can you find stability and clarity and when everyone around you is in a constant state of reactivity to every tweet, every post, every news article and every friend who has a differing opinion? The answer is that you must build your capacity. Build your capacity to hold everything — all of what you perceive to be good, bad and more. What exactly does that mean? It means remaining stable in the midst of chaos. It means riding the ebbs and flows of life and not getting caught in the undertow. This is not apathy or some form of magical thinking, but seeing things as they are, not how you wish them to be…and being okay.
Build your capacity for discernment, to see what is true and what is not. Build your capacity to know what to do, when to do it and how. If we can see clearly and cultivate stability we will know what actions to take and we can navigate life and it’s obstacles with more ease and grace. But we must have the awareness, strength and steadiness to accept and process what is in front of us.
This kind of powerful capacity often awakens in you when you least expect it. It happens when you have to dig deep to walk into the room of a dying loved one to say goodbye. When you have to take part in an intervention with a friend or loved one who desperately needs help. When a friend calls you as their last hope because they are ready to take their own life. You find a deep reserve of energy and space; a place you might not have known existed within you. You resolve that you are not going to be swayed; that you can and will be strong and clear. And then you find that you are being guided by your inner knowing and you withstand something that you may have previously thought was intolerable. You not only withstand it, but you excel in the doing of whatever needs to be done. I am asking that you not wait for tragedy to strike, but that you build the qualities of capacity, strength and stability now. The more we exercise the muscles of building and maintaining capacity in the everyday, the more stable we will be in what others might call the worst of times. If these first few weeks of the new presidency are any indication, we will all need to build our capacity no matter what side of the aisle we are sitting on.
Here are some simple ways to begin to build capacity:
1.Create a media safe zone in your home.
Designate a room in your home that is media free. If possible, allow your bedroom to be the place where you can retreat for silence and reflection. This will not be a place to escape to but a place to be present with your thoughts and feelings. Place a journal on your nightstand and journal every morning and night for 10 minutes.
2. Be present with what you are feeling.
Part of becoming more stable and grounded is acknowledging what it is that you are experiencing — without shame or judgment. When you hear “bad news” you may feel something arising within you. Just stop whatever you are doing and breathe. Let the feeling of whatever it is bubble to the surface. Don’t push it away. Now notice that it has a texture or essence; maybe even a vibration that accompanies it. Ask yourself — what am I sensing right now? When was the last time I felt like this? If you can begin to trace back to the very first time you felt this way it may be helpful for you to see how much of what you are experiencing has to do with the current “bad news” or with a prior event in your life.
3. Discern between your thoughts, feelings and emotions.
As you continue to become more awake to what you are experiencing you can begin to more easily recognize the nature of that experience. Is a thought, such as “This really makes me mad when people do x,y, or z?” Is it a feeling or sensation, such as “I feel my whole body becoming hot and tingly?” Is it an emotion, such as “I feel anger arising?” Notice where you feel it in your body. Be with it. See what is there are perhaps it even has a message for you. LISTEN. Go to your safe zone and journal.
4. Cultivate the opposite.
When you feel something arising. Imagine the exact opposite. Remember you are not imagining the opposite situation. For example you are not imagining that your preferred candidate is now president. You are tapping into your emotion and imagining the opposite emotion. So if you are feeling helpless close your eyes and sense what you are feeling in the body. Now imagine feeling powerful. Take yourself back to a time when you felt powerful, if even for a moment. Remember how it felt. Where do you feel that in your body? Vacillate you attention between where you feel helpless in the body and where you feel powerful. Notice that it is very possible to have them both present within you at the same time. Remember that energy follows attention. Notice what you choose to pay attention to. Take a few moments to journal in your safe zone.
5. Dissolve everything.
Set your timer for ten minutes. Sit in a chair or on the floor with your eyes closed. Notice your thoughts, feelings and emotions arising. Each time anything arises, imagine and feel whatever it is being subsumed and dissolved by light. You are not labeling anything good or bad you are just dissolving everything that comes into your awareness. Feel yourself becoming more and more spacious. Feel yourself grounded and stable. Remind yourself that whatever happens, you can handle it. After the 10 minutes has passed, take 5 minutes to journal.
6. Commit to a daily ritual of meditation, long walks, periods of silence, yoga nidra, journaling or self-inquiry.
The more you are able to find moments of silence for reflection and contemplation the more capacity and stability you will build for yourself. Others around you may become drawn to your stability and ease. Share with them whatever tools worked for you.
This is a time that we must each become self-aware and resilient. We must get to know ourselves. In doing that we may begin to understand more about others, bridging the gap between good and bad, and right and wrong. Maybe if we can all commit to building our capacity we can find a way to live together in harmony, to find solutions and to be more responsive and less reactive. And when action is called for in any moment we will know how to use our energy and attention for the greatest effect.
Tracee Stanley is a Meditation and Yoga Nidra teacher in Los Angeles. You can download a free meditation from her until 2/12/17 at Pranamaya
Photo by Robert Sturman