By Deepak Chopra, MD
In the face of a crisis—whether the loss of a job, the end of a relationship, a betrayal or a financial setback—the human mind has a tendency to react in conditioned, limited ways that usually only intensify our pain. We may ruminate on the past, getting stuck in feelings of resentment, regret or self-pity. Or we may project into the future, getting caught up in fears and worst-case scenarios. Instead of becoming trapped in the mind’s repetitive and ultimately self-defeating thought loops, you can use the following three mantras to move through a difficult situation and return to your innate state of balance and well-being.
1. I will begin with quiet awareness.
Your essential nature is pure, unbounded awareness: a state of infinite peace, infinite joy, and infinite creativity. In this state of pure awareness, there is no struggle. You feel safe and connected to life. Solutions to problems spontaneously emerge. However, when you are in the midst of a challenging situation, your awareness can become constricted by fear, frustration, and confusion. You may be working harder than ever, doing more of what didn’t work in the first place, feeling increasingly exhausted. As the physicist Albert Einstein said, “No problem can ever be solved at the level of awareness at which it was created.” The only way to solve your problem is through expanding your awareness, which opens you to greater clarity and new possibilities.
One of the most powerful ways to experience quiet awareness is the practice of meditation. There are many different kinds of meditation techniques that will help you go beyond the mind’s noisy internal dialogue. Here is a simple practice you can try right now:
Meditation on the Breath
- Sit quietly with your eyes closed and gently put your attention on the tip of your nose.
- Breathe in and out normally, feeling the air flowing through your nostrils.
- Now, envision your breath as a faint cloud of pale golden light going in and out of your nose. Feel the soft energy being carried by your breath. Let it relax and calm your mind, easily, without forcing anything to happen. The process will take care of itself.
Remember that no matter what difficult challenge you’re facing, as you cultivate quiet, expanded awareness, solutions will flow through you in ways that you couldn’t have imagined or predicted when your awareness was constricted.
2. I will say yes to change.
A crisis can bring up fears of the unknown. Your life is changing, and you may feel out of control and helpless. Although you can’t stop the cycles of change, you can learn to see change as a friend rather than foe. One way of doing that is by practicing seeing the possibilities in whatever happens, even if the situation seems dire. It means a willingness to take a deep look into whatever arises, even a sense of disappointment or loss. As the Sufi poet Rumi describes with heart-opening clarity, “Every need brings in what’s needed. Pain bears its cure like a child.”
If you don’t get what you expected, look at what happened and ask yourself, “Where is the gift in what I’ve received? How can I transform this situation into an opportunity to learn?” In this approach, change is accepted, not denied. A sense of spaciousness enters in.
“Yes” is a form of radical acceptance, a deep allowing of experiences to be as they are and to move through you so that you don’t become imprisoned in pain. The following meditation will help you open to change in the present moment:
Opening into Yes
- Sit quietly with your eyes closed and take a few full breaths. Begin your meditation by bringing to your awareness a current situation that is changing in ways that make you feel uncomfortable. It may be your relationship with your partner, your job, your health or your financial status. Notice how charged the story is and the feelings it provokes in your body.
- In order to recognize what happens when you resist experience through aversion, experiment with saying no. As you connect with the pain you are experiencing, try to push it away or tamp it down. What effect does the no have on your body, your heart, and your feelings?
- Take a few more deep breaths, soften your jaw and let go of any tension. Recall the painful situation, but this time invite it in, saying yes to the experience. Let the feelings be held in the embrace of allowance. Even if there is fear or shame, let the emotions arise in a state of acceptance. Say yes to that from which you would like to hide. Say yes to your fears. What happens to your body as you say yes? Often, yes is accompanied by a sense of spaciousness and openness, a shift into an expansive awareness. Through surrendering into the moment exactly as it is, you can tap into a boundless source of love and freedom.
- Release the residue of thoughts and settle into the feeling of simple awareness. Let the warmth of this exercise spread through your body. Make it your intention to say yes to whatever life brings, letting each experience bring you closer to truth.
3. I will focus on gratitude.
Whatever we put our attention on expands in our experience. If our mind is focused on what’s not going well in our lives, our fears about the future, and our grievances, we will experience a reality that feels painful and negative. On the other hand, if we focus our attention on what we are grateful for, we will experience a reality filled with love, joy, appreciation and peace—even in the midst of a difficult event or situation. Instead of dwelling on what is lacking, we appreciate what we have, and notice the many ways in which the universe is supporting us in every moment.
Gratitude is also a powerful tool for emotional well-being and physical health. As scientific research shows, people who focus on gratitude experience less stress, better sleep, more energy and greater levels of joy and happiness than their less-appreciative counterparts. However, you’ll only receive the benefits of gratitude if you focus on it, so here is a simple way to experience gratitude right now:
- For a few moments, consider the things you have in your life that you could be grateful for: all the nurturing relationships, the material comforts, your body and the mind that allows you to understand yourself and everything around you. Breathe and be grateful for the air that is filling your lungs and making your life possible.
- Feel your body and your aliveness and acknowledge what a miracle it is just to be alive right now. Allow your awareness to appreciate what you are seeing, hearing, smelling and touching.
- Feel the love, compassion, and understanding that gratitude brings into your heart. Notice how gratitude brings your attention into the present time, which is the only moment in which you can experience peace and joy.
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