“I’m 64 and I am loving my life more than ever. My friends (many of whom are retiring) ask me when I am going to retire. I tell them that I would love to die on a Friday night, knowing that I got to finish another week doing what I love. What a blessing that is. I worked for The Gallup Organization for 13 years and they have a question they have been asking in workplaces for almost 25 years: At work, I get to do what I do best every day. Sadly, only one person in five answers yes to that question. Twenty percent of us. And over time the numbers have never changed, as I understand it. We are the lucky ones, the ones in the 20 percent who get to do what we do best every day, to dream big, to keep going.”
—Dennis Welch, president at Articulate PR Communications, Austin, TX
“I am grateful to be alive, I am grateful to have reached the age of 36, and to have great relationships with my parents who I love very much… Through various practices and studies, I work towards letting go of my material attachments and fears related to death, but at 36 years old, I mostly understand Krishna’s words to Arjuna via the Bhagavad Gita intellectually at this point: ‘While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief, those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead,’ but I am hopeful that I will internalize his words as I age.”
—Ajani Charles, professional photographer, director, and producer, Toronto, ON, Canada
“I follow the teachings of the Buddha who reminded us all that our earth was truly an empty place devoid of all things for which many of us endlessly and relentlessly craved throughout our life under illusion. Psychoanalyst, sociologist, and philosopher Erich Fromm, who was not a Buddhist but who had in his later years been briefly ordained as a Buddhist monk, classified humans into two main groups: Unproductive and Productive. The former consists of those who live to eat while the latter represents those who eat to live, or to be — to be alive and to be productive for oneself and all humans. Dr. Fromm’s view of humanism was aptly summarized by your astute remark: ‘The paradox of the good life is how to be detached from worldly things while being fully engaged in the world.’”
“My mother used to say: ‘Si la jeunesse savait et la vieillesse pouvait.’ (‘If youth only knew, if age only could!’)Healthy aging is not limiting in terms of what one can or not do; on the contrary, it is freeing!”
—Agnes M. da Costa, head of the regulation advisory office at the Ministry of Mines and Energy, Brazil
“70 is an incredible number to have achieved. In all the ancient Jewish texts, the number 70 is associated with strength and is a combination of the number 7 which represents perfection and the number 10 which represents completion. What an auspicious occasion for you to celebrate! Looking forward to watching you soar into your next decade.”
—Sharon Ufberg, co-founder of Borrowed Wisdom, Hermosa Beach, CA
“Sir Arthur C. Clarke wrote his own epitaph: ‘He never grew up, but he never stopped growing.’”
—Rebecca Hoffberger, founder and director of the American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore, MD
“I think this is what Maslow meant when he wrote about self actualization, reaching that point in life that offers a 360-degree perspective with the beauty of hindsight to help us view and experience the present and the future from a new vantage point that is truly beautiful and filled with excitement.”
—Jerry Kitchel, consultant at HEART, Upland, CA
“I’ve always believed that in our 20s, the world is our oyster, though we don’t know it; in our 30s we’re focused on approval; in our 40s we have the confidence but not the wisdom; in our 50s, if we’re lucky, we have the wisdom and the confidence; in our 60’s the world is our oyster, and we know it!”
—Nicki Anderson, director of women’s leadership program at Benedictine University,Naperville, IL
In the span of a single second, our lives can change, as energy moves at a pace more rapid than anything we can fathom. By Madisyn Taylor
Since our lives are constantly in motion energetically, change is a constant element of our existence. As dynamic as that energy is, it is not random or haphazard in nature — the shifts in energy that are constantly taking place are the result of our choices. The formulation of intention, a change in perspective, or the creation of a goal can transform our lives in blink of an eye.
We think positive thoughts and the world becomes a brighter place. Or we decide who we want to be and become that person. With each passing moment, we are given innumerable opportunities to create change using nothing more than our awareness.
In the span of a single second, our lives can change immeasurably because energy moves at a pace more rapid than anything we can consciously fathom. Though we may not at first be sensitive to the vibrational shifts taking place, our choices are ultimately at the heart of these transformations.
We can typically recognize the consequences of key decisions because we anticipated the resultant energetic shifts. But many, if not most, of the choices we make each day are a product of instantaneous reactions, and these still have a significant impact on the energy of our existence. It is for this reason that we should learn to wield what control we can over these shifts. If we bear in mind that all we think and all we do will shape the existence we know, we can deliberately direct the energetic motion of our lives.
Each day, you make an infinite array of decisions that cause energy shifts in the world around you. In many cases, these transitions are almost imperceptible, while in others the change that takes place is palpable not only to you but also to those in your sphere of influence.
Your awareness of the immediate energetic consequences of your thoughts and actions can guide you as you endeavor to make the most of the autonomy that defines you as an individual.
The myriad choices you make from moment to moment, however inconsequential they may seem, represent your personal power, which sanctions you to transform the energetic tide of your existence with nothing more than your will.
Real life most often happens during the in-between times, when we are not celebrating a special occasion.
While celebrations are intended to honor life’s more momentous occasions, much of real life tends to happen during the in-between times. While moving from one moment in time to the next is seldom considered a significant occurrence, it is during those in-between times that we are most in tune with life’s most profound, albeit simple joys. Between birth and death, triumph and sorrow, beginnings and endings, we enjoy innumerable experiences that often happen unnoticed. These times are just as worthy of celebration.
The in-between times are seldom about landmark moments. How you choose to celebrate them or which moments you choose to celebrate is up to you. You may want to celebrate the simple facts that you are alive and that every day is a chance to spend time with the people you care about or do the work that you love. Then again, when you look at the good that exists in your life, many reasons for celebrating the in-between times may become clear: a cup of your favorite tea, a beautiful sunrise, a good book, and the smell of fresh air can be reasons for celebration.
Celebrating the in-between times can be as easy as paying special attention to them when they do happen, rather than taking them for granted. It’s your focus of attention that can turn an in-between time into a celebration. You can also pay homage to the in-between times by slowing down and allowing yourself time to look around and allow your heart and mind to take in all of your life’s wonders. Far too often, we can let those simple moments of awe pass us by. The in-between times are when life happens to us between the pauses that we take to honor our milestones occasions. Without the in-between times, there would be no big moments to celebrate.
The refined impression you glean from your experiences after contemplating their significance, can add a new richness and texture to your life.
Though we humans are self-aware, we nonetheless cannot distance ourselves from the world around us and have a natural tendency to ascribe meaning to all that we experience. The significance we perceive in our experiences is rooted in our observation of patterns as they relate to ourselves.
One situation has the power to teach us about life because it exposes us to something unfamiliar. Another touches our emotions deeply by enabling us to see how fortunate we are. Yet our initial impressions of an experience may not wholly reveal the true significance of that occurrence because our full response to an experience is like an onion with many layers that all have disparate meanings.
Consider that a sunrise may stun us visually while simultaneously evoking memories of childhood and reminding us that each new day is a rebirth.
If you take the time to examine your experiences closely, you will discover that your original impressions may only be a part of a larger story of significance. Peeling away the layers of an event or incident can be a fun and interesting process if you allow it.
Your interpretation of any situation is based not only on facts but also on feelings, beliefs, and your values. As you ruminate upon your experience, spend a few moments contemplating how you felt when it began and how your feelings had changed by its end. Ask yourself what abstractions, if any, it awakened in your mind.
The significance of an experience may remain hidden to you for some time. The meaning of an event can change when viewed from another context or may only become apparent after intense meditation. An incident that seemed superficial may unexpectedly touch us deeply later in our lives.
If you take a truly open-minded approach to your examination of each new level and do not shy away from revelations that could prove painful, you will learn much about your relationship to the world around you.
And the refined impression you glean from your experiences after contemplating their significance can add a new richness and texture to your life.
In the early days of the pandemic, it seemed smart to press pause on major decisions; it’s not ideal to make big changes in the midst of a crisis. But now, several months in, many people are facing difficult decisions — involving relationships, careers, children, health and more — that can no longer be ignored.
“The advice of not making decisions when you’re under stress is great for someone who is in a short-term traumatic experience where there’s an end to it,” says Kimberly Diggles, a licensed marriage and family therapist. But with no end to the pandemic in sight, particularly here in the United States where the number of coronavirus cases remains high, Diggles says it may not be possible or healthy to leave big decisions on the back burner. Instead, she and the other experts with whom we spoke recommend a proactive, mindful approach. Here are their tips for decision-making during the pandemic and other stressful circumstances.
Assess the moment
Stress can negatively affect our cognitive performance, so try not to rush into a decision during a tense or fearful moment.
“When we perceive a threat in the environment, the amygdala” — often referred to as the fear center of the brain — “becomes overactivated,” says Sunita Sah, an organizational psychologist, expert on decision-making and professor of management studies at the University of Cambridge. “At the same time, the emotional regulation center of the brain is underactivated and the prefrontal cortex — which is required for thinking — is also underactivated, which makes it very difficult to think clearly.”
Taking a beat to bring down your heart rate can help. You need to feel less afraid to make a good decision, Sah says. “If you’re feeling really stressed or traumatized, try not to make an instant decision. The first step is to get some distance.”
For people who work in high-pressure environments — such as Elizabeth Clayborne, an emergency medicine physician at the University of Maryland Prince George’s Hospital Center — swift decisions are often necessary. But equally important, Clayborne says, is the self-awareness to recognize when you need to regroup. “I work in an environment where mistakes cost lives. So I have to be diligent to know that I’m always performing to the best of my abilities,” she says. “In the ER where there isn’t really a time to break, I have to be creative to create the space I need to think.” That may mean something as simple as walking to the cafeteria or getting something to drink, she says. Taking a moment, even briefly, to stop or step away is a small action that can make a massive difference, allowing you to reset and then “re-engage in a more focused manner,” Clayborne adds. Pausing can also prevent you from falling into another effect of stress: binary thinking (limiting yourself to just two options).
You wouldn’t take a road trip without gas in the tank, so try to avoid embarking on a big decision when you’re running on empty. This advice might seem obvious, but Diggles and Clayborne say that it’s common for people — particularly in places with a strong hustle or busy culture — to unintentionally skimp on the basics. Missing out on meals and sleep “shouldn’t be a badge of honor,” Diggles says. “Give your body a chance and give your brain the energy it needs.”
In addition to fueling your physical body, take a proactive approach to your mental health. Diggles suggests finding a grounding activity (her current favorite: yin yoga) that will relax your mind in a way that allows you to “practice being mindful and intentional with your thoughts” so that when you start to feel anxious or you’re faced with a decision, you have the ability to talk yourself through it.
High-impact decisions deserve your undivided attention, says Cassandra Shuck, an entrepreneur who has launched several successful businesses. “A lot of times when we’re making a decision, we’re often multitasking and don’t give it the full stage.” She suggests blocking out time in your schedule for a “one-on-one meeting with yourself.”
Don’t show up to your meeting empty-handed; prepare a list of questions to help you think through options and visualize a variety of outcomes. Here are some prompts to get you started:
Is this a time-sensitive decision? This can help you prioritize according to urgency and determine if something can be put off. “Buying a new car, for example, may not be time-sensitive. There will always be cars on the lot to buy,” Diggles says. “But something like IVF or trying to decide whether you’re going to home-school your kids or go back to work, those may be time-sensitive.”
What type of energy does it require, and do you have the capacity for that right now? Your capacity may fluctuate day-to-day, Diggles says, so what you need to consider is whether, on average, you would have the bandwidth to carry out the decision once it’s made.
Is it something you were thinking about pre-pandemic? Consider whether the decision was already on your radar. Diggles says asking this question can help you determine whether you’re making a choice to ease uncomfortable feelings related to the pandemic or to move something forward that’s important to you. Avoid making “reactive decisions,” she says.
What might the choice look like down the road? Who does it affect? What happens if you succeed or fail? Shuck suggests fast-forwarding mentally to your future and imagining what it’d be like to look back on your life. Allowing yourself to take this view can provide insight into whether and in what ways this decision is important. And, she says, don’t discount your intuition. While all of the experts warn against making impulsive decisions, they acknowledge that your “gut” reaction can alert you to something significant. “Gut reactions give you information,” says Sah, the organizational psychologist, and when it comes to high-impact, personal decisions, “people have to think about different scenarios and their own comfort with risk-taking.” So, she says, we need both an intuitive, emotional response and a slow, deliberative approach to make good decisions.
What are your biggest fears about making this decision? Diggles recommends doing some “reality testing” on your fears to gauge whether they are genuine possibilities or if your brain is serving up overgeneralizations and binary thinking.
Don’t go it alone
Once you’ve had a chance to think through things on your own, seek support and a sounding board.
A friend, therapist or health-care provider can introduce possibilities you may not have considered. Diggles says this is particularly important but also challenging when making decisions during tough times. “When you’re in the middle of a trauma, the last thing that you want to do is go to something unfamiliar. That can be scary … and it takes bravery to consider options you haven’t before.”
If possible, Sah says, in addition to a support system, invite the insight of people who think differently from you to introduce “cognitive diversity” into the mix. But be discerning, she says: Consider the source and their potential biases. She also recommends physically separating yourself from the advice-giver before you make a decision, if possible, to reduce the effects of “insinuation anxiety” — the concern that rejecting advice will signal distrust to the adviser. Invite input but then make the decision in private if possible. “Even just a few minutes [apart from the advice-giver] really helps you to understand what your own preferences are,” Sah says. “If you need time and space, ask for it.”
If you’re hesitant to seek out advice and lean on others, ask yourself why — and try to push past the tendency to withhold. Oftentimes due to social conditioning or expectations, “women especially do a lot of silent suffering,” Clayborne says. “I don’t think we should feel guilty about asking for support.” She knows firsthand the value of a support system in navigating difficult decisions and uncharted territory: Clayborne was seven months pregnant when the coronavirus arrived in the United States and she continued working in the emergency department of one of the hardest-hit hospitals in Maryland. Two other colleagues were pregnant at the same time and, in facing so many unknowns, the three leaned on each other (and have all since delivered healthy baby girls).
Do your best with what you’ve got
Once you’ve laid out your options, you may find none of them are ideal. “Sometimes it might seem like there’s no good solution and anything you choose is going to leave you at a loss of something,” Diggles says. But if a decision must be made, take a moment to acknowledge sadness about the circumstances that have forced you to make this choice, and mourn the loss.
The good news, Sah says, is that once you’ve decided something, you may experience relief. Whereas, if you’re still hung up on making the decision after you’ve done your research, collected insight and weighed your options, that can lead to the added anxiety of being stuck in “analysis paralysis.”
And once you’ve made a decision, says Shuck, the entrepreneur, go all in. “When you make a decision, most of what matters is actually how you carry it out,” she says. If you halfheartedly commit, the outcome will likely reflect that.
Although decision-making can feel exceptionally difficult right now, times of trauma and upheaval can also provide clarity and unanticipated opportunities to pay attention to and accelerate things that are important to us. “Sometimes traumatic events can be a catalyst for moving us forward,” Diggles says. For example, “we’re seeing that with Black Lives Matter.” (After the police killings of George Floyd and other Black Americans, several million people in the United States took part in protests; the New York Times reported Black Lives Matter may be the largest movement in this country’s history.)
Significant change is possible on an individual level as well. A number of Shuck’s businesses have sprouted from times of trauma; two weeks after delivering a stillborn baby, she launched a doula and bereavement business, and two months after giving birth to her daughter and struggling with breastfeeding, she created a lactation cookie company. In both instances, she says her healing process led to helping others on their journey.
“Remember that one of our best human strengths is our ability to bounce back,” Clayborne, the emergency medicine physician, says. “I see it at work — human beings impress me every day, people survive and manage things that I can’t even imagine sometimes. I know people are scared for a number of reasons, but I’ve always felt that I see the true human spirit shine through most brightly when we’re challenged and there are uncertainties like what we’re experiencing right now. We are a resilient species, and I expect great things in the future.”
As we live, we will go through the processes of opening to new information, integrating it, and stabilizing our worldview.
Living in an information age, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the constant influx of scientific studies, breaking news, and even spiritual revelations that fill our bookshelves, radio waves, and in-boxes. No sooner have we decided what to eat or how to think about the universe than a new study or book comes out confounding our well-researched opinion. After a while, we may be tempted to dismiss or ignore new information in the interest of stabilizing our point of view, and this is understandable. Rather than closing down, we might try instead to remain open by allowing our intuition to guide us.
For example, contradictory studies concerning foods that are good for you and foods that are bad for you are plentiful. At a certain point, though, we can feel for ourselves whether coffee or tomatoes are good for us or not. The answer is different for each individual, and this is something that a scientific study can’t quite account for. All we can do is take in the information and process it through our own systems of understanding. In the end, only we can decide what information, ideas, and concepts we will integrate. Remaining open allows us to continually change and shift by checking in with ourselves as we learn new information. It keeps us flexible and alert, and while it can feel a bit like being thrown off balance all the time, this openness is essential to the process of growth and expansion.
Perhaps the key is realizing that we are not going to finally get to some stable place of having it all figured out. Throughout our lives we will go through the processes of opening to new information, integrating it, and stabilizing our worldview. No sooner will we have reached some kind of stability than it will be time to open again to new information, which is inherently destabilizing.
If we see ourselves as surfers riding the incoming waves of information and inspiration, always open and willing to attune ourselves to the next shift, we will see how blessed we are to have this opportunity to play on the waves and, most of all, to enjoy the ride.
There are so many messages on how we’re supposed to live life, and on how to do it well. This can feel overwhelming, even paralyzing. So if you want to live the best life possible, how do you figure out what to do?
It’s simple. Get in the habit of going light. When you take this route you’ll make the right choices for you.
This seems like such an obvious suggestion, but as humans, we‘re naturally drawn to the rich fabric of anything complicated, chaotic, and dramatic. This heaviness ends up distracting us from true peace, joy and contentment. And we’re so overwhelmed by our own clutter—all the physical, mental and emotional stuff we’re carrying around day-in and day-out, that we miss out on the things that matter most.
So what can clutter look like?
Mental clutter is just as real as physical clutter (what we own and what we eat). Examples of mental clutter are thoughts that you should be or shouldn’t be doing something. Thoughts that you’re not enough or that you’re too much. Thoughts that you need to do it all to be lovable.
Experts claim we have 60,000+ thoughts a day, with 80% being negative and 95% a repeat of the thoughts we had the day before. How’d we get this way? We no longer have to watch out for threats of our ancestors like sabertooth tigers or wooly mammoths. Instead, we have impossibly full schedules with long lists of to-dos and fast-food easily available on every corner. As a result, we are living in a constantly stressed state—both mentally and physically.
Emotional clutter stems from mental clutter that things should be or shouldn’t be a certain way. Emotional clutter consists of feelings that keep you trapped in a reality that you don’t like. Usually, these feelings stem from thoughts that cause us to feel shame, want us to blame, or lead us to complain. One way to know that you’re carrying some emotional clutter? Wishing things were different but not doing anything to make them different.
So what do we do?
How do we uncover and honor the things that matter most?
We pause. We sit still. We create gaps in our thoughts and we listen. And then when confronted with a choice, we intentionally simplify and choose to go light.
I don’t say go light, lightly. Going light isn’t superficial, it’s one of the most powerful pathways to intentionality there is. So trust the deep knowing inside of you. Ask yourself, does thinking this thought, feeling this feeling, or taking this action feel light or heavy? If it feels light go with it. If it feels heavy, that’s where you have work to do. So go ahead and get quiet. And then when you’re ready, take a deep breath and choose to go light.
With every decision—what you eat and drink, how you move your body, what time you go to bed, who you hang out with, how you spend your time and money—you have the power to choose simplicity over complication.
One thing is for sure. You won’t go wrong if you go light. When you go light, life feels easier, you find your flow and you can’t help, but flourish.
Amidst the pandemic, each of us has encountered unique challenges and stressors. While the economic, mental, and emotional difficulties are real — and there’s no easy “fix” or escape — how we view our experience can make a big difference. In fact, science tells us that what we tell ourselves in challenging moments matters. Even one negative word can activate the fear center of the brain and impact our ability to reason. On the contrary, empowering or perspective-shifting words or phrases can help us reframe and course-correct from stress in real time.
We asked our Thrive community to share with us the mantras that are helping them stay optimistic and resilient during this time. Which of these will you try?
“I don’t break, I bend.”
“The mantra, ‘I don’t break, I bend’ has helped me remain resilient over the course of the last few months. This mantra reminds me that I am flexible, adaptable, and unshakeable in the face of adversity. When fear creeps in, I am reminded that I can handle it and will not fall victim to it. When I’m having a bad day, I write this on a sticky note and stick it on my monitor to help keep me going.”
—Alyssa Swantkoski, executive assistant, Denver, CO
“Clear on the outcomes, flexible on the approach.”
“For the past fifteen years, I have lived by a simple but powerful mantra. During the pandemic, this mantra has resonated more than ever before. Everything from working to exercising to raising children has been upended. Staying focused on critical outcomes — for example, quarterly revenue goals, health benchmarks, and educational goals for children — is critical. You might not be able to approach your goals as you did in the past, but it doesn’t mean you can’t keep reaching and exceeding your goals. Shifting focus from uncertainty to outcomes is a great way to reclaim efficacy.”
—Dr. Camille Preston, business psychology at AIM Leadership, Cambridge, MA
“Trust the process.”
“My family members are all huge basketball fans. I am more of a casual basketball observer. Even though I am not a loyalist, I am a fan of the 76ers motto, ‘Trust the process.’ It has become my go-to affirmation during this time. Although there will continue to be uncertainty, I believe having patience, faith, hope and trusting the process will help us grow and rebuild.”
—Monique Johnson, nonprofit COO, Richmond, VA
“I am not alone in this.”
“In these high stress moments, I sometimes get momentarily lost in the personal challenges COVID-19 has created for me. In those moments, I try to shift my focus by repeating the following mantra: ‘I am not alone in this.’ I remind myself that there are so many others who are facing greater challenges through this pandemic. It gives me perspective, and helps me feel grateful that I am able to manage my challenges.”
—Marcia J. Hylton, corporate marketing strategist, El Paso, TX
“My mantra that I like to repeat to myself is ‘Warrior.’ I keep telling myself that I am a warrior and I’m strong enough to face any adversity that comes my way. When anything happens, I ask myself: ‘How would a warrior behave in this scenario?’ It’s a simple way of getting yourself into the right frame of mind to face any challenge!”
—Celia Gaze, managing director, Bolton, UK
“Live right. Be worthy. Make a difference.”
“Resilience is a journey of grace and forgiveness — for myself and others. This phrase helps me feel grounded, hold myself accountable, reinforce my dedication to serving others, and know that we are all worthy of love. It’s been my go-to mantra throughout this time.”
—Elizabeth Blackney, activist, Williamsburg, VA
“Turn fear into fuel.”
“I use this mantra as a reminder to myself that being scared is not a reason not to do something that could be productive, interesting, or put myself or my business in forward motion. And the added bonus is that if it is something I need to say this about, then typically I am that much more proud of the accomplishment when it’s done.”
—Suzy Haber Wakefield, apparel design consultant, Montclair, NJ
“I am the hero of my own life.”
“This is the title of a guided journal by Brianna Wiest, and repeating this mantra reminds me to always focus on what I can control, rather than what I can’t. It reminds me that nearly everything is in my hands and that I can choose to respond to whatever I’m faced with however I want. It also reminds me to consistently demand the best for myself: whether that’s how I spend my time, the projects I say yes to, or the people I work with. It reminds me not to settle for ordinary or to hold back when I know I have something worthwhile to contribute.”
—Jodie Cook, social media agency owner, UK
“Small progress is still progress.”
“Working in senior living and healthcare, this has been the mantra I’ve been living by during the pandemic. These are words of encouragement for those who have struggled. Our landscape has changed each day, often hour to hour, and everyone has brought something to the table to provide some hope and stability to our residents and families.”
—Tamara White, training and education partner, Kitchener, ON, Canada
“Whenever I start feeling out of sorts, triggered, or anxious, I remind myself to breathe. I then immediately start focusing on my breath, and with awareness, my breath automatically starts to change; it starts deepening and becomes fuller. This mantra is my reminder to expand on consciously deepening my breath. I stay in the moment, breathing in and out, which calms my body and mind, and grounds me. It works every time.”
—Donna Melanson, yoga teacher, Boca Raton, FL
“I have wisdom within.”
“One phrase that I have found powerful during this time has been ‘I have wisdom within.’ This small mantra reminds me daily to slow down the mind chatter and tune into the knowledge base that exists in my bones. It has been so powerful that I have shared it with friends as a way to remind ourselves to tune in and listen, versus tune out and give our power away.”
—Dr. Tricia Wolanin, clinical psychologist and community wellness consultant , Bury St. Edmunds, UK
“You are already everything that you want to be.”
“When I wake up in the morning, the first words that come out of my mouth are ‘You are already everything that you want to be.’ It’s my belief that most of us tend to want things from a place of lack which only attracts more lack. Knowing and stating that I already have what I want takes desperation out of the equation. It always helps me reframe.”
—Wemi Opakunle, author and coach, Los Angeles, CA
Do you have a go-to mantra that helps you stay resilient in difficult situations? Share it with us in the comments.
Present time can be hard, but life unfolds as it will and the universe will wait as we make our way into the unknown.
Our lives are guided by natural rhythms that are particular to each of us and cannot be altered by force of will alone. Life itself is a journey made up of processes and events that manifest before us only to be swept away when time marches on.
Whether we envision ourselves creating a career, building a family, or developing the self, we instinctively know when the time has come for us to realize our dreams because all that is involved comes together harmoniously. When the time is right, the passage of destiny cannot be blocked. Yet as desperate as we are to touch these beautiful futures we have imagined, we cannot grow if we are not fully present in the evolutionary experience.
The present can be challenging, uncomfortable, and tedious, but life unfolds as it will, and the universe will wait patiently as we make our way into the unknown.
The fate that awaits us is not dependent on our pace, which was preordained before we ever appeared in human guise. Therefore there is no reason to rush through life to reach those pinnacles of development associated with the paths we have chosen.
Enjoying and fully experiencing the journey of life is as important as achieving goals and reaching milestones. There are lessons we can learn during those moments that seem immaterial or insignificant that we cannot learn at any other time.
Appreciating these takes patience, however, because human beings tend to focus on the fulfillment of expectations rather than the simple joys of being.
Like many people, you have no doubt longed for a device that would give you the power to fast forward through certain periods of your existence. Yet haste is by its very nature vastly more stressful than serene fortitude. When you feel yourself growing impatient because the pace of your development is deceptively slow, remember that everything that will occur in your life will occur in its own time. Quelling your urge to rush will enable you to witness yourself learning, changing, and becoming stronger.
There is so much to see and do in between the events and processes that we deem definitive. If you are patient enough to take pleasure in your existence’s unfolding, the journey from one pinnacle to the next will seem to take no time at all.
When we approach children with the awareness that they can teach us, we become more present ourselves.
As grown-ups, we often approach children with ideas about what we can teach them about this life to which they have so recently arrived. It’s true that we have important information to convey, but children are here to teach us just as much as we are here to teach them. They are so new to the world and far less burdened with preconceived notions about the people, situations, and objects they encounter. They do not avoid people on the basis of appearance, nor do they regard shoes as having only one function. They can be fascinated for half an hour with a pot and a lid, and they are utterly unself-conscious in their emotional expressions. They live their lives fully immersed in the present moment, seeing everything with the open-mindedness born of unknowing.
This enables them to inhabit a state of spontaneity, curiosity, and pure excitement about the world that we, as adults, have a hard time accessing. Yet almost every spiritual path calls us to rediscover this way of seeing. In this sense, children are truly our gurus.
When we approach children with the awareness that they are our teachers, we automatically become more present ourselves. We have to be more present when we follow, looking and listening, responding to their lead. We don’t lapse so easily into the role of the director of activities, surrendering instead to having no agenda at all. As we allow our children to determine the flow of play, they pull us deeper into the mystery of the present moment. In this magical place, we become innocent again, not knowing what will happen next and remembering how to let go and flow.
Since we must also embody the role of loving guide to our children, they teach us how to transition gracefully from following to leading and back again. In doing so, we learn to dance with our children in the present moment, shifting and adjusting as we direct the flow from pretending to be kittens wearing shoes on our heads to making sure everyone is fed and bathed.