Transition and transformation aren’t necessarily big deals. They can happen on a daily, moment to moment basis. The ability to be able to shift our state of consciousness and emotion is essential for peace of mind and resilience. With practice, we can choose to make the transition from misery or fear, to peace and contentment, in moments. I believe this is one of the most vital skills to practice for those of us who are holding a vision for a fulfilling life of contribution and a peaceful world.
Let me explain what I mean by misery. To my mind, it’s different from grief. Grief is a natural process of remembering and letting go of people, and aspects of our own lives and identity, we have loved and lost. This certainly includes anguish at times – knowing that your loved one has gone and is never coming back in physical form, can hurt terribly. Feeling remorse at things you said or didn’t say, did or didn’t do, can also be agonising. These are raw emotions arising from love.
Misery, on the other hand, as I see it, is another layer of mind-made suffering that keeps us stuck in old stories of self doubt and self hatred. Eckhart Tolle’s concept of the painbody is brilliant on this. Watch a short video here.
Misery happens when we get caught up in a toxic recycling of old, limiting thoughts and feelings, that keep us stuck, angry, bitter, depressed and wanting. Misery is a state where you identify with the belief that you are not ok, or life is not ok. It’s a state of resistance to what is. A loss of freedom.
There is real misery in the world in bucket-fulls. Loss of homes, homelands, starvation, sickness, complete hopelessness.That’s real misery. But as you’re reading this you’re probably a privileged westerner like me. We all have our struggles and life is challenging and heartbreak happens, but we don’t really need to hang around too long in misery. It’s a choice. For me, it’s taken several decades of therapy and spiritual practice to free myself from this kind of mind-made misery. It may still rear its head temporarily but I can usually turn it around pretty fast these days. And the more I experience peace and contentment, I am unwilling to tolerate anything less than peace.
I’d like to share a process that could help you next time you find yourself stuck in misery.
Step I: Stop and identify the thoughts misery is feeding on and write them down.
It may be something like:
- Nobody loves me the way I need to be loved
- I don’t deserve to be happy
- I’m not good enough
- The world is going to hell in a handbasket and there’s nothing I can do
- I don’t have enough
We’ll come back to these thoughts later.
Step 2: What does misery feel like?
Take a few minutes and really feel into your body, your mind, your emotions. It may be something like:
I feel trapped, overwrought, lonely, unappreciated, afraid, hopeless, shut down, empty.
Write these feelings down.
Step 3: Now shift your focus and remember what peace feels like.
Recall the last time you felt at peace. How did you feel? Take a few minutes to sink into this memory.
It may be something like:
Contented, fulfilled, present, alive, connected, relaxed, grateful, open hearted, generous.
Make your own list.
Can you feel your desire for peace? Really feel it.
Step 4: Choose peace.
Shift your attention from the thoughts and feelings of misery to the feelings of peace. If you’re really struggling you may have to do this over and over. Keep making that choice for peace. Whenever the thoughts and feelings of misery arise, choose peace.
Step 5: Go back to the list you made in step one with your thoughts about misery, and for each thought on your list, ask:
Is this true?
For example, I don’t deserve to be happy. Is this true?
I don’t have enough? Is this true?
If it is true, can I do something to change this?
If I can’t change my outer circumstances, can I change my attitude to this reality?
How can I love and nurture myself now?
Step 6: make a list of three things that bring you peace.
For example, mine are:
- Being outside under a big sky
Nurture yourself everyday with at least one of your three favourite peace aids.
If this practice is helpful, I’d love to know.
You may be saying, well that’s all very well Rose, when I feel bad it’s not as easy as that to turn it around. I know it’s not always easy but we do always have a choice. And that is where freedom lies. Sometimes in my own life I’ve felt I’ve been wrestling with a demon trying to turn my mood around. It’s the practice and the intention that make the difference.
It isn’t always easy to turn around old patterns we’ve been carrying for a lifetime, or even for several lifetimes, or carrying them for our parents. It takes time and commitment and practice. What I’ve realised is the tools we need to turn things around in a more positive direction are simple, it’s the application and the repetition that takes the commitment.
None of us needs to do this alone. That’s why I have created my experiential programme, Sitting with Death and Choosing Life, Transforming Grief and Loss. The programme will be available soon and it t has a lot of simple practices like this one I’m sharing with you today. It also provides the support of the bigger energy field of a group of people practicing together.It really makes a difference, to know you are supported, encouraged and held accountable to your own deepest desires. The first part of the programme is a series of conversations, which you may enjoy.
Wishing you peace and peace to our world,