How to stay calm when life Isn’t
No matter what is happening in the world around us, it is never necessary to become caught in depression, fear or other negativity. We are not the victims of the world we see, but have the ability to mobilize ourselves and take charge of the way we respond. There are simple steps to take which when practiced easily turn our state of mind around – and effect the world outside as well.
It is very important to both learn and take these steps. Depression and fear can easily become addictive. The longer we stay in negative states of mind, the more difficult it can become to leave them ..Our world then grows smaller and we begin to develop catastrophic expectations. We lose touch with our own power to take charge, to choose actions and perceptions which counteract the negativity. However, it is the right and responsibility of every mature adult, to steer their lives in the direction of their own choosing. The tools offered both in this article and program make it easy to do. They all result in a process of Centering. The more we practice these steps, the stronger we grow, and the more we can see negativity for what it is, something that has no power other than that which we give it.
This practice of Centering is universal. Many forms of exercise, martial arts and meditation are ways of achieving centering and balance. They are ways of tapping into the fundamental strength and courage all individuals are endowed with. In Zen they say, “Open the treasure house within.” This reminds us that we are endowed with gifts which are far greater than we currently realize or employ.
In this article, some Centering practices will be offered. While these are simple, they are very powerful. When they are taken on and practiced daily, an individual calms down and changes will soon be seen.
We are what we think about.. Morita, a Japanese psychiatrist, the founder of Morita Therapy, states that all neurosis comes from frozen attention that has gotten stuck and fixed upon recurring negative thoughts. The more we give attention to that which is destructive, the more strength it has to rule our lives. This can be counteracted rather easily.
Take back your attention. Do not let it be absorbed by all that is presented to it. The power of focus is the power of life. Spend time each day developing focus and concentration. Withdraw yourself from the chaotic external world for a period of time each day, and pull your attention back within. Sit with a straight back, do not move and concentrate upon your breath. Let random thoughts come and go. Do not suppress them, but do not let them grab your attention away. At first you may be besieged by many surprising thoughts and feelings, but if you simply notice them and then return your attention to your breathing, these will soon die down.
Count your breath from one to ten, then all over again. Do this for at least ten to fifteen minutes without moving. By not moving we are stopping what is called the monkey mind, the mind, which jumps from one thing to the next, fears, demands, grabs and sabotages our lives. It is the monkey mind, which causes our sorrow and fear. But it is only a part of us, it cannot take over our lives, when we take our attention back. By doing this daily, we are strengthening new parts of ourselves, which can guide and lead us in a new direction, one of meaning, and well-being.
This wonderful time spent with oneself is a simple way to attain perspective, become able to see clearly and be rooted in the larger truth. This time becomes a fortification against many storms, which naturally besiege us. We develop a place within ourselves, which we can always return, for wisdom, strength and comfort. When we allow the external world to consume us, we are simply giving our natural treasures away.
Rather than struggle to analyze and undo our patterns, we work directly with our attention. The question before us always is: What am I focusing on this moment? Am I present to the breathing, or lost somewhere in a dream, dwelling upon the pains and wrongs I think have others have done me, or the terrible things that can happen someday?
Reality continually renews and confronts us with new tasks, challenges, opportunities and solutions, day after day. Are we in touch with this ever flowing reality? Are we asking ourselves what is available now, what gifts we are receiving and what we can give to others, or are we dwelling upon how wronged, threatened or deprived we’ve always been?
As we do this faithfully, the second step of Centering appears. At a certain moment we become aware that depression and gratitude cannot co-exist in the same person at the same time. When our focus and life are primarily self absorbed, revolving around self-centered dreams, what we need and what others are thinking of us, we live in a prison without bars. Underlying feelings of worthlessness emerge, producing additional depression, hostility and stress.
In Centering as we become aware and grateful our focus naturally changes to all that we are receiving, to what others need, what we can give, what has to be done. And then we do it. We take action. We do not hesitate. When our focus is placed upon simple daily actions, and upon doing “deeds of service”, the monkey mind is dismantled and passing emotions do not take center stage.
As we Center we learn to do each action with full attention, (no matter how small or large). We do not dwell upon the outcome. Our joy and satisfaction comes from acting with a whole heart and mind. Results and consequences are secondary, and take care of themselves. When we are not absorbed by concern for outcomes, how much anxiety can we ever have?
The most powerful antidote to psychological suffering is an individual’s sense of self worth. When we are taking actions that are meaningful to us, self-respect develops naturally. When our behavior arises out of a grateful mind, each individual inevitably finds a personal alignment between their daily actions and highest values. As they become more and more occupied with that which is valuable, and life giving, their resourcefulness increase as does their sense of worth. They can then handle any difficult situation and give what is needed to all. Living in this manner, life feels like a gift they are constantly receiving, and they become a gift to life as well.