Create the Life You Imagine

"Joy is the happiness that doesn't depend on what happens." Brother David Steindl-Rast

We have all been living through difficult and challenging times. Three months ago, we couldn’t have imagined life under stay-at-home orders, working-at-home, students of all ages learning-at-home, feeling crowded at home with others or isolated at home alone, restaurants and stores closed, wearing masks in public, hospitals struggling to keep up and many of us or our loved ones facing real peril, both economic and physical, from a disease called COVID-19. This virus has triggered a wave of difficult and disruptive feelings which we are all experiencing to one degree or another: we are experiencing uncertainty, anxiety, and fear as we face conditions that are novel, unpredictable and threatening to our normal way of life; sadness, grief and loneliness as we have lost so many of our expected and ordinary ways of gathering and connecting with family and friends; disappointment, discouragement and despair as we have been forced to forego the important ceremonies and rituals that mark significant life passages, whether celebrating new babies, birthdays, graduations or marriages, or standing close during the illness or death of those we love; and increasingly we are feeling restlessness, frustration and anger as these conditions linger on longer than we like. While this range of difficult emotions are part of being human, when we all undergo these conditions at the same time the collective emotional experience can be more primal, intense and unsettling.

These conditions threaten to chip away at our sense of peace, freedom, well-being and joy. For those that followed my blog in 2019, you will remember that we can think about every experience of life from the perspective of our lower triangle small self or from the perspective of our upper triangle Soul Self. This world-wide turbulence is sending our lower triangle small self into a state of panic and dread. Remember that our lower triangle small self is always focused on the external conditions of the day and on scanning the world for signs of threat and peril. The small self experiences any change as dangerous and will resist moving and shifting for fear of losing control. The small self of the lower triangle often experiences a chronic sense of anxiety about life, always wondering when the other shoe will drop or when life will take a turn for the worse. Under more normal conditions, the small self has a variety of strategies for calming and soothing itself. It clings to movement, busyness and distraction to give it a sense of stability and control. It runs addictive patterns using cleaning, shopping, eating, drinking, sex, work, sleep, exercise, social media, internet surfing, binge-watching or any other kind of pattern to pass the time and to numb the feelings of stress and anxiety. If this is how the small self of the lower triangle operates on a good day, can you imagine the stress it is experiencing during this global pandemic when many of its usual coping mechanisms have been pulled out from under it, and we have all been forced to stop all the habitual moving, coming and going that keep our difficult emotions at bay.

When life gets tipped over like this it is more important than ever to breathe, to stay mindful, to choose our thoughts, and to activate our higher operating system—our upper triangle—to help us rise above this storm and to keep our balance in this sea of deep and turbulent emotion. The secret to maintaining our sense of peace, freedom, well-being and joy is to intentionally shift to our upper triangle Soul Self. You might remember that our Soul Self watches life from a spiritual perspective. Spirituality is nothing more than that feeling of aliveness or awe we have all experienced in life; it is that sense that we are part of something larger than ourselves and that we are participating in a Divine Mystery which is bigger than our life circumstances. Many of us have experienced that sense of aliveness in nature, in deep and authentic relationships, in prayer or meditation, in sacred experiences like birth or death, or in simple experiences of everyday, unexpected kindness or caring from friends or strangers. It is this connection to our spiritual senses that reminds us that we are all connected and that All Is Well, regardless of our circumstances.

One of the simplest ways to connect with our upper triangle is to open our heart through a simple practice of breathing, compassion and gratitude. When we open our heart, we open the channel to our upper triangle Soul Self and gain access to its larger perspective and its wider range of positive emotional states. Here is a practice that will open that channel:

BREATHING: The first step in the process of opening our heart is simply to breathe. Spend just a few minutes each day mindfully breathing, observing your breath moving in and moving out. Drawing your attention to your breath and consciously following your breath as it moves in and out of your lungs, automatically draws your energy into your fourth chakra heart center and begins the shift from the lower triangle to the upper triangle. As you breath in and breathe out, your breath will slow and steady, and the narrow channel that runs through your heart center between your upper triangle and your lower triangle will begin to open.

COMPASSION: Next, hold your lower triangle small self with compassion. Imagine this part of yourself as scared and frantic, and simply wrap your small self up in the energy of compassion and care, the way you might swaddle a newborn baby or hold a young child, to comfort and console the energy of your small self. Holding your small self with compassion, acceptance and non-judgment, understanding that in the ordinary world there are many difficult and worrisome things going on, opens the flow of Soul energy into your lower triangle and allows a sense of calm to take hold.