One of the hardest things for me to put into practice in my life has been shifting my anxious feelings in the moment.
Usually, when something stressful or negative happens, I quickly lose myself in the feelings. I get overwhelmed with anxiety, think only of what's happening, and feel powerless to what I'm experiencing. It isn't until much later that I can calm myself and recenter through yoga, meditation, walking or some combination of all three.
I have always wanted to be able to STOP an overwhelming, anxiety-ridden response in the moment, but have always struggled to do so. However, I keep telling myself I can, and one day I will, which is always the first step in making a real change. In preparation for this, I am always telling myself "I can choose to be happy at any time." And along the same lines, I often repeat the line from A Course in Miracles, "I can choose peace instead of this."
The other day, I had a chance to truly shift my responses in the moment. One of my close family members is perpetually involved in some sort of chaos or crisis at any given time. I struggle to deal with something I cannot control and feel powerless to help. As each situation arises, I feel my chest tighten and my breathing shorten. When I was told about the latest situation it was worse than I expected, and I could feel the panic slipping over me.
But rather than think of all the myriad of ways this could tragically end, I just stood and breathed, and said, "I just need a moment." I stopped my thinking and focused on my breathing. And then my words came back to me, and my mind filled with the thought, I can choose to be happy at any time.
When presented with something difficult, especially regarding someone else's life, it can feel irresponsible and even selfish to consider your own happiness.
It's something I've struggled with for years. However, what I've learned, and am still learning, is to acknowledge that not all circumstances are the same. If someone called me with life changing news and they needed me, I would of course be there, and would not suggest they were impeding my path to happiness.
Learning to see this family member's choices as not my own, and to stop putting their own happiness above mine, has been a struggle. I have to continuously remind myself that suffering in response to this person doesn't change anything - they will only change when they want to - and I must learn to choose happiness rather than guilt.
And this is usually what it comes down to for me. I feel guilty I'm not doing enough, didn't do enough before, and that somehow guilt and sadness is the only appropriate response. I often lose myself in thoughts of their suffering, and forget that each life in this world is equally valuable - including my own. I also forget that being miserable myself doesn't make anything better.
In fact, I respond with much more love, compassion and kindness when I remember to value my own life and feelings.
As I took a moment to breathe, I asked myself, "what makes me happy?" The answer was instant. My tomato plants. I planted a few tomato plants this year, and they grew big and wild, healthier than any other plants I've ever tried to grow. Each morning I go out and pick fresh cherry tomatoes, and I feel immense gratitude and joy.
Wanting to shift my response in the moment, I went out to my plants. I first stood there, admiring the vibrant green leaves and ripening fruit. I then sat in the dirt, with my feet in the shade of the plant, and just breathed. I felt the warm sun on my back. I became completely calm. I focused only on this thing that makes me happy. I chose happiness. I chose to value my existence. And then I surrendered it all, because it was never mine to begin with.
As life continues to present itself, I hope you remember to value yourself and your place in it all. You are loved. You are cherished. Your happiness is important, and you are allowed to be happy. Choosing to radiate joy, no matter what's happening around you, doesn't mean you are ignoring the world around you - it means you are choosing to put something positive back into the world.
If you need more help finding peace and calm, particularly in regards to a family member or friend, try my Ho'oponopono meditation. It's all about forgiveness, love and inner peace. It's only $2 and the most popular meditation I sell.