Monday, January 20, 2014

Keeping Calm in an Emergency

I’ve been talking lately about staying calm during stressful situations. True to form, the better I get at my lessons, the more the Universe tests me. I just had a hell of a night dealing with multiple emergencies, but I am so proud of myself for remaining calm through it all.

It’s 10pm on a Friday night, and I’m getting ready for bed because I have somewhere to be early in the morning. My cat is already relaxed on my bed. I turn off the light and get into bed next to her. Suddenly, she starts to make a slight gagging sound. I’m concerned. She makes the sound again, and I turn on the light. She seems uncomfortable, and she jumps off the bed, continuing to cough, and she starts salivating profusely.

My mind starts racing. Okay, what is my plan of action? Is this serious? Will it pass or does she need to go to the emergency room? I decide she needs to go to the emergency room. I take deep breaths and run to my computer to look up somewhere good and close that I can take her. None of the places are as close as I’d like them to be. Nevertheless, I pick one. How am I going to get her into her crate when she is running away from me from discomfort? Problem solved – oddly enough she went into her crate completely on her own. She doesn’t have a vet yet in this city, so I grab some paperwork with the information from her old vet. I continue taking deep breaths and keeping myself calm and telling myself it will be okay, and just stay calm so I don’t forget anything. I make sure to bring anything and everything I think will be helpful to the vet and comforting for her in case she needs to stay overnight.

Driving to the vet, I swear the lights kept changing in my favor. Most likely because it was late and the lights have sensors, but I felt like someone or something was looking out for us. I was also dangerously low on gas, because I’d planned on getting some in the morning. I decided I’d get some after the vet visit, because obviously I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if something happened to her and I could point at the fact that I stopped for gas.

So we arrived, and the staff was extremely nice and helpful. They were even worried about the cost for me. They were able to take care of the immediate emergency, but I would need to follow-up with a vet. I asked a lot of questions and got smart on what I needed to do, where I needed to go, what other questions I would need to ask, and how to treat her when we got home. There were a few moments when I was overcome with grief and guilt at how scared my cat must have been, but I pulled it together and focused on what I could do to help and prepare for what would be next.

We got out of the vet around 1:30am. I looked for a gas station. Turns out gas stations close! I’d never needed to get gas this late at night, so I didn’t know that happened. So after attempting to stop at 2 or 3 gas stations that were closed, I took a deep breath, accepted the situation for what it was, and decided to attempt to drive home, with one more gas station in mind that was on the way, but much closer to home. Right as I was approaching that gas station, the empty light came on. And the station was open. Just in time.

But that wasn’t all… when I got home, it was 82 degrees Fahrenheit in my place. The heat pump had been making weird noises lately, and I’d been trying to get help on that, and apparently it was really broken now. Hot air was gushing from the vents, even though the thermostat said 70 and was on the Cool setting. I tried messing with it with no success, and closed the vents, but the floor was getting so hot that it made me nervous blocking all that hot air like that. I ended up calling my parents (at 2am!), and by their advice I turned it off with the breaker switch.

My cat was hazy and unbalanced from having been under anesthesia, so I brought all her essentials into my room, closed the doors and cuddled up with her on the floor, so she could sleep with me without having to jump up on the bed.

What a night…

Despite the numerous emergencies and problems, and a little bit of shaking, ­­I stayed calm through it all. I focused on what I could do, and reigned myself in when I went to the worst case scenarios in my mind. Deal with the problems when they occur, and not before. That scare triggered a traumatic event for me, though. My childhood dog was gagging in a similar way the morning that he died in my arms, so my mind definitely told me this might be it. But I reminded myself that this was totally different.

What’s weird is that I did have moments where I felt like I was being too strong, and I started to feel guilty. But I know better than to allow thoughts like that. I had valid waves of emotions. One minute my eyes were welling up in tears, the next I was researching what happened and vets in the area, and asking the staff questions I had. Staying strong is how you stay capable and flexible in a situation like that. Falling apart may feel right, but it doesn’t help, and I know that, so I was able to remain proud of myself instead of letting myself feel guilty. But if I had fallen apart, that would have been fine, too. You have to feel your feelings – I’ve learned that as well.

So now I wait for the follow-up visit and pamper my cat in the meantime.

How would you handle things in an emergency?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Keeping Calm in an Argument

So I’ve been practicing cultivating peacefulness during my most stressful situations, and I feel like I had a breakthrough moment the other day. I have a dear friend and co-worker that would agree that sometimes we can rub each other the wrong way, and we have been known to get into some pretty heated and hostile arguments. As you’ve seen in past blog posts, he has been patient enough to work with me as I have tried to navigate the stirring negative emotions I feel when we get into these disagreements.

About a year ago, as an initial step to work through this problem, I would get really worked up and angry, then leave, try to split out what was an emotional attachment on my part versus something that actually needed to be resolved between us, and I literally wrote out everything I needed to say and he sat there with me and let me read it to him and we were able to deal with some issues that way. Very patient on his part. I wrote a couple blog posts about that (here and here). Since then, I have worked really hard on my communication, not taking things personally, and staying calm. I was taking things as direct attacks, assigning more meaning to them than there had to be, getting defensive and struggling to trust my own words to get my points across.

These days, I have been following a motto I made up – “Stand behind your words”. I mean what I say, and just because someone doesn’t understand yet doesn’t mean I screwed up and I need to retract what I said. I mean what I say, I just need to ADD to it so they can understand from their own perspective. Gaining that confidence in my own voice has been tremendously beneficial in staying calm. I’ve also started to gain the underlying feeling that, whatever is happening, it isn’t the end of the world. I used to feel like everything was an emergency, and everything was going wrong. This tied into my low self-esteem and perfectionism. I was taught to take everything I did very seriously, but I went beyond that and internalized that lesson as everything being an emergency. I took it too far. I do take life very seriously, and I do understand when something is a problem, but I don’t need to have a complete anxiety attack and be so overwhelmed when things go wrong, which is what was happening. I started to realize EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY, THIS IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD. And just by simply KNOWING that, I can collect myself enough to calmly get through whatever unpleasant situation was put before me. The Universe doesn’t care if you see how horrible and important a certain problem is. The Universe just cares about how you handle it. Telling yourself what a “big deal” something is doesn’t help anything. Sure, some people need to be told that. And apparently certain people thought I needed to be told that. But I didn’t. That was not advice that I needed. It doesn’t matter if other people are aware of that – what matters is that I am aware of it. Take the advice people give you, send it through your own filter, and as Mastin Kipp says, “Take what resonates and leave the rest.” That’s it.

So back to my breakthrough moment. I was having a somewhat technical conversation with the friend and co-worker, and we had opposing views and priorities on a certain matter. I did see his point, and I was fine with mixing our two views together, and attempted to express that. He held firm on his own beliefs, and eventually got to a point where we hit a resistance wall in our communication. He seemed to put his foot down that he simply disagreed, and that was that. Now, normally I would have gotten worked up and angry way before this point, and I would have communicated in a more defensive/black-and-white/”you’re wrong” way, which would have brought us to the boiling point sooner. So this was progress. But nevertheless, I hit the threshold for myself. When this moment occurred, the anger in me began to rise. My heart started to race. I was aware that this was happening, so I took my mind out of it for a second. I took a deep breath and told myself, okay, this isn’t working. Time to take a step back, regroup, and try to come at this from another angle. And guess what? That completely worked! My heart was still racing a little, but I was able to word things in whatever way I needed to for him to understand and agree that we both were right and we agreed on the balance between our sides. Anyone want to call that a miracle??

I feel very strongly that in cases like this one, you have to start from where you are, TRY to have a more peaceful and loving approach, and then regroup and learn from what worked and what didn’t. It is a process, and the process changes situation to situation and person to person. But what you’ll find is that when you are calm, you allow the conversation or situation to not get out of hand as quickly. And as you work and progress, it gets easier and easier to manage those stressful situations.

How can you apply this to your own stressful situations?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Too Enthusiastic to Spread Love

I feel fantastic. I know that I am solidly on the spiritual path. My way of thinking is completely opened to love and hope. That’s not to say I think I behave in perfect accordance to it – but even when I slip, I am completely aware of what is happening, and I have that underlying faith to keep me from getting lost in events and emotions. My soul waits patiently until I am ready to come back, and I can feel it. I continue practicing my inner peace during stressful circumstances, and when it’s over, I take a look at how I did and determine what worked and what didn’t.

The only downside of all this is that I feel so fantastic that I want to share it with EVERYONE! I want to gallop through town, trumpets sounding, showing everyone how the way they see the world isn’t the way they have to! I was literally JUST living the way they were, but I figured it out! You don’t have to be miserable! I feel like I know how to open everyone’s eyes, and I want to do it! I’m just so excited to share this realization with all the people I know it would benefit!

The problem is that’s not how it works. That’s great that I want to spread this joy, but yet again, I CAN’T CHANGE PEOPLE. I really don’t consider this “changing” people, but still. I feel so encouraged and optimistic, and I can’t help but want to open everyone’s eyes so they can feel this joyful, too. And I truly feel like my gift and purpose is bridging the gap between the “Old World” and the “New World”, so to speak. But even if it is, I’m not there yet. I’m a rookie. People have been trying to do just that for YEARS – and when I say years, I mean all the way back to JESUS (if, of course, the stories were true) and I think even before THAT. Even if this is my purpose, my purpose would only specify that I TRY. I can’t attach myself to the outcome of actually helping people. In fact, if I did, it would most likely make me bitter, because I’d be so frustrated that people weren’t listening to me, or I might eventually wear down and take it personally that I wasn’t able to effectively help as many people as I would like. I see my enthusiasm, and I just want to make sure all the motives and expectations are in check. I don’t want to go around being a spiritual “Bible Thumper”. I don’t want to be “in your face”. I don’t want to allow my enthusiasm to come off as insensitive to people going through painful times. I don’t want to do ANYTHING if it isn’t genuinely helping.

I guess it all comes back to the Serenity Prayer – accept the things you cannot change, change the things you can, and have the wisdom to know the difference. Whew, that wisdom part is rough, especially when it comes to helping others. I’ve got a solid hold on the wisdom for my own stuff that I need to accept or change, but as far as freeing the spirit of others? No idea. I know people are going at their own pace, and they have to be open to hearing certain things. I also know that the ego can take inspirational comments and twist them for its own purposes. So I’m back to analyzing where people are at, and which points I think would be helpful for where they are at – but listen to that! Points that “I think” would be helpful?? As intuitive and wise as I believe myself to be (ha) I KNOW that I can’t use my own thoughts as an authority on what others need.

So I guess that comes back to my previous point – I’m just supposed to try. Try the best I can, with the analysis and intuition that I am capable of. Learn about different kinds of people and different kinds of viewpoints. Try to expand my intuitive abilities, so that I’m not projecting too hard onto people. I guess it is a good thing that I at least KNOW that I AM projecting onto people, and that I don’t feel my own intuition, even though it has seemed to be right on the money, is not an authority on ANYTHING.

Lead by example. It really is the most powerful teacher to others. Give people advice and seeds of inspirational thought, and lead by example. That’s all I can do. I just wish I could do more.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Why Do We Have to Hit Rock Bottom to See The Light?

Why does it seem like everyone is parading around pretending that they are not broken inside? Why is that something to be ashamed of? Every single one of us has the same needs deep down, and the same general fears. For some reason, we feel like that has to be covered up and denied. We feel like it makes us bad. So we put on a fa├žade, and meanwhile we break more and more on the inside until we finally snap and collapse. Only at that point do we “need help” and surrender, in shame. Why is that? If we’d just been admitting our issues along the way, we could have sought out the spiritual lessons to help heal those parts of us and prevented them from causing us to fully break. Why is it that we have to hit rock bottom before we are willing to reach out, change our perspective, and finally open up enough to entertain the idea that we are enough, the only love we need is our own, and that we can do anything we want?

We could have been learning these things along the way, couldn’t we? Are we literally biologically not capable of it? What about the whole “have the mind of a child” thing, and how we started off understanding but the world taught us wrong-mindedness?

You shouldn’t have to be an alcoholic to work the 12 steps. You shouldn’t have to be an addict to be rehabilitated, or go to prison to find God. And yet, that seems to be the order of things. Why are we all so terrified of opening up to this way of thinking? Why do we choose to shame people who “let” themselves crack, when we all think we are on the verge, ourselves? Somehow that moment of rock bottom when people have no choice but to reevaluate their entire lives is… terrifying, shameful, and then heavenly. And then we are so cynical that we don’t even believe that people have really turned their lives around. We are so terrified of falling that far, and we can’t even imagine having to crawl back from it. We are teetering so precariously on our own tightrope of sanity, and for some reason we have to believe that falling means we disappear into a hellish abyss instead of meaning we surrender to the supportive, soft, peaceful clouds below. And we see someone float up to us, and we roll our eyes at what is clearly smoke and mirrors, right? Wrong. All that wasted energy – all that misery that we force on ourselves. That we CHOOSE. How come?

Maybe we all just feel really weak. We all depend on so many things these days, and we don’t think we could survive without all the luxuries of modern society. I guess that’s where my love of survival shows and books comes in. I felt weak and incompetent, too, which is why I try to study up on things that help mitigate that feeling. I think we are all way more resourceful than we give ourselves credit for. Maybe we just need to realize that, even in this physical and material world, we could survive. Make no mistake, it would be hard – near impossible. But not impossible.

Or maybe that’s not it at all. But what, then? Why do we hang on so tightly to this old, fearful way of thinking? Why are we so dismissive of all the foo foo stuff? Why do we feel such an obligation and responsibility to being miserable and hard on ourselves?

Maybe that’s the entire point of life. Maybe the point is to find this mentality. And then to… help others find it, too? Even though no path is the same… that’s the problem. No path is the same. I can’t sit here and explain to you how I got here, or where “here” even is. I just know it is wonderful and full of hope, REAL hope, not just blind foolish hope, and I want everyone to find their way here and beyond. But everyone’s path is going to be different. Some will find it through various religions. Some will find it in various activities. I guess the only way to truly help others find their way is to just do it yourself, and show that you are happy and fulfilled. If nothing else, they’ll get curious from their jealousy, right? Maybe they’ll dismiss you as foolish for a while, but if they stick around long enough, they’ll see that somehow, despite not aligning with what they think makes life great, you appear to be happy and fulfilled. And somewhere deep inside, something might stir.

It’s funny, really. We say we want to be happy, but then we choose not to be. So illogical, and yet we are so engulfed in it we can’t see outside of it enough to know how ridiculous it is.

I’m so grateful that I’ve found the blogs, books, videos and people in my life that have cultivated this spirituality in me. Once you start on that path, everything just starts clicking, and seriously, people and books just start falling at your feet. You just have to start asking the right questions. I remember before I started really making changes, I was going to bookstores looking for something. I didn’t know what exactly I was looking for. I wouldn’t have even known to use the word “inspiring”. I just wanted to find something to help me and inspire me, but not some foo foo self-help, “10 Steps to Being Happy” crap. I didn’t know what I wanted, exactly. I read a few books that didn’t quite hit the mark. But then, once my mind opened (from my perspective making me so stressed out that I had physical ailments and admitting that if how I thought was true, I was literally going to be miserable my entire life, and how I felt about certain people just didn't add up, and there MUST be another way to look at things, because my way just didn't make sense to me anymore, or if it did, I didn't want it to), all the books in the world started flooding to me that were exactly what I was looking for.

Just remember that even if people are being mean and nasty, they are merely blind. Blind to the truth. They are zombies held captive by fear. Deep down they are still like you and me. (Okay, breaking the zombie metaphor, I know) So don’t be harsh with them, and don’t let them suck you down into their negativity – they NEED for you to be light, and the more they fight it and mock it, the more they need you to stand firm in your light.