There are times when life seems like an uphill battle. Perceived failures and disappointments can leave us feeling frustrated, exhausted and lacking in hope. We may find ourselves asking: Why does this always happen to me? Why do I keep making the wrong decisions? For some of us, this frantic search for answers leads us to devour self-help books or motivational blogs in a desperate attempt to figure out what we’re doing wrong. For others, the search for answers involves trying to figure out what may be wrong with the rest of the world that often seems so dysfunctional. We feel better knowing that we are in motion. We often fool ourselves into thinking that if we can just figure out what’s wrong with a situation, we can somehow do something to fix it. In spite of our best intentions however, the problems persist. What if I told you that the most effective way to solve such problems isn’t more doing? The most effective way to solve such problems is to learn to be STILL. The following are five simple rules for cultivating stillness when faced with life’s challenges:
Rule #1: Stop resisting.
What you resist persists. Instead of conceptualizing what you are struggling against as a ‘battle’ to be overcome, try to embrace the issue as a learning opportunity that needs to be mastered. Chances are there is a lesson that hasn’t quite been learned that needs to be understood for the cycle to stop repeating itself.
Rule #2: Take time to contemplate the situation.
Ask yourself what you fear will happen if you choose a different path? Fear is often the thing that keeps us trapped in seemingly inescapable circumstances. Often if you can get to the root of the fear, you can get to the root of the problem. Interestingly, fear often results out of a desire to control or manage outcomes, situations or other people.
Rule #3: Ignore the urge to ‘fix’ things
You cannot control outcomes or the behavior of others. You are deluding yourself if you think that your actions can control someone else’s behavior. Of course, we may find ourselves resorting to threats, coercion or other tactics that temporarily get people to behave in ways that we would like them to. This leads to us having the illusion of control because such behaviors appear to work in the moment. This is a false assumption. You have to remember that people submit because they choose to submit – not because you had any true authority over their decision making process. You have to be willing to accept the fact that things do not always happen according to plan. As such, you also have to be willing to accept the fact that you cannot control outcomes. You can only control your reaction to the outcome.
Rule #4: Listen to your inner champion instead of your inner critic
Remember that fear lies at the heart of most bad decisions. Playing it safe often means forgoing decisions that we know will lead us out of our comfort zones and into the unknown. We may rationally know that quitting a toxic job or leaving an abusive relationship is the right thing to do however the fear of not being ‘enough’ to find something better can keep us trapped in situations that we know are not healthy for us. Instead of fearing that you are not enough to attract an ideal job or loving relationship, recognize and embrace all of the stellar qualities that make you deserving of fulfillment, joy and happiness.
Rule #5: Learn to let go
A clenched fist can neither give, nor receive. You may have heard the parable of the monkey’s fist. It is said that certain ancient cultures would often trap monkeys by carving out a small hole filled with tasty treats that the monkey would eagerly reach into in order to grab hold of the treats. The hole, being large enough for the monkey to fit his open hand into, but too small for the monkey to pull out of once his fist is closed, allows the monkey to be easily captured while clutching onto his treat and struggling to break free. Of course, the monkey could have easily escaped the trap had he only had the foresight to let go of his tasty treasures but his single-minded focus on obtaining the treat caused him to be unable to identify other solutions. Like the monkey, we often become so focused on a particular outcome that we fail to recognize the myriad number of alternate paths that can be taken to arrive at an intended destination. We essentially become trapped by the inflexibility of our conditioned way of thinking.
When you embrace the principles of stillness, you begin to recognize that the struggles that we often view as battles with someone or something outside of ourselves are actually battles within our own minds. It can be said that the surest way to peace is through stillness. The next time you find yourself in the midst of a seemingly impossible battle, remember to take a deep breath, relax and be STILL. The solution may be closer than you think.
Be Well and God Bless,
Reba Peoples, M.D.