Bad stuff happens. Really bad stuff happens. Big, hairy, nasty stuff happens to every last one of us which can throw us into a downward spiral of hopelessness, depression, anger, and pain. Jobs are lost, homes get foreclosed upon, people die or leave us, and elections don’t go our way. Often those wretched experiences unfold without warning and are completely beyond our control. So, when they do happen, what can we do to navigate them without losing ourselves in the process? The answer: Mindfulness.
As someone who speaks on mindfulness for a living, I was given a crash course in implementing my own strategies this morning. I am writing this through red, stinging, puffy eyes that have cried too many tears to count. My deep desire is to crawl into bed, throw the covers over my head, and let the darkness swallow me whole. Very few times in my life have I felt such emotional pain as I do right in this moment.
Life goes on.
No matter how much sadness is in our hearts for whatever reason, we eventually need to step back up and rejoin the living. (Actually, we don’t need to; we can decide to energetically throw in the towel on living a meaningful, rich, thriving life and accept the consolation prize of a mediocre, victim-based, numbed-out existence.)
If you are struggling with a loss of any kind – the death of an ideal, the death of an opportunity, the death of a business, the death of a relationship, the death of a way of life, or the death of a loved one – allow me to share with you some mindful strategies that can help you make it through to the other side.
Unplug. It’s tempting to fall into the comforting scroll of social media and other digital distractions. Don’t do it. It will Pac-man your life away and the pain will still be there when you finally power down. Step away from the screen so you can step fully into your feelings.
Feel it completely. Where does your sorrow live within you? Is it in your heart, your chest, your neck, your face, or your back? All of the above? Summon the emotional pain to show itself within your body so you can address it. If you need to go into your car to scream your head off, do it. Pound your fists into that throw pillow on the couch. Journal about your agony. Weep.
Baby yourself. Now is NOT the time to soldier on. Treat yourself like you would your small child who is sick. Take the day off. Run yourself a bath. Eat nourishing comfort food. Rub your feet. Listen to calming music. Wrap yourself up in a blanket. Sleep.
Watch your language. Whatever you do, don’t keep energizing the pain with your own words. Don’t pick at the heart-scab by blaming others. Tell yourself over and over that you are powerful, courageous, and equipped with all of the tools you need to weather this storm and ultimately become stronger for having lived through the nightmare. Use words of love, not hate.
Sit. Even if you aren’t a regular meditator, carve out five to ten minutes every morning and night to simply sit in silence. Notice only your breath. When the terrible thoughts come – and they will – acknowledge them, acknowledge your pain within, and let them float through you so you can focus on the next breath. Meditation is medicine.