Most of us will find ourselves in some sort of crisis at some point of our lives. This often happens when major life events or difficult situations test our mettle. Crisis, as I write about it here, means a personal crisis: when we feel overwhelmed by our emotions. Symptoms can include difficulty sleeping, chronic anxiety, panic attacks, depression or, in some cases, a nervous breakdown. It may involve the use or abuse of some chemical substance, like alcohol, cocaine or other drug. When this happens we find ourselves in a crisis perhaps existential in its nature; we may wonder as to the purpose of things. We may even try to seek meaning beyond that of working, having fun or raising a family.
As uncomfortable as we might feel during such times, as much as we feel that we just want it to end, these are key moments in our lives which present us with a wonderful opportunity. ´
Although the crisis might seem to have appeared suddenly, from nowhere, the reality is that it has taken years or months to come to fruition; it’s just that we didn’t notice.
An important factor in these situations is the very human propensity to do the same thing whilst hoping for a different result. Most people, when their usual strategy does not work, will simply try more of the same.
Each of us has our strategies for facing life and its myriad problems; the basis of many of these strategies we probably developed as children. We have confidence in our strategy; it has worked well in the past but when it doesn’t work, we try the same strategy but twice as hard. We repeat maybe blaming those around us: “if only that person/those people would change then things would be better.” We get caught in a loop; thinking analysing, berating ourselves for being so stupid, feeling bad, thinking more, feeling worse, etc.
These crises occur when we do not listen to our bodies or because we do not know how to pay attention properly. We might even feel that we do not know who we really are. We identify exclusively with our rational mind – in other words, our thoughts.
We are so lost in our thoughts, trying only to escape our suffering that we miss the bigger picture, the really good bit: we are actually in a wonderful moment, a moment pregnant with possibilities, an opportunity for change, growth, for something different. Think back on your own life: when did you learn the most – when you were comfortable and happy or when you were in pain, suffering?
The first step in taking advantage of this moment is to stop fighting, let go of that which does not work and instead learn to how to correctly put our attention on our lives rather than on our thoughts about our lives. We also need the right attitude, that of the vegetable gardener: accepting that we cannot directly create many of the most important things that we want in our lives, eg. happiness; we can only create the conditions which favour its manifestation.
Other tools in our “gardener’s bag” help create the right perception, how to take care of ourselves (our real selves) and how to let go and forgive.
Feeling unsure and even lost are part of your path. Do not run away from it nor try to avoid it. Just pay attention, with open curiosity and kindness. See what your body, what your feelings are telling you. Seize the opportunity and use it! You will be okay even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time
Embrace the void and have the courage to exist