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Everyone’s always talking about gratitude and how it will get you through hard times. Well, I’m not feeling too grateful these days. I work for myself and if things continue on this way, I may end up at the food bank with the rest of them. Any advice on how to make this downer day any better?
Thanks for reaching out about your struggles, they are real and shared by many. My greatest teacher in mindset training was and is my mother. As a teen, it used to piss me off how much she smiled. She smiled through most everything, and what was worse (at the time) was that it was genuine!
Now, as I wade through the deep and turbulent waters of adult life, I have a true appreciation for her persistent optimistic attitude. At 25 years old, full of dreamy visions of her future family, mom gave birth to a stillborn baby at nine months. Before returning from the hospital, dad dismantled the nursery so that when she arrived home, without her baby, she’d hopefully feel less pain. It was a dark time for a young couple to face.
Despite the cautions from her medical team, mom held fast to her dream of having a family. I can’t begin to imagine the courage it took to go through another pregnancy, risking the same heartbreak at the end of the journey. She went on to have three more successful pregnancies, (I’m sure glad she persisted to the end) and raised three lovely, amazing children (OK, I’m biased).
Last year, as she was grieving the loss of her second child, Jonathan, who died suddenly at the peak of his life, I asked mom how she was managing to continue on. She responded softly with ease and clarity “I continue to grieve but life keeps luring me forward.” Now that’s an adventurous, lover of life if I’ve ever met one. Yes, she’s experienced some of the deepest pain anyone could ever suffer, and yet she still somehow finds the sunbeams to bathe in. She still exudes her sunny disposition, which I witness uplifting everyone around her wherever she goes.
I want to be clear that I’m not advising you mask your pain by pasting on a fake smile. Personally speaking, I have wept in the shower and spilled tears into the Atlantic over the global crisis we’re facing, but then I lift my gaze and look for things to smile about. Studies support mom’s behavior too, proving that ‘keeping on the sunny side’ does in fact improve our long-term well-being and happiness. As the Carter Family sang “keep on the sunny side of life, It will help us every day, it will brighten all the way, if we’ll keep on the sunny side of life.”
Oh and P.S., while the food bank may be your worst case scenario, the very fact that we have a food bank is a huge gift that many around the world do not have. If you can expand your awareness beyond the immediately threatening situation, I hope you can see the immense blessings surrounding you as well.
I hear you, these are hard times for everyone. I always find myself annoyed when people offer flippant one liners so freely, such as “stay positive and it’ll all work out.” It takes dedication and practice to rise above the negativity.
One mindfulness practice I do often is think about the people who are worse off than me. When we turn our awareness to others who are struggling even more than us, it helps to put our situation into perspective. For example, we could reflect on the plight of the survivors of the Halifax Explosion, whose lives were instantaneously devastated and who then had to rebuild their whole community amidst the harsh deepfreeze of winter. Imagine.
Indeed, things are hard right now and many people’s lives are at risk, but we have responsible leaders who are making decisions to protect our best interests and medical experts on the frontlines working on our behalf. We can take comfort in knowing that we are not alone in our struggles.
The contemplative traditions believe life is like a wheel. When negative things happen and you fixate on having a very bad day, or month or year (which some are doing with the year 2020), it perpetuates the negative momentum because you’re looking for evidence to support your stance. When our mind follows that direction of the spinning wheel, we are advised to grab hold of the wheel with both hands and earnestly change its course. We do this by searching for the smallest glimmer of hope, which can show itself as an act of kindness or generosity, a smile from a stranger, or a funny joke. By noting and banking all of our positive experiences, we gradually garner the power to turn the wheel and gain a new momentum, in the direction of hope and goodness.
Have a question for Jenny and Blair? Send your inquiries to info@BreathingSpaceYogaStudio.ca.