The beginning of a new year is synonymous with big resolutions and well-intentioned desires made from a place of hope for wellbeing or improvement in some aspect of life.
This year then, I sat down to ponder some new ‘within’ resolutions. I asked myself, – “if there is one thing that I could master, one thing I could work on from within to bring greater contentment to my life and positive flow on to those I love, what would it be?” The answer came to me over the next few days.
Just before New Year, I got to thinking about upcoming challenges (some unpleasant and uncomfortable) that I will encounter, as is the way with the ebbs and flows of life. Thinking of these discomforts, I started to feel unsettled within my whole body. And I couldn’t put it out of my mind. Or calm the mounting internal stress. It was as though the challenging situation had just stepped on in to my heart and my mind and taken a seat. And unpacked. With no check out date.
Needless to say, I was stressed before I even had to deal with the stress. And then I got a bit cranky. Because my immediate peace was being enveloped by this nameless beast comprising discomfort and foreboding. Usually in these situations I try to take immediate steps to get rid of or neutralise the discomfort. I may try to deal with the situation immediately (even if its not ready, much like harvesting an unripe fruit and expecting to get a delicious result). Just get it over and done with so I can go back to being happy and peaceful. Rip off the bandage and the beast will go away. But problems cannot always be dealt with in this manner. Some uncomfortable situations are chronic and sometimes even the short term ones can’t be taken care of easily or quickly.
So I got to thinking (and stressing) and then something happened. I realised that this isn’t the first, and won’t be the last, nameless beast of discomfort that I have felt. I have never actually learned to sit, really sit, alongside the discomfort. I have always absorbed it and then tried to shake it off as quickly as humanly possible. If it couldn’t be shaken, I would carry it around with me like a backpack I could never set down. I started to think about separating my self from this discomfort – two separate things. One – me, a soul, my own personal haven or ‘heart house’; the other – an external situation or influence. I realised that one does not need to take over the other. That my mind, soul and body have the ability to have peace even in the presence of the beast. We are not one and the same. And I don’t have to invite that beast of discontent into my heart house. It can stay outside. This would be my resolution for this coming year. To create peace in my heart house and guard it with fierceness and love.
I got to thinking about my heart house as a place, a literal hot spot within me from which resides the peace I feel within my soul and mind and body. A place with walls that is sheltered from the beasts of discomfort, fear, foreboding. A place that is ‘invite only’. And the beasts are not on the guest list. The feeling of calm that followed was truly fantastic. While it might sound obvious to some, for others I am sure this will resonate. It can be difficult to keep separate the beastly feelings that come from day to day life and not let them take over your mind and body, creating physical, mental and emotional symptoms of stress that are hard to just set aside. There are situations and circumstances that can’t be dealt with immediately, or at all, or to a point of adequate resolution. They carry on, and on, and sometimes they get worse or just won’t let up. And so we all need strategies to truly find and maintain peace within ourselves while the stormy seas swell around us.
What I am proposing – creating peace in your heart house – is not the same as pretending the problem doesn’t exist. We are not denying the presence of the beast, but rather regulating how, when and in what manner it is expressed. We are taking back the power. We are not the situation, and therefore the stress that beast brings can leave its muddy shoes outside of our souls (assuming beasts wear shoes, of course).
No doubt some may now be wondering exactly how we make this distinction. How we separate the self from the beast. I don’t have a perfect recipe, but these are some ingredients that I feel are beneficial in this process:
- Acceptance of the presence of the beast (the situation). No judgement. No fear. No foreboding. Just acceptance that it exists.
- Creating a clear distinction between self and the external circumstance (the beast) – picturing a literal safe space, my heart house, helped. Thinking of a place helps me to picture walls that will literally not allow unwanted stress in.
- Taking time to practice this distinction – mentally. This requires persistence, mindfulness and intention. It is easy to let the beast get its paws inside. Keep an eye on it. It stays outside.
What I have gained from this practice is greater control of my mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. I am learning to master the external influences of stress and subsequently, my mind is not wholly and relentlessly occupied with my problems. They exist and I will address them when I am able or when the time is required. But I can be happy, and peaceful, and contented, even when discontent swells around me. Because the problems are the beast, and the beast is not allowed in my home.
How do you manage the beast of discomfort to maintain your peace?
Until next time – simplify, focus, pursue and count your blessings.