You may have heard about the terrible storms that hit the United States this past week. Flooding, tornadoes, people died.
Okay, nothing like that happened to me. But I got caught in the maelstrom flying back to Boston. The ripple effects of flights cancelled, rescheduled, cancelled again. It took me 40 hours to get home from a usual 6-8 hour trip.
Last night we were on the plane ready to go (this was the third, or was it the fourth? rescheduled flight) when we were told, “Well, no, after all….. this flight won’t be departing…”
Why do they do this to me?
Hearing that the guy next to me exploded, furiously banging his fist on the armrest, yelling, “why do they do this to me?” Yup…. I wanted to get as far from him as I could.
Walking back down the jetbridge into the terminal I mulled it out. I certainly wasn’t chipper about the process. Certainly I had a part of me that was really upset, distraught.
There was a part that wondered why on earth this was happening. I tried to create meaning out of it … and maybe there just wan’t any meaning. Maybe something didn’t work out and it wasn’t personal. …….
The years of putting the Becoming Safely Embodied skills to practice in my life showed me the way. (So many of you wonder if I still use them – YES! They form the foundation, helping me to organize myself when life goes awry. Here’s how…)
- Slowing down: During the day when I felt myself getting upset or caught in the emotional contagion of other’s upset I consistently slowed down instead of firing up. Activating my parasympathetic nervous system instead of activating the flight/flight threat system.
- Entering body time by paying close attention to sensations in my body instead of getting caught in the drama and distress all around me.
- Six Sides of the Breath: helps me a great deal (here’s a link to the practice) helping me ground in my spine soothing the tubular spinal cord chock full of nerves, moving me away from the periphery of my body with what the yogis call pratayhara.
- Gratitude: part of the choice point practice – always turning toward what feels nourishing instead of orienting toward what’s wrong, what doesn’t work.
- Learning not to take life personally. Crummy things happen to everyone. If I build a file cabinet of meaning equating crummy things with me life becomes harder to deal with.
- Developing self-compassion. We all suffer. Self-compassion helps bring ease when we are in tough places. [more on self-compassion here and here and here and here]
Slowing down allows us to find choice points. Life always has options. They’re hard to find when we’re caught in the maelstrom of life.
I had to actively look for a choice point, to find a nourishing opposite to turn to last night. I guess it was 2 in the morning, when I got yet another text from the airline telling me my flight had been rescheduled – again (…. Can you hear my frustration is leaking……).
My body, tired as it was started revving up, wanting to blame, criticize, judge, make wrong, be upset, angry, rail against the airline and everybody and everything. Like the angry guy who pounded his fist I had the thought – why is this happening to me? I could feel myself sliding into negative places, feeling helpless.
Practice kicked in
Because of the many multiple thousands of times I practice what I preach I paused, gulped, recognizing the choice point. I could also choose to be a victim and stay caught in the slough of despair.
Practice reminded me to notice my internal experience.
Practice helped me slow down and harness this moment.
Practice helped me pause before rapidly engaging in a habitual pattern.
Years of practice had me sit in an inquiry: Who do I want to be right now? What do I want with this moment in time? How do I want to be in this simple life experiment?
I always want more kindness for myself and for others. Yes…. That I do want. Sitting with that and breathing that in — softens my belly. I do feel upset and can write/call/email when I get home – but in this moment, in this present moment, what kind of moment do I want to have? What kind of interactions do I want to have with others in the midst of this tumult?
That inquiry helped steer me to a place of balance and surprisingly ease and contentment. As I write this I’m still traveling. Still on route. Still not home. The practices of a lifetime are helping me soften my reactivity, be grateful, express appreciation to all who are serving me and so many thousands of others.
How do you stay balanced? What do you practice when things don’t work out? It always helps to hear from others. If you don’t mind, take a quick moment and leave a comment below on the blog. It helps me – and others – know how you deal with life.