Your coworker hasn’t responded to your proposal email in the last five minutes, so you assume they don’t like the idea. Your son doesn’t answer his phone, so you assume he’s in the hospital. You don’t hear back from the doctor, so you’ve decided it must be catastrophic. This is the negative bent of your brain looking for the worst-case scenario.
I have recently found the antidote for what people refer to as your “lizard” or “monkey” brain. With all of the recent turmoil in my life, I decided to attend The Happiness Program. It has changed my outlook on life in many ways. Even though there are still a thousand loose ends and unanswered emails on moving back into my house post-hurricane, I am in a state of equilibrium and peace.
The heart of the program is learning a meditation with very prescribed breathing techniques and timing. I can’t describe it here, and I’m not qualified to teach it, but I can give you the remaining tenets of the program, which are based on the teachings of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, taught worldwide at The Art of Living. I wrote about 5 of the tenets in my previous post, which you can read here.
Sri Sri’s important things to always remember:
- Accept people and situations as they are. I truly believe that everyone is a closeted control freak. The constant strive for control is exhausting. In an age of constant uncertainty, you can’t control anything but your response. Gary Coxe’s book title is apt as well: Don’t Let Others Rent Space in Your Head. How much space are you renting out to others? Don’t give up the valuable real estate of your beautiful brain to anyone else. Acceptance will set you free from the struggle.
- Don’t be a football of other’s opinions. I wrote an entire piece on what I think is a similar quote from Wayne Dyer: “What other people think of me is none of my business.” Gulp. How much of your time do you go around worrying about what other people think of you? Do you really have any control over it? Nope. Didn’t think so. Focus on your opinion of yourself. Do you like that dress on you? Then wear it. I coach so many women who are focused on other’s opinions. They are stuck until they figure out that their own self-worth is what’s important.
- Stretch out your hands first. Be the first to say hello or smile. My class had about 12 folks and most of them were immigrants from India. I could not pronounce most of their names. On the first day, we all introduced ourselves by shaking hands and having to say, “I am Cathy and I belong to you.” It was incredibly powerful to say that to a complete stranger, twelve times. Don’t we all really belong to each other? Wouldn’t that approach solve some world problems? Be the first to reach out.
- Take responsibility. Own what you do. Don’t point fingers. Blaming others or not owning up for your own life makes you untrustworthy. Someone did this to me recently. A relationship had not panned out and she blamed me for the fallout. I was not in the relationship nor did I have anything to do with it falling apart, since I did not know the other party. In the past, I would have felt guilty or argued back. But now I realize I can only take responsibility for myself and no one else. That is their path. Stay off their path and take responsibility for yours.
- Complain = irresponsibility. I have been suffering from this for months. I have complained about contractors, insurance companies, FEMA and my mortgage company. It’s debilitating. Take it from me and get your head back by not complaining. It takes you into a negative spiral, where all you look for is confirming information that everything is falling apart. Stay away from other’s who complain, if possible, as it is infectious. It’s hurting your ability to be happy.
- Don’t try; just do it. As Yoda famously said, “Do. Or do not do. There is no try.” I’ve been doing and doing and doing. The secret for me is to tackle only a few things at a time. It’s overwhelming to deal with everything at once. When I coach others, this is probably one of the biggest pieces of advice my clients take away from the process. Dice it up into doable pieces. Accomplish a little piece and the moment starts. Just do it.
- Whatever you resist – persists. Psychologist Carl Jung contended that “what you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.” This is especially true with feelings. Most of us try to stuff our feelings by medicating, eating or ignoring them. It’s so important to feel the feelings of betrayal, or anger, or abandonment. You can’t go around it; you have to go through it to move on. Label the feeling as it comes up. So this is what betrayal feels like – burning in my stomach and tension in my shoulders. So this is what abandonment feels like – tears streaming down my face and wailing from my gut. You have to feel it to get past it.
I highly recommend the course. I am now into my 21st day of using the meditation and I am feeling more optimistic, more equilibrium and, slowly but surely, letting go of my resentment and anger towards others. What tenet resonates for you?