A Survivor Guide To The Trump Era: Embrace Uncertainty

PHOTOART fantastic adventure in a storm

A week before the inauguration of Donald Trump, I was on an airplane going to Florida. There was a tremendous amount of turbulence on the trip so I gripped both of my armrests tightly. As I braced myself, my body got very tense and I started feeling stressed and worried. It occurred to me after several minutes as my shoulders became tenser that it was ridiculous to hold my armrests for security—I was 30,000 feet in the air!  I released my hands and placed them in my lap. I started just to breathe deeply. I slowly became calmer as I sought to let go of my fear. The turbulence lasted for most but not all of the flight. When we landed in Florida, it was 80 degrees, sunny and very pleasant.

I imagine many people can relate. The turbulence on the plane made me uncomfortable because it triggered feelings of uncertainty about my safety. In everyday life, many of us feel emotional turbulence when life is uncertain.  We try to avoid these feelings by making careful decisions about our jobs, relationships and our kids.  Even though intellectually we know certainty does not exist, we strive for it, trying to play it safe and taking solace in our decisions. But life is filled with unexpected events, and the minute something unforeseen happens, the uncertainty of the situation can activate fear and negativity about what might happen in the future.

This is one of the reasons why Donald Trump makes so many people uncomfortable.  He brings our fear of uncertainty right in front of our noses every day.  He brings us turbulence.  Whether you like Donald Trump or not, he reminds Continue reading…

Soothing the Pain of Rejection When “Mother Teresa” Unfriends You on Facebook

Close up on a man and a woman holding hands at a wooden table

.that love is not what you want, it is what you are. It is very important to not get these two confused. If you think that love is what you want, you will go searching all over the place. If you think love is what you are, you will go sharing it all over the place. The second approach will cause you to find what the searching will never reveal.  —Neale Donald Walsch

As we all know, Facebook’s biggest perk is being able to keep in touch with people that we knew long ago or just met this morning. However, our interactions on Facebook can also bring the feelings of REJECTION when people you know UNFRIEND YOU. I was quite unaware of the impact of the “unfriend” button until a few days ago. A friend of mine, whom I can easily describe as one of the most giving and altruistic people I have ever met, recently won a very prestigious award for her work. While we are not best friends, we have done some nice charity events together and I thought we had a strong relationship. So the other day, I went on Facebook to share news of her award with my friends and I noticed that she is no longer my Facebook friend. What did I do to be UNFRIENDED by the closest I would ever come to someone like “Mother Teresa?”

Continue reading…

How Can We Change Our Perspective In A Difficult Situation?

MailboxWhen you own your breath, nobody can steal your peace.

About a month ago, I was speaking to my client Sam on the phone about his worry that the rent check he sent to his landlord would be late.  Sam lives in a rent stabilized apartment in New York City and believes that if his rent is late, the landlord will take him to court and try to evict him.  For those of you who don’t know what a rent stabilized apartment in New York City is, the city has a rent regulation preventing tenants from getting priced out of their own homes. This particular month, Sam gave his rent check to the mail clerk at the post office and he watched as the mail clerk tossed it towards the floor.  Sam assumed there was a bin on the floor, but as the hours passed he imagined his rent had been thrown in the garbage.  When he called me he was filled with worry and anxiety that the landlord would not receive the check.

This is not the first time Sam has called me full of worry about losing his rent-stabilized apartment.  The issue has come up often, for different reasons.  I work with Sam often on cultivating the mindset of Maybe, offering him other possibilities than the one that he will lose his apartment and will never be able to afford a different place to live.  Maybe has helped Sam through many episodes of stress and worry, but has never seemed to completely take hold in his life. Over time I have realized that some people like Sam need a “platform” mantra to gain some initial perspective on an experience before engaging in the idea of Maybe.  It is often a simple statement that alleviates some of their biggest fears so they can calm their mind and start embracing more possibilities in their life.  So this time when Sam called, my first response to him was, “Sam, your apartment is not your breath.”  Sam became very quiet. When he did not respond, I said again, “The apartment is not your breath.  Just take a deep breath and say that aloud.”   I heard Sam breathe. Then I heard him murmur, “The apartment is not my breath.”  I then said, “Sam, you would still be alive and breathing without this apartment.  It is not your life.  Maybe it will work out okay or Maybe one day you will enjoy living somewhere else someday.”

Interestingly, when I spoke to Sam the following week, he seemed more well-adjusted about his apartment.  Of course, the mailman did not throw the rent check into the garbage and the landlord got the check in the mail. But something was different about Sam’s attitude.  He realized that he had been operating under the assumption that the apartment was something he needed for his survival, but when he started to say his “platform” mantra, “The apartment is not my breath” it created a separation between him and the apartment.  He was able to relax only when he realized that apartment or no apartment he would still be himself. He could still sell his art, meet a friend for dinner, go to the gym and, most of all, breathe.  It was the first time Sam realized that MAYBE he would be okay without the apartment and it made him feel lighter.

Recently, I am amazed to say that Sam has expressed a desire to give up his apartment voluntarily and move to California for better year-round weather and new opportunities.  It is as if he has been liberated to pursue his dreams.

Even though Sam’s reaction to his apartment situation may seem extreme to some people (most of whom, I bet, are not New Yorkers!), I share this story because many of us lose perspective in the situations we are dealing with in our lives, no matter what they are.  A particular situation becomes all-consuming and we start to believe that we need it to work out a particular way for our lives to be okay.  We think we need to get a certain deal at work to be successful, for a stock to go up to be financially secure, or a for a certain someone to like us so we can feel loved.  But when we go back to our breath, we remember that our essence and life’s purpose is often bigger than the one situation we face in front of us.  We find we still exist without the situation we face going our way. We find that life usually has a way of leading us in new directions if we’re willing to stay open and flexible.

So, when you are stressed and worried about a difficult matter, and when you find yourself attached to something and afraid you’re going to lose it, try the mantra, “This situation is not my breath.” See if you can gain some perspective in the situation. If that one does not work, try to find a “platform” mantra that works for you.  Once you create some separation between yourself and whatever it is you’re attached to, say to yourself, “Maybe this is good. Maybe my situation will get better or Maybe I will find a way to accept my experience of loss and still be okay.”  Life always keeps moving. And the winds of change? They change direction. So open the door and step out of your rent-stabilized apartment, why don’t you? Whatever that looks like for you.

MAYBE things will work out better than you ever imagined!

Some Of Us Think Holding On Makes Us Strong: But Sometimes It is Letting Go

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A few weeks ago, I took my children to school in the morning and I thought this will be a quiet day and I can write and really get a lot done. At about 8:50 the nurse from school called . I was in a meeting so I missed the call. I called her back within the hour and it turned out my younger daughter had a stomachache, but she had gone back to class. As the morning moved on and I didn’t hear again from the nurse, I breathed into the moment and thought now I can have some peace today. Then at 11:00am I started getting texts from my older daughter that her head hurt and she was nauseated and dizzy. The texts continued until I met her at school and gave her some food and headache medication. By 1:30 that afternoon I was back home again. My younger daughter had an after-school activity but I needed to check on her because she was not well earlier. Sure enough, when I picked her up her stomach hurt too much to go to the after-school activity. At 4:00pm my older daughter arrived home with more symptoms. That day I had worked less than I had in a really long time.

Years ago I would have agonized so much because of how that day, for which I had so much hope, turned out. I would have told myself the story that “this should not be happening” or whined that “my day was ruined.” I would have continuously tried to get back to the day I had planned. Then one day I read the following quote.

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I took a deep breath in and asked myself, what was I achieving by hanging on to plans that had gone awry? It caused me so much pain to resist what was happening. It was like punching a brick wall;  I could never break the brick but I would sure injure myself. Likewise, I cannot change reality by insisting it should be different.

So these days I just try to let go when the unexpected happens. Sometimes I even say to myself “of course, this was always the plan” and smile. I use whatever mantra works in the moment to help me let go of what might have been so I have room to embrace whatever I am experiencing. Sometimes I even say out loud, “my heart is open to this moment.”  It doesn’t change the fact that I am unhappy when my children are suffering, but when I’m not resisting I am not in so much pain. I find I’m also more present for my children and others around me. I accept that there is nowhere else to be but where I am and nothing else to do but care for the ones in front of me. Everything else will have to wait until circumstances are ripe to move forward. I even realize that MAYBE this is what I was meant to do that day. And I feel strong and focused with my realization that being in this moment is my best contribution to the world and to others around me.

So the next time your plans go awry at work or with your children, try the mantra, “of course, this was always the plan” to let go of attachment and expectations with a smile or use the mantra “my heart is open to this moment.” See if letting go gives you strength and direction when you need it most.

And don’t forget the moment always will pass and MAYBE before you know it you’ll have time and space again to get back to your plans!  Just Maybe!