Have you ever lost it and just wanted to scream? We did when we spent time in India, amidst the crowds and hustle, with little sleep and constantly on the go. There were definitely times when we would lose our cool, get irritated, and lash out at each other unnecessarily.
The ability to keep our peace and maintain an even-balanced state means recognizing that even though there are situations in which we have no control over what happens and no ability to affect the outcome, it is still possible to maintain our balance so that we can remain unshakable in a world that is constantly making demands and creating challenges.
“Usually, when we feel the pressure of life — when it is very busy with all kinds of commotion taking place around us — then we go onto autopilot mode, a state of self-protection and self-preservation. We think everyone is attacking us or taking advantage of us, and we cannot see anyone or anything objectively or lovingly. When our mind can relax a little and become calm and more spacious, then we see there is nothing to fear.” Ponlop Rinpoche, from our book Be The Change
So what are the best ways to keep our cool? How do we transform a volatile situation before we start taking it out on those around us? Here are five ways that work for us:
1. This Too Shall Pass: Just imagine if everything was permanent. Imagine if we were always the same: There would be no butterflies, no full moon, no ocean tides, no cherry blossoms, and no cherries! We never know what is going to happen or when; nothing is predictable, permanent, secure, controllable, or dependable. Everything is subject to change in every moment. Which means that even this stressed out state will pass. Impermanence is our reality, so when we resist it, then we are resisting the very meaning of being here, which is to always be evolving or becoming something more than what we were before.
2. Talking Heads: We are often asked what one thing we believe has made our marriage work as long as it has, despite many ups and downs, and we both agree it is communication. When we start to lose our cool then we become unable to share our feelings and we remain locked in a separate world from each other.
“We define ourselves as separate beings, and if we are separate, then we have to put a wall up around ourselves. We have to protect ourselves and our feelings so that no one else can get to them. Our problems are because this wall does not just protect us, but it also locks us out of our own hearts and so we continue to be isolated and to suffer.”Krishna Das, from Be The Change
3. Change Your Mind: If stress is rising, become aware of reactive thinking patterns. Are your thoughts becoming more annoyed, self-centered, fearful, or powerless? If you are feeling increasingly helpless with a growing sense of inadequacy, turn your thoughts into ones such as: “I am absolutely capable of fulfilling anything that is asked of me; I have all the knowledge that I need to do this already inside me; I am fully resourceful and able to rise to this challenge.”
If you normally react by getting irritated at interruptions until you are shouting, take some deep breaths and silently repeat, “My work is flowing well. Nothing can disturb that flow. I can easily take a few minutes to attend to other issues.”
4. Mindful Breathing: Normally, the more stressed we become, the more our breathing becomes rapid, short, and shallow. We can release stress the moment we breathe more deeply.
“I do this thing with the children where I say, ‘Breathing in, I calm my body; breathing out, I smile. Breathing in, I know this supreme moment; breathing out, I know it is a wonderful moment.’ When I do that with the children, they all jump for joy. It is very cool.” Wavy Gravy, from Be The Change
“The greatest discovery for me was that just breathing could become the most fantastically enjoyable experience I could possibly imagine. And I thought, well, if I can get this much pleasure from just breathing, then I’m okay, because as long as I am alive, I am going to have breath. This was huge for me, this sinking into the breath in the body.” Tim Freke, from Be The Change
5. Right Balance Meditation: As that saying goes, we are human beings, not human doings! We will not stay sane unless we unwind by hitting the pause button and taking time to just be.
“A long time ago, I came across a definition of meditation that it comes from the root meaning ‘right balance.’ That rang true for me because, personally, my attention is often so fragmented, egocentric, narcissistic, or self-concerned that there isn’t a whole lot of inner balance or alignment with what is. Rather, I am stuck in a state of non-balance. Right balance is when my mind is not spinning out endless movies and delusions, or maybe it still is but I am just not so attached to believing them. Meditation is when I can watch stuff go by and the part of me that usually interrupts and says, ‘That’s a good story, or that son of a bitch, or I’m guilty and awful,’ that part sits back and sees it as just one more story but without attachment to it. This gives me the most delicious sense of spaciousness and peace.” Joan Borysenko, from Be The Change