Originally Posted via Huffington Post
The other day I was preparing my morning coffee and grabbed my coconut milk out of the fridge and gave it a good shake. The cap wasn’t on correctly and it spilled EVERYWHERE. Even my black haired dog was covered in coconut milk. I lost it and broke down, like literally broke down. Ugly guttural cries kind of break down. And then, that damn cliche popped in my head — “no use crying over spilled milk.” In other words, what’s done is done, nothing you can do. It was a harsh reality to take on an early Thursday morning.
Granted, it’s been an emotional time. Major life transitions seem to be taking place for so many people whom I love — marriage, divorce, birth of a child, death of a parent, a shocking health diagnosis, a new job, a move, etc. And on top of it, my three-year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis is about to make its mark. So I’m feeling especially vulnerable and highly emotive.
Any time I am teaching meditation, I always like to clarify that while meditation provides so many positive life-changing benefits, it doesn’t necessarily take away the stresses of life or change current life events. However it does become a tool to transform how we respond to those stressful situations, with much more compassion, forgiveness, generosity and patience. It shows up for us in the times we don’t even need it. And it’s these moments when EVERYTHING seems out of our control that we need to give ourself permission to feel what we are feeling without out trying to fix our way out of it.
Before my meditation practice I used to flee these uncomfortable moments with amazing swiftness. But now, I just let myself sink into them and hunker down with all the pain, uncertainty and discomfort that the moment can bring. I embrace the tears as the most purifying gift that my body can give me, and welcome the cathartic release that a good cry can provide.
But sometimes, these moments can linger. Where it’s not just about spilled milk, but the reality that in a moment — our lives can change forever and time seems to stand still. I’ve experienced far too many of these moments, and as a result, have been able to distill a few lessons learned.
1. Yikes — It’s okay to freak out. Anytime we hear shocking news, our initial reaction is what needs to be honored. These are actually the times when our fight or flight kicks into gear and allows us to focus on what needs to happen in the immediate.
2. Breathe — The simple act of breathing in and out of our noses accesses the parasympathetic nervous system which automatically calms and relaxes us and brings us into the present moment. So after the initial freak out, try to take a few deep breaths. Sighing is also a good outlet in these moments.
3. Connect — It’s amazing to see how people show up in crisis. For the most part, the people that love and care about you will have your back. Trust that if they are offering support, help, or food, they are doing it because the want to. On the flip side you may be surprised how some people simple can’t deal with difficulty. Try not to take it personally, and simply allow them to have their experience while receiving the other ways that support will show up for you.
4. Distract — Any crisis naturally forces us into the present moment, where it becomes almost impossible to think of anything beyond this moment, right here, right now. So in those moments where it feels paralyzing, it is helpful to find the things that provide a bit of light hearted reprieve — whether a funny movie, an episode of Modern Family, or even a nice hand or foot massage.
5. Recognize Gratitude — The irony of these moments is they naturally produce unbelievable amounts of gratitude where we are able to appreciate what we do have even if it feels like something is being taken away from us. Just acknowledging this is important, not as a means to minimize the seriousness of any situation, but as a way to invite some equanimity and grace to it.