"When you're in the middle of a story it isn't a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It's only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it, to yourself or someone else." - Margaret Atwood
Take a deep breath and release the exhale, slowly.
Everything is going to be okay.
We're only in the middle of a storm, or as Margaret Atwood says–a story. This is only a chapter of the larger whole.
Being caught in the center of a challenging moment in life is like being in the depths of a storm where chaos surrounds an individual: trees blow vigorously in the wind, intense rain makes it nearly impossible to see anything, and objects hurtle unexpectedly across the path. In these moments it can feel nearly impossible to gain perspective as one's life is tossed by external forces.
Sometimes the only thing to do in these moments is wait for the storm to pass, and as always,it will pass. If waiting is all you can manage right now, then just do that. But if you feel you have the capacity to open your heart in these times, here are a few ways to seek stillness in the midst of the chaos:
1. Surrender to what you can't control.
Just a couple days before Coronavirus picked up its pace in the US, I took a drive to the Oregon coast and walked alongside the ocean as its powerful waves stretched themselves out across the shore. Scattered along the sand were small, circular rocks that had been completely smoothed over. As I rolled one between my fingers, I remembered what I've learned through previous times of uncertainty: the more one can respond to it with curiosity and cooperation, the more purposeful the outcome. Our suffering increases the more we resist the present moment and whatever it brings. Like the rocks on the shore, let life carry you through its waves and allow it to soften your edges. What will happen when you loosen your grip? Can you be curious about what you don't yet know?
2. Ride the waves of your emotions.
To continue with the ocean metaphor, our emotions flow into our lives like waves–one moment we might feel a sense of anxiety, and eventually it might recede and transform into ease. All of life is a pattern of expansion and contraction: the ocean, our breath, the seasons, our experiences, and our emotions. I've certainly felt a range of emotions in the last several days, and I've had to continually remind myself to ride the waves. The trick isn't to avoid what waves appear, but to flow with them without getting pulled underneath. Try not to let the emotion take you over; just ride it. In any phase–including the current one we're in–fear and calm and sadness and joy will carry us through to the end where everything is and will be okay.
3. Be open to unforeseen possibilities.
Coincidentally, my New Years Resolution at the beginning of 2020 was to "be open to unforeseen possibilities." For some reason (now I think I know why), that phrase was sticking to me. I knew then that at any moment, unexpected scenarios can fracture the container you've built around your life. And though this fracture might initially cut open your life in awful ways, it can maybe, just maybe, ultimately lead to possibilities that you never imagined for your life but that nevertheless stir you with excitement. The more you release your attachment to how thingsshouldgo, you'll notice all the ways theycouldgo.
4. Find the opportunities amid the setbacks.
At any moment–yes, even now–a doorway might suddenly appear along your path that you had no expectation or intention of encountering. These doorways require little effort on your part other than *paying attention,* and when you do, they have the power to shift your life in monumental ways. There area lotof things changing right now for everyone. Change is scary and sometimes painful, especially at such a massive scale. But I want to remind you that change can also be exciting–without it nothing new can enter your life.
Lastly, I want to remind you of the analogy of the butterfly. Imagine that aspects of your life, or of society in general, have been at caterpillar-level. Let's just say we're all like caterpillars right now who are entering into a chrysalis so that we can one day emerge from it with a new understanding of life. Before the caterpillar can change, it has to surrender to the unknown and let go of everything it once knew. Little does it realize in the moment that its experience is part of a beautiful, incredible story that has been told time and time again to inspire and give hope to others. Could it be that we're at the same point in our own story(ies) and will eventually be led to our greatest discovery yet?
We might not know how exactly this story will unfold, but this moment we're in isn't the entire story. It's just a chapter; just a storm that is passing through. And I have a hunch that, after we've made our way to the other side, everything will come together like a story always does, and we will emerge better off as individuals, as a nation, and as a world.
Hang in there.
I am thinking of you and sending so much love and comfort your way.