Last week I spoke about suffering being inevitable and how to live joyfully in the face of it.
This week I want to share a perspective that helps me during those times of suffering: Life is a marathon...not a sprint...
What do I mean?
I will use a running analogy. When I use to run, I gravitated toward distance running rather than sprinting. I often wondered, why distance? Then one day it hit me.
I like the distance running because it feels spacious and doable...comforting almost. The focus on running distance, over speed, suits my personality and my nervous system!! To thyself be known and then be true to you.
Distance running requires the ability to see the end, no matter how far off. Because all I had to focus on was "finishing", it took the pressure off of having to do it "fast".
And what I know about myself now is that fast makes me anxious.
Distance running taught me how to let go of "how fast" in order to focus on completion instead...a valuable life lesson as it relates to living the life of our dreams.
In the process of running to finish I also learned: how to breathe, how to pace myself, and most importantly, the belief that I would make it, no matter how long it took.
There is a peace filled sweetness that washes over us when we realize we choose our beliefs. As such our beliefs have the power to uplift and inspire us. Or not depending on what beliefs you choose.
The perspective of seeing and then living life as a marathon is comforting- especially these days when everything moves too darn fast for me.
This perspective has gifted me 3 pillars that guide my life...all of which I have written about to you countless times in different ways:
1. Be Real
There will be times of suffering, it's inevitable. Best to accept this with non judgmental compassionate awareness. Then get busy living again.
2. Practice, Patience, Pacing
Nobody starts off running a marathon on their first run.
In order to succeed you must...
Practice: Quite simply making the time to do the "work" because whatever "it" is, is that important to you. The excuse, "I have no time", simply means I have not chosen to make this a priority. In which case, reassess. Life is precious and short. Time is the only commodity we don't retrieve so invest wisely. Death reminds us of this. Use death to motivate.
Patience: Understand what patience is and what it is not. True. Rome wasn't built in a day. Some things take time. We are impatient. Yet sometimes we are being slowed down for a reason, we don't yet see. And still others times we are so painfully patient. We use the excuse, "I am being patient" when the truth is, we are afraid to take the massive action we need to in order to move ahead. Hiding behind impatience or patience is still hiding. Pay attention. Discern. Decide. Life = Short.
Pacing: Since energy is our #1 asset we must learn how to pace ourselves by caring so deeply for our physical, mental and emotional health so we don't burn out.
Physical- Balance your days with effort (working/having fun) and ease (relaxation/rest)
Mental- Commit to daily meditation to cultivate mental discipline and move beyond "I can't/I quit" and all the other stories the monkey mind creates.
Emotional- Accept feelings will come and go. Some days will simply suck...Practice non-attachment to the voice that alternately says, "I hate running/work/life/! I feel awful." and also says, "I love running/work/life! I feel amazing."
3. Faith- Your faith in your ability to run the distance/live the life of your dreams must be bigger than your feelings at any one time.
Faith in your dreams translates to your belief in yourself. Your "big" faith will carry you through times of suffering when feelings are at an all time low and you want to quit.
When we adopt the view that life is a marathon and not a sprint we give ourselves permission to live slow and deep...to pace ourselves so we enjoy the journey rather than rush to an "end". We practice deepening our faith that we will make it...we give ourselves permission to believe.
And maybe when we arrive at the end- death- it will be with less sadness and regret, and a ton more joy and ease...
arriving with a sweetness that says yes, our very own dreams have come true- because we BELIEVED.
Last week I talked about the thread that runs through whether or not we are able to overcome our struggles. The thread as you may recall is to Save Yourself First.
This week the conversation continues. The bottom line is that every single one of us has something we struggle with, whether or not we admit it. Those of us who have the courage to admit our struggle, then come upon the "choice".
The choice is: Will we see our struggle as a curse or as a blessing?
Throughout my life I have mostly been an optimistic person. Yet, there have been countless times where I have felt cursed. As I share in my book, Reclaiming Joy, my father's unexpected death 3 weeks before my wedding was one of those times.
In the midst of this "curse", the discomfort I felt--grief, sadness, anger, anxiety, loneliness, was unbearable at times. At the time, I did what I had to do to survive-- over working, over eating, over drinking, over doing. I did this until I was ready to choose the other path.
Several years later, upon getting divorced, another curse, I was at a choice point. I had to decide how I wanted to live the rest of my life. I did my deep spiritual healing work as I share in my book, and ultimately asked myself: Will I see the past as a curse or as a blessing? Feeling that it couldn't get too much worse, I took a gamble on seeing my experience as a blessing. Looking back, I understand that until I was ready and able to see all of my life experience as a blessing, nothing would ever change. It was the right choice.
In Chapter 2 of my book, Reclaiming Joy I talk about this concept often-- our ability to see all (the pain and the joy) of our experience as teachers...blessings.
When we practice this way of being, seeing the blessings, it has the effect of helping us to feel more comfortable in the discomfort of life.
There is a part of us, way down deep inside that knows it requires discomfort to grow. Some would say, myself included, that at a soul level we actually "call" the discomfort into our life in order that we heal. A wake up call you might say. You know what I mean. You've seen it. You've experienced it.
OK and? The challenge arises when we want to flee from the discomfort...also known as abandoning ourselves. The key for many of us is to stay committed to our path of healing, overcoming...whatever words you want to use...no matter what.
The ultimate freedom (peace) comes when we realize discomfort is not something to fear. Rather discomfort is something to embrace, to bring our love and our light to so that we may transmute what is underneath it.
With consistent practice and support, we realize on the other side of our fear, lies our freedom. This wisdom carries us so when the discomfort arises again, and it will, we feel so much more comfortable in it. We stay with our self through the discomfort instead of abandoning our self. We are wise to know there is growth here and that our freedom, our peace, requires us to exhale and stay.
Wisdom = Knowledge + Intuition + Experience
Gratitude isn't something to celebrate only on Thanksgiving. For many of us, it's how we live, or strive to live.
Being grateful is being joyful! Easy, no? So, I decided to come up with a simple game to help keep me on the path of gratitude.
As I speak about in my book, Reclaiming JOY, how we are being (grateful or not, loving or not...) determines the quality of our doing...and this is how we experience life. It's a big deal!!!
Here's the game:
1. Grab paper and pen (or your cell phone).
2. Set a timer for 5 minutes.
3. Write down as many kind words as possible about yourself that begin with theletter of your first name. (I.e. Stephanie: Still, Silly, Self-Loving). The key is to write words you "know" you are...and even more importantly, write words you wish to become.
4. For the rest of the year, look at this every morning and night. Add to it!
Extra Credit: Share and play this game with a spouse, partner, child, friend, co-worker...etc.