When I was at my absolute emotional lowest, expecting to die of leukemia, I was completely self-preoccupied; my mind was full of damaging and negative thoughts of failure, of shame, of powerlessness and despair. My crazy mind was hard to quieten and that only added to my sense of failure. I felt stuck in a pattern of overthinking that was destructive and negative and I was completely over myself!
The brain makes a wonderful servant but a really appalling master!
I had little control over the mad drunk monkey swinging through treetops that was my mind!
A major turning point occurred for me when I decided to no longer focus on my own negative self-talk and to focus instead, on seeing the beauty, the courage and the magnificence in the people who soon started coming to me for help.
I met so many wonderful people who told me their stories of appalling loss or cruelty, poor self-esteem, overwhelming grief, negative self-talk, indeed all the self-sabotaging behaviours I knew so well.
I saw in these people such courage, such tenacity, commitment and willingness to embrace their challenges regardless of how painful, how unimaginable, how unthinkable their story might be.
Like me, these people refused to be defined by the things that had happened to them and they wanted to find a way out of the chaos in their minds.
In time, the practice of reflecting back to people the magnificence, the love, compassion and courage I saw in them, reminded me that I was ok too; that we’re all a ‘work in progress’ and that, if we all shed a little light on one another’s paths, we’ll all find our way home to ourselves.
ACTS OF KINDNESS
Sometimes it’s as simple as giving a stranger a smile; some small act of kindness for another person. It may lighten their load – and it heals and replenishes us at the same time.
I didn’t emerge from the experience of confronting my mortality, grieving my brother’s recent suicide and the ending of my marriage in any way articulate about the inner landscape of my own grief, anguish and despair. It was enough to have physically survived.
It is through the many thousands of people who have entrusted me with their stories that I was able to find the words to describe the human journey of suffering; a journey most of us encounter sometime in our life.
Giving a voice to the unspeakable is often the start of our pathway towards peace.
YOU ARE NOT YOUR BRAIN; YOU HAVE A BRAIN
We need to be ‘boss’ of our brain, rather than letting it run the show.
Listening endlessly to our inner critic – the voice in your head which provides a running commentary on you and your life – will rob you of peace, undermine your confidence and ruin your opportunities for growth and success. When we USE our brain, we can think constructively.
It’s good to have a story; our stories break us open to a deeper understanding of ourselves, of others, of life. Our stories push us into exploring parts of ourselves we would never willingly venture into otherwise. Our stories can make us more compassionate towards others who might likewise be suffering.
It’s good to have a story, but we don’t want to live ‘in’ the story as if it is our daily reality. Have compassion for yourself and your story. Weep the tears until you can look the world in the eye with a deep sense of acceptance and peace about your life.
TRY DOING SOMETHING FOR SOMEONE ELSE
Perhaps you could volunteer at the local dog shelter? Perhaps you could do a chore for someone frail or in need of support? Giving a smile to a stranger may just save that person’s life.
Happiness is not found in the grand gestures or in neon lights. Happiness is found in the small acts of kindness and consideration of another person – or creature.
You can make a difference to someone else’s life even when you feel you’re struggling with your own challenges. A smile costs you nothing, but it may be a priceless gift for the recipient.
If your mind is stuck in a pattern of negative thinking and you’re finding it difficult to cope or your feelings begin to interfere with everyday life, work and relationships, it’s time to find help.
If you’re challenged by an unchangeable obstacle, the only option is to change yourself. The peace that passes all understanding is something we can all find. It’s not easily won, but peace is possible – always.
At Quest for Life we can teach you the skills and strategies that will help you to respond to life’s challenges, that can calm an agitated or anxious mind and help you regain control over your life and find lasting peace. You can find out more about our programs here.