I’ve been looking forward to Thursday’s topic – Mantras and More – all week long.
I started thinking about what’s my #1, when-all-else-fails tool. When I am in panic mode, what do I use in crisis? I really didn’t have to think that hard to remember what I reach for. (It’s not a martini, as much as I’d like it to be.) The hard part is explaining to others how to do it. It takes a bit of a mental switch from our every daily way of thinking about ourselves and others.
It’s commonly known as “Giving and Taking”. It’s a technique used to soften us and to break down the protective shells we build for ourselves, fashioned out of fear. When each moment seems to pile another layer of stress on from work, family, friends and a serious lack of leisure time, I know I can feel overwhelmed very quickly. Throw in a random 52 for a blood sugar, and if I don’t just crawl into bed, I feel like I might just punch someone. I feel a need for comfort and ease, but the way I get it isn’t the usual way.
I go about this by settling down my thoughts and remembering I’m not alone in this. Sometimes, practically speaking, there’s not much I can do physically to help someone (especially after that 52). My “helping” may turn into an emotional mess if I haven’t first dealt with my own feelings. I want to take down the protective amour I normally wear during the day and get in touch with the desire to be with others just like ourselves. Just look at how many of us have felt this need to connect and have found each other in the #DOC.
The first step is to take a seat. I may or may not close my eyes. I think about a time when I was brave, or a time where I hope I will be brave. I think of a time when I protected someone in a group, when I spoke up for someone being hurt, when I reached over and handed someone a tissue when they were crying and I didn’t already know them. I think about how I hope I’ll have the courage to protect my family if we’re ever in an accident. I think about reaching out to people I don’t know to extend a helping hand, risking rejection and ridicule. I connect with the desire of my heart to be a kind, compassionate person.
The second step is I think of someone in pain. Since it’s diabetes blog week, this week I’ve been thinking of people who are in pain, whether with complications or emotional difficulties with diabetes. I think about what sadness and loss and grief feel like in me, and remember that since others are human, they feel this too. I think about those who have lost loved ones, jobs, and companionship.
The third step is where it gets tricky. Since we’re human and we all hurt, we are all connected. I also realize that there is something in all of us that breaks through in times of bravery. The feelings of courage I had in step one are the antidote to step two. So I breathe in the suffering of those around me, and breathe out feelings of calm, cool peace. I connect with the feelings of fear, shame, and guilt of all diabetics, realize that there is transformation possible in each of us, and breathe out soothing relief. Imagine you’re an air purifier – you breathe in the dark, dirty air and transform it to something clean and cool.
My mantra is “Breathing in, I breathe in heavy, thick, and hot.”
“Breathing out, I breathe out light, bright, and cool.”
Now, when I teach this, many people say whoa, they have enough on their plate, thank you very much, and they can’t possibly handle anything else, much less someone else’s pain. To this I gently ask, get in touch with your inner bravery. Remember the times when things turned out better than you thought they would. Realize you have a fundamental human need for comfort, just like everyone else does. Also realize you never, ever completely lose your basic human goodness and kindness in this life. Your heart might break and kindness might be impossible to find, but the space and power to transform your sorrow to peace and your pain to comfort never leaves us.
This goes contrary to our instinctual response of wanting to protect ourselves, and this is exactly why it works when all else fails. When breathing in the bad news from a friend and breathing out cooling comfort, we lay claim to our fundamental glow of goodness. We throw a lightning bolt in the sand as if to say “the power to transform lies here in this moment”. We will not be pushed around by the desire to control or stay safe. While breathing in the bad, I can feel my interconnectedness to all of existence. Nothing needs to be proven, nothing needs to be done in that space. Breathing out the good, this moment is transformed.
The fourth step, if I’m really having a bad day, is to do this for myself. By this time, transforming my own pain is easy. I am worthy of kindness, just like everyone else. In fact, oftentimes it allows me to be kinder to myself than I would have been previously. I have broken down any false sense of security I set up, and realize that everything is workable. While it doesn’t magically transform any outer situation, my attitude and fortitude is renewed.
When you feel up to it, you’ll know you can take on the world and have the energy to do it – even with diabetes.