Finding Calm In The Storm
Updated: Jan 19
Finding peace amidst a chaotic world can sometimes seem impossible. I shed light on experiences that have helped me and at the end of the post offer 3 top tips for finding ease within!
I spent two-and-a-half years traveling with a somewhat undisclosed intention to prove to myself that I am a strong, independent woman who can take this world on alone, convinced that I did not need love to be worthy. Although it is true that neither myself, nor you (nor anyone else) needs a romantic companion to be complete, this journey into “the self” led me to a realisation that love is what living is all about, and I began to experience love from a whole other realm. It all started with healing the relationship with my own heart.
Learning From Love Relationships
In a past relationship whenever things in life became overwhelming I used to think of my partner and say internally “I love you” as a distraction from the challenge ahead. Even if he had nothing whatsoever to do with the situation it comforted me to play the role of the provider for someone else. In some strange way giving me the strength to be okay in the face of adversity, reaffirming that I am not alone in my struggles: at least one other person in this world struggles too. Of course my love for him was genuine but this wasn't about him, it was about me.
Submerging myself in retreat settings I felt an underlying current of calm, yet moments of unease and uncertainty still managed to nuzzle their way back in. Contrary to what Instagram followers of ”#travel” are led to believe, traveling isn’t always rainbows and sunshine as life is inevitably full of highs and lows. This discomfort is the fuel that inspires us to grow.
With time to tune into emotions and encounter the tenderness of my own heart, I understood that it was my heart that needed to hear the words “I love you” all along, not somebody else’s heart. For years she had been calling out to me, desperate to be heard, to be cared for, to be soothed. I, like many, had unknowingly numbed myself from fully feeling the intimacy of connection with myself and chosen to send my loving outwards leaving me half full.
It was in the sacred forest of the Himalayas during a 10-day silent retreat at Tushita when I learnt that I could be a friend to my own heart. Taking time to sit I could soften the barriers that had emerged to protect me from the pain of heartbreak, rejection, unworthiness, and disappointment. With courage I started to feel the radiance of a childlike heart once more.
Working With Clouded Emotions
Guided by Venerable Drolma, my Buddhist teacher, I revisited hurtful memories and sat with the sensations of emerging emotions, time-travelling to relive them once more. Time-travelling may seem a little far-fetched, yet this is exactly what we do numerous times a day when we overthink something that someone said earlier, shrink at the memory of a difficult situation, or even recoil at the thought of giving a presentation at work, reducing ourselves into a bundle of worry and fear at our projected thoughts of the future.
Using the breath I learnt to face these uncomfortable emotions with open-hearted awareness without judging or wishing them to be any different. Each time I felt my chest tightening or stomach twisting into defense mode I whispered internally, “It’s okay... you’re okay, I’m here with you”.
Although I felt that my focus had softened after a week of silence, one day as I sat down to eat I felt this heavy cloud weighing down on me. I lay down on the green bench and looked up at the ancient fir trees reaching into the clear blue sky with not a cloud in sight, except for the one in my mind, which pinned me down to the bench.
One Day We Will All Die
Earlier that day it had dawned on me that my parents eventually will die, everyone around me will die, I too will die. With this realisation I felt utterly helpless and even more alone given the fact that I was unable - at a silent retreat - to consult anyone as a means of comfort, causing my sadness to swell even more.
Using a technique from my meditation sessions I chose to try and tangibly experience the emotion in its entirety by closing my eyes and scanning the body for sensations in search of its source.
“Is this emotion in my belly?”
“My belly is tumbling”, I thought, but after spending some time resting in this region the sensations felt more alive in my throat.
“How does my throat feel?”
“My throat feels a little tight”, I reflected, but by swallowing a few times my throat began to clear and I noticed my jaw was becoming more attention seeking.
Then, I wondered: “What’s happening in my jaw?”
By wiggling my jaw the tightening loosened resulting in a full body sigh as the tension eased and my limbs hung freely off the sides of the bench.
“Okay, so maybe this emotion is in my head?”
My head initially felt rather foggy and heavy but with every breath, my body became more responsive and supple. I started to relax, really relax, and the clear blue sky stretched high above me was mirrored behind my eyelids, the clarity of a resting mind returned. I felt free, floating in the presence of my own Awakened Heart, holding whatever might arise with mindfulness and compassion, emotions drifted by, one by one, like the clouds moving through the sky. And then came the giggles replacing the swell of anguish with a sense of relief at the realisation that my thoughts, feelings and emotions indeed do not define me, nor can they control me. I have a choice.
Finding Hope Amidst Unsettling Emotions
Moments of certainty like these can be few and far between but the fact that they exist gives me hope. I still get swept away with emotions that seem to take control of the reins for a while, but that is just part of being human and the journey of life itself.
My time at Tushita, in silence, was pure magic. For those of you that know just how much I love chatting, it will come as a shock to hear that I actually wanted to maintain the silence after the 10 days had finished. Why? Well I learnt so much from being present in my own company and befriended the tenderness of my own loving heart:
You can ask yourself what advice you would offer a friend, then offer that to yourself
You can choose how you perceive something and nourish healthy thoughts
Nothing in life is perfect- let go of expectations
My next blog Embracing Uncertainty covers these three points and how to put them into practice today!