For sure, all of us have experienced a crisis of some magnitude in our lives. For each of us, the quality and dimension of that magnitude may feel very different even though the crisis appears outwardly to be defined by the same parameters. We know that stress is correlated with the way we react to the crisis, not necessarily with some inherent qualities that exist in the crisis itself. Witness all the self help advice about how to deal with stress. It’s the “deal with” aspect that intrigues me.
Suppose it’s not actually about meeting out punishment or reacting in some other way with the expectation of changing the shape or qualities of the stressful experience. Perhaps a more appropriate response would have to do with how we are being with what is happening. The energy we bring to this event or issue might be less about fighting against it or struggling to make it different and more about simply being with what it is. I’m reminded of how it is to take in a beautiful sunset or to witness a person in an act of compassion. Such moments require enlisting the observer in us.
In order to be the observer, there has to be space between you and the object/event observed. So, go back to what it is like to experience a crisis or to be in a very stressful situation. Often the observer in us is lost at that point. We give ourselves over to the fight or flight mode of being or else we freeze in a moment of overwhelm or shock. Difficult then to imagine that we might be able to step back and take on the view of the observer.
At those times, we assume that in a calmer, quieter space, we will be able to sort out the meaning and understand what happened. However, when it’s over, it’s over – there may not be energy for looking back but rather an intention to forge ahead, put it all behind. Suppose the crisis lasts a long time. How can you absorb this as a way of being that continues, becoming more like a fast flowing river that carries you with it?
Short of grabbing an overhanging branch or a rescue line, is it possible that there can be a way to pause and create some inner space when this is happening? How would it be to appreciate that there is some part of you inside that is that calm, quiet space? What can be most important is recognizing the moment when connecting to that part of you is the next step you need to take. Not waiting until the shock or overwhelm is so great that you stop functioning. It may feel like a kind of surrender, though it the kind that does not spell defeat. It’s more like feeling your feet finally come into contact with the ground.
Perhaps, even from this inner space, the outcome will look the same. Maybe there can be a softening around it, seeing it a bit differently than before. Not that this happens in a moment; this is a process that may extend over a period of time. You may not dive into this space, but approach the edge and step in and out. Once you know how to get there, however, the experience is in your body and held in its memory. And, so, for the next time – hoping there won’t be one and knowing there will – this next step of connecting to your calm, quiet inner space may be a smaller step.