A lot of us are feeling powerless right now, like everything is outside our control. We can’t control when the government decides when we can go back to work. We can’t control who gets Coronavirus. We can’t even control what’s in stock at the grocery store!
So how do we navigate a space when we feel like we have no power and can’t control life outside of us?
The key is to recognize the huge difference between surrendering and giving up.
We have to surrender to what we have no power over, what we can’t control. That doesn’t mean we say, “Oh yeah, what’s happening now is totally fine.” Or that we say, “Fine, I give up.” It doesn’t mean that we’re in denial about it either, like, “Oh, everything will be back to normal by Friday.” That’s not what I’m talking about!
What I’m talking about is the need to accept what’s going on outside of us in our current and immediate environment, and recognizing that there are certain things in our life that we have absolutely no power or control over.
For instance, there are certain things we don’t get to decide right now. We can’t say, “I think I’m gonna go visit my friend,” or “I want to go to the grocery store without waiting in line.” Those are pretty simple examples, but you know what I’m getting at. We can’t go and hug our neighbors, or visit our families, or things like that… we just can’t. So we have to accept those limitations.
When we do what the Serenity Prayer says — accept the things we cannot change — that’s radical acceptance. But we also can’t stop there. We have to have the courage to change the things we can. And that’s our attitude, how we spend our time, where we place our attention, what we actually do… how we are in the world and determine what we’re willing to do to set things right when we see the flaws.
We also have to look at where we’ve been trying to exert control and where we’ve been fighting acceptance. Where are we bringing a bad attitude, or a purely selfish one? Where are we resisting? And when we discover those areas, we can course correct.
That’s ultimately what the Serenity Prayer offers us: Course correction, an opportunity to do things differently.
Now, let me be clear: When you discover places where you’ve been resisting or trying to exert control, it does NOT mean you’ve failed. It does NOT mean you don’t get another chance. We ALWAYS get another chance!
Every day we wake up, it’s another chance. Every hour is another chance! Every minute — you have a chance to change your attitude.
And we have to do this work again and again and again.
Here’s an example: I was feeling pretty ornery yesterday. I wanted to pick a fight with my husband, and I couldn’t immediately identify why I was feeling so ornery!
So instead of picking the fight or just glossing over it, I went deeper. I asked myself why I was feeling so prickly, and I realized I’m grieving. I had identified someone in my life that I had to cut off because of their negativity. Especially right now, negativity is something I can’t absorb. I have to show up at my best for my people… and that means saying no to negativity.
It wasn’t easy, and it made me feel deeply sad. But once I recognized where my orneriness was stemming from, I could recognize the grief and be gentle with myself. By accepting my feelings and recognizing them, I could move on. But not right away.
Grief has her own timetable, and once you tune into her song you’ll discover that you may have been avoiding a greater grief, an existential one that forces you to be accountable and see the world as it is not the way you wish it to be. That can hurt like hell but it will be worth it if you allow it to wake you up.
If you’re dealing with grief, don’t resist or fight it. You can surrender to your grief. If your life has changed, maybe you’re afraid… then love that part of you that’s afraid! Turn it upside-down and instead of pushing it away, love the heck out of it. Really spend time in self-love and self-acceptance.
You cannot change what you’re denying. You cannot heal what you refuse to acknowledge that you have inside of you. Ignoring it doesn’t allow you to ask, “Okay, what’s my part in this? What do I own? What can I change, how can I be a better citizen of the world?”
Creating chaos is a way to refuse responsibility for our part in what needs to be done. We can also compound suffering from unnecessary friction. We can allow a current situation to trigger old pain. Something happens and we are suffering not because of what’s actually going on, but because of a story we tell ourselves. We put ourselves in the victim role. But when you see yourself only as a victim, you have no power. No choice. Yet you can’t blame the victim now can you? The way out is compassion and kindness and patience and the willingness to be willing to be willing.
You are not trapped in your past story. You have to remind yourself that the voice you’re hearing that says the sky is falling is just a small, scared, conditioned part of yourself that got stuck in a lie that may have been true once but you get another chance to trust yourself. That self wants to protect you, and just like grief, it needs to be seen and it needs to be loved.
Love that lost piece of yourself. Fear is all it knows. When you feel like a victim, it’s simply the voice of your fearful part. It is small and vulnerable and easily soothed.
Our part is recognizing where we have a choice – and then making that choice. Asking ourselves, “What am I going to do with my time and my focus and my energy? Can I be strong in the torrential rain and do the really hard things? When this storm passes, do I allow myself to see a rainbow?”
We have to continue to hold space for the beauty that could come from this time, and at the same time, understand that we are dealing with complicated human emotions. We can recognize what we’re going through without getting overly invested in an old story, or in our own wounds or those of others without bypassing them. It is one helluva strange dance we’re doing. This is true, that is true, this is true , that is true.
The answer, or at least one that I know works is to be receptive to the Universe, to your Higher Power. Allow the possibility that you have everything you need inside of you right now. You don’t have anything to prove to be wholly loved and supported, just as you are. Then help someone else who is less fortunate than you and keep doing that, and when you’re done find someone else. Keep asking “What would Love do?” keep surrendering and do that.
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