Things don’t always go the way we want them to. At times, it may seem like everything is falling neatly into place, and other times it feels as if everything that can go wrong, is. How do you feel when everything is smooth sailing? Conversely, think about how you feel when life gets rocky. There’s probably a big difference! It’s natural to have ups and downs in our moods that correspond to situations in life. The trick is how quickly we readjust and bounce back.
For a lot of us, the tendency is to evaluate everything based on our current circumstances. A bad turn of events makes a good day suddenly terrible. The mind turns critical, judging everything harshly: ourselves, other people, even life itself. The mood can’t help but follow this line of thinking straight down into despair. Then, even the future begins to look hopeless. Let’s face it: stressful situations will always arise in life. If you can’t be okay unless everything is perfect, you’re not going to be okay very often.
We live in a world that is largely out of our control. The universe is just doing what it does, and our minds are just doing what they do: thinking, labeling and judging. Luckily, we have some control over one of these. We must find a way to accept that changing experiences, both good and bad, do not change who we really are. Many ancient philosophers considered the True Self to be unchanging. They called it Awareness, the Observer, or Pure Presence. It is the part of us that is watching everything else come and go, while remaining calm, peaceful and serene. The True Self knows that changing circumstances arise and eventually pass away again, but at our hearts we are always perfect and whole.
Connection to this place of Awareness is essential to riding the waves of life. The best way that I’ve found to access it is through meditation. Try this practice to access your inner source of equanimity:
Find a comfortable seat in a quiet place where you won’t be likely to be disturbed. Softly close your eyes, bringing your focus to your breath. Follow your breath for several rounds, feeling the sensations of air flowing in and out of your nostrils. Then allow your attention to turn to your thoughts. Let them come and go, watching, as you would clouds moving across the sky, without attaching to them or being pulled into a story. Notice that the thoughts arise and pass by within your awareness. Then ask yourself, who or what is observing these thoughts? Feel back into Awareness itself. Connect with it, and rest here for several moments, watching everything come and go across this background of Pure Awareness.
Throughout your day, in any situation, take time to reconnect with this place inside you that is unchanging, Pure Awareness, that is simply observing the changing circumstances of life. Allow it to remind you that no matter what is happening, you are always whole and complete inside.