I received a message the other day from a childhood friend.
A "one liner" that informed me that she was having one of those days again.
Just a few days before that, another childhood friend had telephoned me to vent and ask advice about something she was going through.
Unbeknownst to either of them, I too, was going through a few personal challenges myself.
To the friend who was having "one of those days.." I wrote,
Rumi once said, "The wound is the place where the light enters you."
All of us are given unlimited opportunities to distract us from our pain if we open our eyes and heart to the experience.
A stranger's smile,
The beauty of snow,
Someone waving you to move ahead in a traffic jam,
A random elderly woman's kind words,
A toddler with Down syndrome wishing peace to fellow church goers,
A dog and a bunny getting along,
A warm blanket in a cold winter day,
are just a few examples of opportunities to feel blessed or hugged by God and/or the universe.
The key is to pay attention and look for them.
Once you start enumerating all that you are thankful for each day--yes even the simplest of things--like pets, running (hot) water, a soft bed...you raise your vibe.
A grateful vibe lifts "one of those days" any day.
I am not suggesting that you pretend that you are not bothered when things manage to bother you.
In fact, I highly recommend that you take notice of it.
Sit in silence with it in your mind, objectively noticing how you feel.
Then make a conscious effort to physically relax every part of your body before you make the decision to let go or distance yourself of each and every negative thought, fear and feeling that has come up.
Notice, relax and release everything, big and small.
Do this when you are afraid you will wreck while you are driving through a storm.
Do this when a door in the rental house during a ski trip accidentally gets a fist through it.
Do this when your friend's lung collapses during that same ski trip.
Do this when you discover your child has broken your trust.
Do this when you feel your world is falling apart.
Do this when you become afraid that you have not done a good job.
Do this when you fear the worst.
Do this when you feel abandoned.
Notice, relax and release everything.
And then start your litany of gratefulness.
And I mean everything.
Scrape all the nooks and crannies of your life for things to be thankful for.
Do not waste a morsel of blessing.
The results are amazing.
I told my friend to try it.
I told her that coincidentally, I had just gone through a bout of debilitating depression two weeks ago (which was weird because I thought I was cured of that)
But I was able to get back up in less than 24 hours because I went through my coping strategy checklist almost robotically.
I noticed, relaxed and released.
I also reminded her of my favorite biblical anti-depressant in Philippians 4:6-7 which says,
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
To my other friend going through some difficulties in life my advice was this:
Do not look for ways to blame or change the people in your life--past or present-- for your current unhappiness.
Instead, seek to heal yourself.
While I am not saying that I do not think you have any right to feel bad, that is irrelevant.
The solution is in your reaction or non-reaction to the problem.
The only way to stop contributing to the problem is by actively working on improving and healing one's self.
I suggested she read a few books that might help her.
I gave her five titles but said that they all say the same thing.
She just needs to find the one that she understands.
The books are:
1. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
2. The Power Of Now by Eckart Tolle
3. The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer
4. The Naked Now by Richard Rohr
5. A Return To Love by Marianne Williamson
But before sending her off to the bookstore I gave her crash course on self improvement with the following tips:
1. Be impeccable with your words--in all things. At work. At home. To yourself. (what you say about yourself to yourself) or about others.
2. Do not take things personally. EVER.
Nothing people ever do that is hurtful is ever really about you.
It is about their own selves and their own hurts.
3. Do not assume to know.
4. Always do your best. (in everything! health! exercise! work!parenting! laundry! etc)
5. Resist the urge to prove that you are correct. Give up the need for others to know that you are right, even if it is blatantly obvious to you.
6. Let go of your ego. All of the world's problems are rooted in people being attached to their egos.
7. The way to stop thinking negative thoughts is to: Just Stop.
Replace each negative thought and memory with a positive or grateful thought.
Give up the "but what ifs." All of them.
8. Don't dread and don't dwell.
9. Pray and then Let Go. Resist trying to control everyone and everything.
10. Learn to Love and Forgive everyone.
Even the unlovable.
And when your humanness kicks in and you find yourself struggling to love unconditionally, focus on what and who you can love with ease.
After taking the time to help my friends, I found my own personal burdens lifting.
I was reminded to practice what I was preaching.
In fact I was forced to do so--just so I could truly help by authentic example.
I was able to open up about my current challenges and show her the steps I was taking in order to transcend it all.
It is such an amazing experience to feel the instantaneous rewards of giving up parts of yourself in order to help others.
I realize that I can confidently help others because of all the difficulties I have experienced in my life.
I also realize that all these hardships that I have gone through have made me a much stronger person.
Every single day I get to see God working in my life, and it is deepening my faith.
I am beginning to see that all the things that have sucked me into a pit of despair are the very same things that have strengthened my connection to God.
Faith is like a muscle.
Your faith can't get stronger if your faith is never challenged.