5 Things We Can Do After a Stressor (Stressful Event)

5 Things We Can Do After a Stressor (Stressful Event)

Although I’m thinking about this with the recent election in mind, this writing can be applicable to any event or situation that has caused stress, anxiety, panic, or fear (or something else). With a lot of stressful events, like a job loss, a relationship ending, or a loved one falling ill/passing away, there are many different feelings to navigate through, and they’re not always linear (eg. the 5 stages of grief).

For me, like many, the election is still fresh, and although some of us might be inching towards acceptance of the outcome, I still feel like I’m in a post-election wtf. Over the past week, I’m alternating between many uncomfortable states of mind and heart. There’s fear-What’s going to happen? There’s panic-We’re fucked. There’s hope-Oh, maybe his campaign rhetoric was just rhetoric. There’s confusion and uncertainty-Does this guy even know what is own policies and values are? There’s a lack of faith-Who is this man? Who are these people in his circle? Who are my fellow fucking Americans? Maybe that’s anger. Waves of calm, relief, panic, fear and doubt all take turns residing within. I’ve definitely lost some sleep. I’ve become totally identified with the outcome of this stressful (for me) event. I want to talk about being consumed by and identified with something, while moving towards acceptance and letting go..  

The good news is, as someone once said ‘If something is in the way, it is the way.’

If we are feeling saddened, disappointed, or angry due to a life event, it’s important to remember that the existential nature of being human is to ultimately not be in control. We can’t determine or dictate the outcome of things, not matter how much we strive for control. Learning to have a new relationship with expectations is essential for all of us, I think. Difficulties, deaths, illness, and broken relationships have been the nature of existence since the beginning of time, and will continue to be part of our daily fabric. In other words, this is how it’s supposed to be. I think sometimes it’s hard to remember that and even harder to wrap our heads around it.  So, ‘If something is in the way, it is the way.’ Instead of resisting the cold reality, fighting against its existence, we open-heartedly, to whatever degree we can, and open-mindedly turn towards the path. We are willing to touch (commit to making things better), and be touched (creating space for the pain and difficulty).

Eugene Cash said, we don’t do acceptance. Acceptance does us. We can’t force ourselves to accept and ultimately let go. There is a difference between fake acceptance and real acceptance. A yogini who called herself Devi put it like this:   

Everybody wants to let go, but how do you let go if you don’t hold things, if you don’t touch things in full consciousness, with a totally open heart?… The first thing is having the experience of touch, of profound contact with things, with the universe, with mental commotion.  Everything begins there: touching the universe deeply.” “If you let go before touching deeply, that can bring on severe mental turmoil.  Many beginning yogis and yoginis make this mistake.  They let go before taking hold.   The heart is never opened.  They enter into a sterile void and remain imprisoned there.”

“When you touch deeply, you no longer need to let go.  That occurs naturally.   There is no other way, not a single detour or shortcut.”

Simply put, she said before you can accept and let go, you have to experience how it feels to grasp and hold. You have to touch everything before you understand.

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So, we must:

1)   Grieve:

Suffering is the doorway to letting go of suffering.

It’s important to take the time to feel whatever it is that you feel. Feelings need to be felt. Allowing yourself to feel vulnerable, confused, angry, disappointed, or sad is ok. There will come a time for acceptance or action and later, but we can’t take care of anything until we take care of ourselves. One doesn’t take beneficial action unless it comes from a grounded, centered, and equanimous place. When one is acting out of fear or hatred, one’s actions aren’t as skillful. A way to take care of yourself is to acknowledge the difficult feelings and create emotional space for them, and let the feelings do what they need to do. Talking to someone you trust, mindfulness meditation, and proper sleep, exercise, and diet can all assist in this. The point is, there are moments when it’s wise to allow yourself to sink into an undefended and vulnerable place. What’s the Leonard Cohen lyric–everything has a crack and the crack is where the light gets in.

Have the nightmare, lose some sleep, let yourself be concerned and worried. Cry, despair, be afraid. This is the time for this, and that’s ok…

2) Take Action:

If you are the kind of person who let’s yourself be teachable, you might often notice how the happiest people are those who give something back, or do something consistently that isn’t focused on the self. Bob Marley says in Pass It On: Live for yourself, you will live in vain; Live for others, you will live again. I think it’s so important to learn how to break the chain of our discursive mind’s habit to storify everything and input ‘me, mine, or I’ into every thought we have. We know meditation, exercise, and being of service is not only a way to do this, but also a way to benefit others. Being of benefit. If it’s something like an election that has upset you, supporting causes that are in alignment with your values is a way to make your voice heard. Non-aggressive action. Aggression breeds more aggression, and ‘hate begets hate.’ Giving back to a cause you believe in. Your local pet shelter has dogs who would love to to go for a walk. There is a beach or a park that needs cleaned up. There are local groups that support the minority communities (LGBTQ, Muslim, Planned Parenthood) that are in fear post-election. Perhaps fighting voter suppression, or helping people get registered. The planet is now in line to take steps in the wrong direction, so you might look into supporting the NRDC or the EPA. Talk to your friends about the importance of avoiding plastic. Stop buying and using plastic products. Recycle more.. If it’s another type of stressor, there is a huge benefit to taking a walk or hike, and noticing the smells, sounds, etc. Volunteering. Forcing yourself to act in ways that will get you out of your head and take a break from your stories.

Since this is partially election related, I want to suggest taking action to support real news sources. I’m not the most sophisticated person to speak on this topic, but I have a feeling a lot of voters in this election made decisions based on the social media algorithms that feed a person specific news catered to their tastes. We click on the topics that are friends share, and then we get more articles fed to us based on that click. I think fake news is a real things now, and finding a reputable new sources and supporting it is super important. This might mean subscribing to receive the hardopy of your local paper or paying for the online subscription. I think relying on your FB news feed for your news might not be a good idea. Get creative and figure out a way to find and support real news. Our President-Elect is cozy with specific far right media heads that might likely soon be influencing our country’s policies. Finding real news seems more vital, and probably more challenging, than ever before. Rant over.

3) Live. We Only Have a Short Instant To Live. A Buddhist Sutra.

How can we be of benefit? What do we want to give to the world? How would we like to be remembered, and what do we want to remember? We know we are only here briefly. Just like a wagon wheel, at any one point in time, it rests on a single point of its rim, just as the life of any being endures only at a single moment of consciousness. Like, right, Now. There is this moment, and then it’s gone. Now this moment, and it’s gone. The being of your past consciousness has lived, lives no longer, and will not live again. The being of your future consciousness has not yet lived, and will only live later.  The being of your present consciousness did not live previously, lives just now, and will not live again. This is all just a moment of aliveness, that disappears. What does this have to do with how we can respond to the stressors of life? Appreciating the beauty, magic, and intimacy of our aliveness right now allows us to respond to our difficult moments in more skillful ways. This is one reason why we practice meditation.

4) Listen:

Really. Listen. You’re engaged with someone with whom you don’t agree, and while they are talking, 50% of your attention is on what they’re saying, and 50% is on what you want to say next. This isn’t deep listening. They sense that you’re not fully there, and they don’t feel heard, which increases their defenses. Authentic Listening is not easy, and it’s really a lifelong practice. If you know what your triggers are, you will be more likely to re-center in the midst of a challenging conversation, and hear the other out, instead of reacting based on you feeling threatened. It’s really hard to find common ground when two people are both acting out from a defensive posture. As Waylon Lewis of Elephant Journal likes to say, if you are unable to allow and respect opposing views, you are going to cocoon yourself in a nice cozy circle of yes-men who only say what you want to hear. That doesn’t feel like a good way to go through life to me.

5) Be Of Benefit. Give Back. 

How do we do this in small, daily doses? Really it can be as simple as putting a smile on someone’s face. If your joke makes the Starbuck’s cashier smile, you have succeeded! You can make a dog’s day by heading to your shelter and taking one for a walk. That dog’s tail will be wagging so hard, and you will have won in giving some love for that day. Tell your family you love them or miss them. Forgive someone. This is loving. Notice the big moon and the bright stars. Love yourself as well. When you take care of yourself, you’re taking care of the world. Go for a hike and actually be present for the sights, sounds, and smells. Notice the warm water on your body during your shower. Actually be in the shower-not in the meeting that you have tomorrow. Take a time-out from all of this and come back to your body, your breath, and some supportive phrases, like ‘I love you, keep going.’ Taking care of yourself is an act of kindness and benefits all of us.

I think acceptance means to acknowledge the reality that our life, or our family, or our country, or our planet likely will change as a result of inevitable difficult stressors.  We must learn how to open our heart-mind to touch the difficulty fully, allow it to break our heart, or anger our heart, so that we can move towards acceptance and action when our heart gives us the go-ahead.

LA to Phoenix

As I sit here in Phoenix, Arizona, I’m reflecting on my last two months in California. I’m en route to Colorado, to cat-sit for my mom so she can take off, because she has doctor’s appointments (a Parkinson’s specialist) in another state, and her guy Ray wants to take her to the Grand Canyon, so I’m gonna kitty-sit and wait for her to return, at which point we’ll hang out for a month or so, before I journey on…

lights

As I left lovely Santa Monica today (more on this later), I kept thinking about ‘Guides’ and what might this notion of having a Guide ential, as we go through this life. My friend Brett was telling me about how his Guides are spiritual in nature, even super-natural, which he went on to explain that they actually spoke to him, or sometimes sounded like the voice in our head that we listen to every day… He requests assistance from his guides as it pertains to his goals and dreams and always includes the phrase ‘and I’m willing to be surprised.’ For example, he might request in five years, I want to be producing my own tv series, traveling the world, and making x amount of dollars, and.. I’m willing to be surprised’ or in other words, I’m willing to accept more if this is what’s in store for me. So, putting energy and requests, literally, out there after getting clear on what it is you want.. I think this ‘getting clear’ is a vital and necessary component. Actually writing or verbalizing it and continuing to put it out there… I’m at ‘I want to make 75k/year in self-generated income, make a lovely, long-lasting connection with a girl, and continue to travel/be self-reliant…and I’m willing to be surprised.’ I’m not sure, but I think there might be something to this getting clear and asking the universe, your Guides, or God for whatever it is that you’re after. The Buddhist chant ‘nam myoho renge kyo’ is chanting with the intention of becoming the ‘best version of myself.’ I like this idea of becoming the best version of yourself, and having a clear idea of what that means.

open road

So, Guides. I’m more conditioned to think about Guides as something more tangible, like people, who cross my path, or have been a part of my path for a while, before I even realize I need to be paying attention and appreciating this person. Are guides people, like Leslie, Craig, Dave, Brett, and not only those that inspire and are looked upon fondly, but those that are challenging, a la Adam from soccer? I do know that as i get older, I am getting more appreciative of people, and seeing their beauty, uniqueness, and recognizing that I’m grateful for having us made a connection. For all I know, these people, all people, are somehow placed in my path in order that we share and learn from one another, whether the exchange is positive or negative, and whether we recognize what can be learned now or later…

Or, how about coincidences as Guides? More frequently lately, as I pay more attention, I’m able to notice that as I’m thinking about a certain specific something, there will be a sign on the road, or a lyric on the radio, that will be a mirror of what it is that I’m thinking about. What this might mean, I don’t know, but I’m noticing it and I want to continue noticing it.

So, that’s enough about Guides for now. I really just want to acknolwedge the bitter-sweet ness of just having spent two months at my apartment in santa monica, playing soccer doing yoga, being alone, yet also having these moments with friends that seem were inspiring and opening me up to something new. I feel more creative now than I ever have (which isn’t saying much), but as I drive away from these people and this community, I wonder and doubt that I can retain this inspiration without regularly seeing the people that contribute to my getting more clear and motivated. Travis Eliot, a most recent yoga teacher, recently said ‘If we don’t rule our minds, our minds rule us, and that’s the difference between a victim and an empowered mentality.’ How am I gonna do without this stuff in my ear on a regular basis? You can’t hear this shit often enough.

Santa Monica, the weather, the community incline the mind toward health and exercise.

Leaving these minds that contribute to my creative juices flowing and remind me of what’s important to me is a bit, ugh right now. Dave told me to write this travel blog, and be me, the real, raw me. Craig weighed in heavily on BAM, a new workshop we created that I’ll lead in hopes of helping people wake up. Leslie, who helped me with a practical plan to put it all together. Waylon Lewis of Elephant Journal who speaks of Being of Benefit, How Can I Be of Benefit? What do I want to give to the world?

p.o.s.

How can I free up my mind, open my heart, drop my defenses, and get closer to this sweet spot that Ram Das calls Loving Awareness. That tender moment when you feel connected to all things, to the man on the street next to you, recognizing the fragility and preciousness of all things, the temporary nature of it all, the hurt and the pain and the beauty that we all carry. Seeing this all with an undefended heart as Mary Stancavage says. How can I cultivate and nurture this sweet loving awareness moving forward on my own, leaving this community of connections that ive made over the years.

Each moment as I reflect seems special. Not each moment, but there are so many moments, that when we pay attention we notice the special nature of them, often once the moment has passed, and how sweet and unique they are. Even the moments that seem so average at the time, yet when you look back, you see the how precious some moments are. Kelly, Edgar’s wife, telling me to look at Bren on the Road’s travel blog, which seemed so benign but may be so integral. This moment, and then it’s gone. And now this one… and now it too is gone… and now this one.

I guess the final thought is that the universe is often speaking to us… it’s up to us to notice it and interpret it.

Songs that were a part of this blog somehow:

Ben Harper’s -Steal My Kisses

Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam- A 1000 Times

Jimmy Cliff- Use What I Got

Anthony Weiner’s Blind Spot

Welcome to a traveling therapist’s blog! I never would have imagined my first blog would be titled ‘Anthony Weiner.’ Anyway, more on that later.

I hope to bring some value to your life. I’m not that confident in my ability to create meaningful blogs on a consistent basis, but we’ll see. I hope to learn and grow and I’m going to rely on some feedback from you so that I can become a better writer. Please feel free to comment and constructively criticize.

Man, I just watched the Anthony Weiner documentary… wow, kind of a sad story in some ways, but boy do I think that guy has something to offer the world…he’s so bright and it feels like he has the people’s best interests in mind… but like he says, he’s got some ‘blind spots.’ This term ‘blind spot’ is an interesting one. I’ve sometimes wondered if I have them and what they are. It takes some willingness to investigate if one is to uncover their blind spot. What is a blind spot? I suppose it is an area in our life, or a part of our personality that we are mostly unaware of, yet it impacts our life in some significant ways.

As a 43 year old who’s never been married or had kids, and is rarely in a long term relationship, some might say that I must have a problem, and I wouldn’t entirely disagree, because who knows, maybe I do have a  problem. I know family and a partner can be the greatest joys life has to offer. Yet, being single and often comfortable with that, what choice do I have but to find meaning and happiness in my unique way? And, are my own blind spots responsible for not having the experience of that ‘greatest joy’ -a family and partner- and if so, what are these f-ing blind spots anyway?

So, let me digress for a moment. Let’s get back to Weiner. He had these moments where he was ruled by his mind. In his case, it was lust. Had he had to tools to rule his mind, rather than be ruled by it, he may have made different choices, and he might be the mayor of NYC today as a result. There are ways to respond (thoughtfully) to mind-states like lust, as opposed to react (instinctually) to it like Weiner did. He was blind to the potential consequences (botched his campaign, marriage, etc) of his ‘reactions.’ There are tools available that teach us how to respond with wisdom instead of react with wrecklessness. I’m sure he’d tell us that looking back on it, there were a few distinct, key moments (choices) that ultimately decided his trajectory. Reacting based on our conditioning is how we are ruled by our mind. Responding with wisdom and skill is how we rule our mind. The difference between reacting vs responding is pausing, and making a decision in that moment that is in alignment with our values.

I hope that I can write about things that can bring about a shift in the reader’s awareness. I also hope the readers will help me shift my awareness.

So what are my blind spots? I know my phone and technology help keep me comfortable and secure in solitude. If it weren’t for phones, Netflix, and finding ways to be content with technology, would I be out in public somewhere and eventually running into my soulmate? Do I get lost in technology because it alleviates my boredom or replaces the social chores and anxiety that come with stepping outside into the real world? Or, is my blindspot something less obvious? Is it how I respond to someone when they look at me oddly (like most girls in Vietnam do) when I tell them I’m 43 and never married. My go-to response is to try to open their mind to the notion that it’s possible for someone to be single and happy. Maybe someone hasn’t married yet because they are smart. I mean, a lot of people tie the knot because they they feel the societal and familial pressure to do so, and probably even more common, they can’t bare the possibility of waiting, because they means continuing to be single, long past the time when someone ‘should’ be single. So, not choosing someone based on self-imposed, societal and family pressure is smart, right? I feel like so many choices are made out of fear, whether or not we recognize it as such. Or, is this all my blind spot? Instead of convincing myself (and them) that I’m happy being single and it’s really ok! to be single, maybe I should be digging deeper into what might be going on with me that could be preventing me from making more long lasting connections. Am I shallow, for example? The answer to that is yes, btw.

Ok, so back to me and my Weiner. We both acknowledge that blind spots exist. We’re both open to looking at them. I think that’s a good first step. Which leads me to the purpose of atravelingtherapist.com Taking a closer look at some things which might be of benefit to ourselves and to others, and have a little fun while doing it.

As for you, do you know what your blind spot is?