A dark time will come in everyone’s life when it will feel like there are no answers to the meaning of life and the pain that is sometimes experienced. To go on trying seems futile, the personal sense of failure is crippling, and the words “I hate my life” will gush out from the bottom of the pit, with no relief in sight. Deep despair leads to despondency, and numbness flows into the wounds that won’t seem to heal.
The loss of a loved one, a desperate financial situation, pain from abuse, the scars from betrayal, firing from a job, the evaporation of a dream. The source of the despair may be different for each person, but the pain is what’s common, and it begs an answer.
Waiting for the gloom to lift feels like an eternity as reminders swirl, moment by moment, whispering negative, discouraging thoughts with unrelenting persistence. If only there could be relief.
For some people, help from a trained therapist will be necessary to forge a new pathway to a renewed perspective on life that lifts the weight and cuts loose the ball-and-chain that had previously imprisoned your every thought. There is no shame in needing the help of a professional, and in fact, there is deep wisdom and reward in allowing your authentic thoughts and feelings to be revealed from behind the steel curtain to another human being who is trained in the effective leading of damaged emotions into the waters of healing.
In the meantime, how will you cope with today? How will you cope with this moment?
If you have entertained any thoughts of suicide, I implore you to contact your local mental health hotline immediately, where people on the other end can help. Harming yourself is not the answer, because although you cannot see your way out of the abyss right this moment, the turning point may be just around the corner, and you need only put one foot in front of the other to get from here to there.
Moreover, obtaining assistance with your perspective on life right here, right now, will help tremendously.
You will come to find that you are not alone. Many people experience despair and need help getting to a brighter place, so you are not a freak or a loser. You are a tender human being who needs some loving attention paid to your thought processes right now.
Circumstances may not change for a while, but with a renewed mindset over the situation, relief can be close at hand. To give your mind a much needed break from the swirling, negative thoughts, I invite you to join me in a stress coping technique, where you will focus your thoughts on only your breath for the next moments.
The goal is to focus only on your breath, and as other thoughts bombard your awareness, gently pick up the thought of your breath again and focus back in on it. As many times as the thought of your breath gets eclipsed by other thoughts, pick it lovingly back up and focus back on it. Feel the air go in and out gently. This moment, focus on the breath inside your chest. Now this moment. And again this moment.
It is important as you do this that you not disdain the uninvited thoughts that wander into your mind and distract you. Instead, acknowledge them and then immediately pick up that gentle thought of your breath once again. Pick it up effortlessly. Do not push out the uninvited thoughts, because pushing involves force and effort. Instead, lovingly pick up what you do want to focus in on: your breath.
Feel the oxygen and nourishment from your breath moving slowly and lovingly from your chest through your bloodstream, out to your fingertips. Feel your shoulders, then gradually your elbows, and on to your wrists, and experience their sensations as the oxygen from your breath feeds them. Inch by inch feel the breath feeding your body, and if invasive thoughts interrupt, gently focus back on that part of your body where you are lovingly focused.
If you will do this exercise every time your thoughts start to spiral downward in negativity, you will rescue them from more torment, and placing your mind in a place of tenderness and healing. The wee break you provide yourself with by doing this will soon grow to a bigger and more significant break as you begin to train your thoughts to follow this new, peaceful pathway.
What you have just practiced is called Mindfulness Meditation, which is nothing more than learning how to lovingly keep your thoughts in the present moment, that place where healing, refreshment and peace can be found. It’s real, tangible, and free from distortions. Reflections of the past and fears of the future are wrought with distortions, but by focusing on the present moment, your thoughts are released from every other place.
Over time, you may choose to focus on things in nature around you as they exist, moment by moment. Then when you are with people, you can focus on interacting with just them, as they are, in the present moment, not distracted by regrets of the past or worries of the future, but focused on that person, in that moment, right then.
Living mindfully, moment by moment, leads to a more meaning-filled life.
(Original post: April 4, 2010.)