It’s an old story. Old as the hills. And yet new every time it tells itself again.
Have you heard it told to you lately?
The clouds have gathered, thick and dark, on your skies. They’re banked up and rolling heavy to your horizon. Maybe the rains have already started, pouring their grief over everything you know and soaking it all through with shadows. And then maybe the wind starts up. The lightning. It seems everything is going wrong at once.
It’s hard to imagine ever riding out this storm.
And yet, if the story has its way, there will come a moment. A moment you might not notice at first. A moment that can start out smaller than small. But it’s enough.
Enough to invite a shift – an infinitessimal shift – that’s almost no shift at all. Except that it is.
So something tiny changes.
And somehow that awakens the next little change.
Until, gradually, all these fragile moments come together – like countless particles of light converging – almost invisible on their own. But together, slowly, they can start to pull the temperature of your day in a warmer direction. Together, they start to matter.
On a day that started with torrential rain and umbrella wrestling (and weather forecasts of doom), it seemed almost miraculous to be able to stroll the street in a dry golden-blue-sky evening.
But that’s what happened. Unexpectedly. And it was exactly then that this notice on a shopfront window caught my eye (you can see it in the photo, above):
“All things must pass.”
(And they certainly seem to).
Sometimes this apparent truth about the world feels confronting. Unfair, even. Because these “things which must pass” inevitably include the things we love, and the things we celebrate. The things we might want to hold on to and never let go.
But they’re not the only things that this saying is on about…
A lot of therapy is about sort of stepping back and seeing things – seeing yourself – from a different perspective. Getting out of the weave and the warp of the moment and looking more at the whole fabric of the situation you’re in. Seeing if there’s any repeating motifs or themes that might help you unlock some solutions… or even unlock parts of you.
And the wonderful thing is that you can do this without being in formal therapy.
Don’t get me wrong, traditional therapy is a great way to get the hang of this pattern-spotting business. And it’s incredibly powerful to work with someone who’s got your back and can help you see any blindspots you might have. But once you’ve become a pattern watcher, you can use it anytime you like, to find deeper insights and often deeper healing, too.
So what sort of things might you try to notice? What helps spot the patterns?
Sometimes questions like these are a good place to start:
Have you ever felt anxious about something that turned out to be nothing?
Worried about an event that never ended up happening (except maybe in your own imagination)?
Perhaps you’ve caught yourself planning for trouble before it actually hit.
And feeling the feelings that comes with all of this…
It can be pretty sickening – a lurch in your gut, a fast-beating heart and sometimes you might even get the sweats. And no wonder. For your thoughts are joined to your feelings – intricately linked. As one moves, the other will probably follow.
So it’s important to keep an eye on your thoughts, to monitor them a bit, so a sudden downward spiral into darker feelings doesn’t catch you unawares. And so you can nip any unnecessary anxiety in the bud if you want to.
I was winding my way through the early morning rush hour at the station, past crowds of people blurring by, when this strange little moment of stillness opened up.
And then I saw it: a lost sole.
(In the picture, above).
A visual metaphor, reminding me of the times I’ve felt a bit like a lost soul myself. Or the times I’ve spoken with clients in counselling who felt they’d lost touch with their sense of soul and the things that really mattered to them.
Have you ever felt that way?
Where maybe some part of you was lost?
Maybe covered over by sadness or grief?
Or buried alive under a pile of convention or expectation that you felt you “should” live up to?
Or maybe you just became so busy you gradually lost sight of it?
There are so many ways to lose touch with what really matters in your life – to let the everyday grind take over instead. Or to let habits or old thought patterns get in the way.
Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and reconnect with yourself. To remind yourself of what you want this life of yours to be all about. To find yourself again.
But how might you do that?
I happened to spy this leaf on the path the other day. I was on my way to somewhere else and had my mind on other things, and could easily have walked right past it. Yet there it was.
And now found.
(And in the shape of a heart because of all those things, not despite them).
It was on this same trip to work the other day, walking a different way, seeing different things, that I spotted this sign:
“FEED YOUR MIND.”
And it led me to wondering… What are you feeding your mind?
Are you nourishing it?
Or mindlessly stuffing some junk in for a quick bit of rush?
What are you putting in there?
(And what are you hoping to get back out of it?)
In his book, “Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life,” world renown Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh writes about mindful consumption. Not just of food. But of everything you ingest: television, conversations, images, thoughts.
So, if you were to look at the typical “diet” you feed your mind, what might you find?
Grief. It comes to fill our hollows of loss. To accompany our loneliness. To be with our pain.
So when you’ve lost someone important in your life, by death or distance; or if you’ve lost a certain hope for the future; you may find a sense of grief. Or maybe it finds you…
It’s all a bit of an enigma sometimes. For grief is a something in the middle of a new nothing. A heaviness in the emptiness.
And, often, with grief can come tears. Even if you don’t always let yourself cry them…
At this time of year, with all the special occasions and anniversaries and expectations, all those un-cried tears – both old and new – can make themselves felt all the more.
So where do you keep yours?
Where do you actually carry them, your un-cried tears*?
Cloudy days will come.
For you. For your family. For your friends.
And not just the kind that dominate the skies above you. But also the ones that help set the weather within you. The internal cloudy days that send your mental and emotional landscape into overcast sadness.
Cloudy days will come…
I was thinking this the other day, when some of my family came to Sydney to visit. Even now, in spring, it was suddenly cold and wet again. And even though it was sun that we wanted, it was cloud and some rain that we got (as you can see in the photo).
So what do you do when the internal cloudy days come to visit? How can you get through them? Or maybe even prepare for them? On this year’s Mental Health Day, perhaps it’s worth getting mentally meteorological and taking a look at what you’ll do when your weather changes.
Anger. It’s got a pretty bad reputation. And we’re often told what to do with it: be careful with it. Suppress it. Vent it. Override it. It’s like anger’s some kind of volatile, toxic force to be harnessed or defused.
But maybe there’s another way of looking at it altogether.
Maybe you can actually learn from anger. Listen to it. See what it has to tell you. Get curious about it.
The sticker in the photo (above), in a cleverly vandalised train carriage I travelled in recently, has another suggestion for how to respond to anger:
“If anger is present
rove to another age”
So let’s take another look at anger for a moment.