Perceptions make your world. How we choses to see things or are conditioned to read the room is what we feel is real and often unalterable. It is good so to be remind that you can swap out negative perceptions for positive ones. This is not denying reality this is perhaps seeing the actual reality. When depressed we tend to see only the gloom – the world we inhabit is nothing but pain or a bleak numbness. But that’s only part of the picture, for in the fuller reality, it is nothing but a fleeting moment. Clouds may indeed have obscured the sun but soon enough they are gone.
In times of my own gloom I take comfort from the Irish proverb Teas gréine is gar do dhubhadh – Sunshine follows gloom. I am reminded by it that sunshine returns, that the gloom does not last forever. And after the pain or the gloom passes, there is a new light – there is the ever-replenishing light. No matter how thick the clouds, how dark the overcast, how bruising the rain at the moment, there is a better moment to come.
This the biggest lesson of all. Your pain and suffering is not permanent. Hold on. The clouds will clear; the sun will come out again. There are cycles in the natural world. There are cycles within the human body. If your sadness is seasonal, it will dissipate in the next season. If your sadness is situational, situations change. Thoughts and reactions can be modified, brain chemistry can be addressed.
I get that the hardest thing it to wait it out, that impatience, frustration and even anger can arise, but it gets easier with mindfulness and cognitive reframing, you can acquire patience and resilience. Equanimity and control can be yours.
Lao Tzu, the C6th Chinese philosopher and forefather of Taoism, once noted that “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present”. Mindfulness is all about being present (alert to reality) and being in the present or the ‘now’ – that’s living moment to moment in the type of alert reality that brings peace not rumination or troubling thoughts. Mindfulness is how you step out of the depression or anxiety, how you step into a different moment of being.
Entering the now is a timeless zone. You are not aware of how long it is taking for those clouds to shift, for your mood to lift. You are in a different awareness. The clouds are still making their way across the sun. You are just not labouring every second in anticipation or worse – in overshadowed mood. You are experiencing a different moment, a better nowness.
Exercise. Entering the now.
Take a deep breath – One of the quickest ways to enter the now is to consciously take a deep breath – you instantly become aware of your physicality. As your lungs fill, your attention is redirected momentarily from your thoughts to the sensation of their expansion. Exhale – let some tension go in the release. Repeat. This is a distraction away from the panic or distress – a circuit breaker; it is tricking the brain to shift focus. Often that’s enough to dissipate the stressing dynamic. It is like counting to 10… and then resetting your self to react to the situation differently. It’s the switch to taking control.
Take a deeper breath – Shifting attention is a great trick; quick and very effective but we can go deeper. I don’t mean more lung capacity; I mean more conscious clarity. Breathing patterns are closely connected to emotional states. Both fear and anger can drive fast respiration; to get oxygen to the muscles so you can engage your fight or flight response – we are still primally wired. But on the flip side, relaxation responses also show up in respiration patterns via slow and deepened rhythms and this stabilizes blood pressure and heart rate so you can enjoy the downtime moment and recover after the fight or the flight experience. We are primally programmed to recover too.
So take a time out to practice some simple, slow and purposeful inhales and exhales. A few moments of slow and deliberate breathing is a restoration to factory settings. The deep breathing is not just reframing brain perception but body chemistry – lessening adrenalin and cortisol levels, calming the whole system. This is why meditations begin with a focus on breath – it is priming the system for the right response. Finding this calm repose there is no time or headspace to consider clouds above – you are with your true nature – at peace, not perturbed.