The Ebb and Flow of Being in the Now
“I want first of all… to be at peace with myself.”
—Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea
“When you stop chasing the wrong things, you give the right things a chance to catch you.”
There’s a movie called Cast Away with Tom Hanks where the main character, Chuck Noland, is stranded on a desert island for four years after a plane crash over the Pacific. In order to survive, he makes use of whatever washes to shore. Despite desolate circumstances, Chuck decides he must go on. Later when he is rescued and returns to civilization, he understands that his life will never go back to the way it was before. He says, “And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?”
One of the challenges most of us face is our desire to control what happens in our lives. We prefer known outcomes. We prefer for things to go according to our plans. And we prefer happiness—as we define it. Sometimes, though, life has something else in store for us. A relationship ends. We lose our job. Or someone we love dies.
The movie Cast Away serves as a useful metaphor for coping with unexpected, cataclysmic events. Initially, Chuck is presented as someone “in charge” in the deadline-driven world of commerce. Then his life, literally, crashes. When everything he cherishes is gone—his profession, his family, and his fiancé—he is left with only himself, his imagination, and his inner resources. Surrendering to what he can’t control is one step in his survival process. Making creative use of what life brings to the shore of his island is another step along his journey. Continuing on with his life, despite conditions he perceives as completely beyond hope, is yet another step along the way. Finally, he learns to breathe through additional disappointing losses and to remain awake to what the Universe offers each new day.
Staying in the flow of life is not necessarily easy. But mentally fighting the conditions we encounter can make it worse. Surrender is a way to release what is beyond our control in order to make space for those things we can accomplish. Perhaps slowing down, staying open for guidance, and then taking some small action step each day will redirect our life in a positive direction. Perseverance and courage are useful traits in the face of enormous obstacles. Mindful breathing, like a sail on a raft in rough waters, can then guide us safely home.
When we survive difficult trials, our ideas of happiness often get redefined. Rather than outward worldly pursuits, happiness may come in the form of appreciation for ordinary, daily miracles—the ability to drink water from a cup, visit with a friend, or hug the people we love. Sometimes, after a long, hard journey, wonderful surprises appear just around the bend. This turn in events may not be the way we thought things would (or should) work out—and certainly won’t take us back in time. Nevertheless, it’s possible the life waiting for us is deeper, richer, and more fulfilling than we ever imagined it could be.
In joy & gratitude,
Diana J. Ensign, JD
Cultivating Calm Workshop
Date: Tuesday, Oct. 20, 6:00 – 7:30 pm
Location: The Playful Soul in Broad Ripple Village
6516 N Ferguson, Indianapolis, IN.