In my last blog (“D” is for Dysregulated), I wrote to you about staying present and as loving as possible with your children when they are dysregulated. How’s it going, darling? Have you had a moment to slip down into silence and guide your child through their tears? It is not easy work, to go into a lower energy field as their big emotions ramp up. Anger is an emotion that wants company. Staying calm goes against our genetic makeup. But if you’ve done it, and stayed calm even once, I bet you can reflect on the simple feeling of pride. Pride in yourself that you can stay calm during challenging emotions and pride in your child for trusting you to guide them in this new way.
In writing to you about helping our children through dysregulated emotions, I wanted to start (re-start? I’ve been blogging for years…) the dialogue about leading with a spacious heart. Why you might ask? My very simple answer is, “It is all that will matter in the end.” Wolf, that is not an easy way to start this blog but stay with me, I promise I’ll lighten it up with heart. You see, as I’ve taken dozens of trips around the sun, I’ve come to realize something deeply unsettling about life. This deeply unsettling piece, okay unsettling to me (so I’m sure to others) is that we cannot control it. Life is going to happen, without any input from us, as it has in the time that came before us and as it will in the time that comes after us.
Go With the Flow, Shed What Holds You Down
While we can make choices in how we respond to life, and shed what doesn’t serve us, we cannot prevent bad things from happening. Grief and events that cause grief are a part of life if for no other reason than we are living so that we may die. My current favorite thought leader, Tara Brach, teaches that almost every subconscious struggle, or battle with life is rooted in our fear of loss of control which is linked to death. Tara teaches that this feeling of dread is avoidance of reality and that once we embrace our death we can embrace our life. I’m personally still a work in progress on this. Just ask my staff as I bawled over calves in my backfield already being tagged for slaughter. “They were just born and are slated for death,” I cried at our quarterly meeting. As I type these words I’m not sure if I was crying for the cows, myself, or all life on earth.
Yet as my tears dried and I attempted to settle into this new thought, that all dread comes from avoiding what is here, I did find truth in it. Anxiety (raising my hand….) is by definition fear of the unknown. It does seem like a parsimonious antidote that to cure anxiety you can simply accept that everything is unknown. Even while typing this, I’m not sure I’m at a place yet where this makes me feel calmer or more anxious. Personally, I’m trying to land, “on my way to calmer with this reality.”
You see, even accepting this reality and knowing that life is unknown, doesn’t take away from the fact that bad things happen in our life; it cements it. Yet somehow in a large way, this knowledge is freeing; if we can accept that parts of life are unpredictable we can accept that life itself is not our responsibility. How could it be? Life is a force that breathes through all of us. Just sit next to a tree, maybe throw your arms around her, and hold this thought, “The life force in you, is the life force in me.”
Life is the Flow, Make Space in Your Heart
Life just is, and the experiences that happen to us surrounding us just happen. We are in no more control of how other people respond than we are of the water seeping into the roots of the tree. Each life on earth is on its own journey and while your life may influence others, hear me again, “You cannot control them.” If as a world we radically accepted this truth all types of violence from wars to domestic violence would end in an instant. What we can do is accept what is present before us, the good and the bad, and make decisions based on what is happening. If we are in any type of life event (from social, work, family, and beyond) that is not sitting well with our hearts we have two choices. We can either accept what is happening or who we are with for who they are or we can leave.
If you stay the work is not to influence change, but rather to hold your own discomfort with a spacious heart. To not change or lower yourself to the negative energy that is in front of you. Leading in this way may, in fact, create a ripple effect, but that’s a bonus, not the goal. If you leave you are not controlling your life but you are taking accountability for it. You are saying, “I can’t stay here and be me so therefore I must go.” After you go you’ll know what to do. Yet even then a spacious heart may be needed to hold your grief. Sometimes when we leave we simply move on, sometimes when we leave the fire is lit to fight injustice. I suppose it depends on what you are leaving. Yet in both of these situations, you are asking for council from your wise heart. When you are in a life event that does not sit well with your soul and then let your soul guide you radical changes happen. Moment by moment we are walking ourselves home to our love.
This practice is not easy in the beginning, yet our intelligent brains can build new pathways the more we practice any new skill. Living in reactivity and fighting against what we do not like or cannot control is our autopilot. We needed anger to protect ourselves as a species as we wandered the earth in tribes. When we cannot control something our brain says, “threat” and our emotions say, “fight”. The problem with this response is it does not have the emotional depth to lead us with integrity; your spacious heart does. We cannot stop bad things from happening (broken record I know), yet if we learn to lean on our spacious hearts we can carry ourselves with love and grace.
I know you can do this darling. I know that you can choose to accept what is and when pain comes hold it with your spacious heart. That you can snuggle into the thought, “life just is,” and free yourself from control. There is enough love in you to meet life as it is while providing tender care to yourself when rocky waves wash across your shore. You’ve got this darling, lead life with love.