I have been thinking a lot about overcoming adversity lately. How do people do it? What are the methods that we all use to cope with the daily pull of our lives – the struggles of business, work, finances, our friendships and loved ones and still keep our peace of mind? There’s a ton of stuff going on in the modern world and dealing with it can get overwhelming, fast.

And not every issue that troubles us is monumental in scope. Not every problem, good or bad, is the juggernaut that it may appear. Sometimes it is a small trigger. Something that sends us down a path of anger or frustration that is so well worn by our passing that it feels almost, comfortable.  There are a million tips and tricks to dealing with stressors and, I’m sure, just as many different ways to not deal with them. I have no issues with confrontation and so I often try to work on dealing with my shit early. The sooner I accept the problem, the sooner I’m usually able to get over it. And so, I had an interesting “breakthrough” confronting a small stress over the past few weeks that I found to be very interesting.

I go to a group meditation once a week. It’s a small group and the members rotate through quite often. There are many times when I’m sharing this quiet space with complete strangers. I love that, but what got me recently was an idea one of the core group offered. The idea was that we could use a soft chime alarm every five minutes to let us know where we are in our meditation. Everyone got their chance to give an opinion before we started that evening and the consensus was that we would not use this additional sound. My thoughts were that it would not help my meditation get deeper and would probably scare me every five minutes as the final bells often do.

That evening we started our meditation and after, what I assume, five minutes the bell sounded. It really did scare me! It also sent me down a path of anxiety. I thought we decided not to use the extra alarm and is this seriously going to go off every five minutes? I kept thinking about the noise round and round in my mind, waiting, anticipating the next five-minute ding. That next ding never happened, but I spent the rest of my time trying to calm down my mind as it raced to figure out if it would. At the end of the session the timekeeper apologized for the extra chime and we all had a chuckle about managing our phones and working out alarms and ring tones. The mood was mellow and I felt comfortable.

The next week the extra alarm went off at the five-minute mark. I wasn’t sure if I expected it or not. It did scare me again this time but something clicked inside my mind also. I began thinking about the sense of control that I demand of myself. I wanted to let it go and be able to manage my reactions to this challenge. I followed my anxiety and considered how it was the real cause of any discomfort and that a bell, a small sound, cannot be the root. I meditated on what it meant to not be alert, to disconnect from the bells and the whistles of the year 2020. I found strength in my resolve and sat up a little straighter as I followed my breathing and allowed the tether of my mind to loosen.

Last week I went in prepared for the extra bell. Did it ever go off? I’m truly not sure. I found myself at the edge of that river quickly and when I began to flow with the water I was at peace. This is my new lesson in dealing with pop up situations I can’t control. If I can practice finding my headspace while the world spins on around me, I will be happier. I may not be able to manage what life throws at me, but I can manage my reactions.


Jeffrey McElfresh
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