“When we feel lost, the trick is not to lose ourselves”

There has been a lot of grieving over the past year or so. Perhaps more than we are used to. On a global level events seem way out of the norm - including Barcelona and the other attacks that are occurring with a frequency that has become unnerving. On a personal level, during this period, I lost my cousin aged 57 who died from a freak heart attack, a friend committed suicide and another person dear to me seems terminally ill.

At many points over the past year, I have felt lost. At many points, I have felt deep pain. And I will never forget falling asleep in an apartment in Paris the day I found out my friend committed suicide. I woke up from a deep slumber feeling peaceful and blissfully unaware in the warm afternoon sunlight. The memory of what had happened hit me suddenly. In an instant, I felt my internal world turn from golden to murky grey. I was the same person but my experience couldn’t have been more different.

Emotions flow through us. We have little control over that. How do we respond to them?

When we feel lost, the trick is not to lose ourselves. And when we feel overwhelmed, just noticing that we are overwhelmed and accepting that, gives us a new ‘container’ and a new sense of stability.  When we experience loss, something changes forever.

Change is de-stabilising. Particularly when we didn’t seek it and don’t like it. But the question is, how can we use change as an opening, instead of shutting down? How can we make sure that heartbreak opens our hearts instead of closing them? By being honest and compassionate: to ourselves and to others (including those who hurt us and perpetrate crimes). Anger and hatred (which are natural responses and part of the cycle of grief) keep us closed if we hold on to them.

A few weeks ago, I was happily discovering the beautiful City of Barcelona. I was taking pictures of doors. That’s my thing! I love old doors. I love the richness and groundedness of big doors. I take pictures of doors, nature and people!  They seem to shine a light. Something terrible has happened. But the city is still there. It will recover. As we all do.

This is why, when the London attacks happened, I loved the sign “We are not afraid”. This doesn’t mean that we are not aware, mindful and vigilant. We can be all of those things, without being afraid, without losing ourselves, without giving in. We are resilient.  

There are three keys to being resilient:

  1. Awareness
  2. Acceptance
  3. Compassion (for ourselves and others)

I will be talking about those more in the next week or so.

*The subject line of this email is not in any way meant to trivialise what happened in Barcelona yesterday. The reason I mention spilt milk is because practising our resilience on the little things, like broken promises and other everyday disappointments, can help prepare us for when the bigger things, like what happened this week in Barcelona and Charlottesville, arise. But more on that next time.  

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