How to Find The Silver Lining To The Storm Clouds In Your Life


“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful. “ ~ Buddha

This week’s energies support leaning in to our emotions. Writing is a powerful tool for self-discovery, healing and expansion.  In fact, it’s one of my favourite things to do. Today I’m sharing some journal starters for exploring things I have considered to be negative in my life, in order that I might mine that situation or relationship to find the positives and gifts within it.  I’ve found this activity to be a great comfort over the years, and it has enabled me at times to radically shift my perspective to one which is much more positive.

Let’s be clear about this before we start. I am not saying that every terrible situation in your life, and every awful thing that has happened is a gift, or is a blessing. That kind of reductionist New Age thinking is the kind of thing I call b*llshit on regularly. No, I am saying that one of the best coping strategies for these kinds of situations is to find something positive in the struggle and suffering we have endured. Ways that we have grown, or changed or evolved. The kindness of strangers. Some other unexpected small gift.

The one thing that is non-negotiable in this exercise is that you MUST look for a positive – that silver lining on the thundercloud in your life.

One of the things that still stands out for me is the day I heard that a dear friend of Ben’s and mine had been badly injured in a parachuting accident (from which he later died). It marked the beginning of a series of terrible and unforeseen events in our life.  But it also gave me an insight that left me better able to cope with what lay ahead.

What happened on that day remains one of my most precious memories.  Ben and I were in shock, but I had organised for my grandmothers to come for lunch, and I needed to pick one of them up from across town. Life still went on, and the lunch had been planned and looked forward to for months. It was the middle of an Australian summer,  a heatwave no less, and the weekend before Christmas.  I pulled into the madness of a suburban shopping centre to buy cream before I collected Nana.

As I stepped out of the car I was almost bowled over by two things, the heat and my grief. The world slowed right down.  I remember thinking that John must be dying. I stood beside my car as if I was suspended in time. Around me shoppers rushed on in the Christmas chaos, ignorant of the fact that this dear man was taking his last breaths. How could the world keep turning, I wondered.  Why didn’t it look any different?

I felt suddenly connected to an unseen group of people around Brisbane, around the world, who were similarly out of the flow of time, locked into grief or despair or helplessness or loss.  I became acutely aware of the heat, the smell of the melting tar beneath my feet and the gum-leaves on the nearby trees.  Green parrots squawked and fought above my head, and tiny clusters of blossom fell at my feet, like some strange sort of summer snow.  I was struck by the intense beauty of the moment, and of how everyone around me was oblivious to it.  I heard my own heart beating in my chest, was aware of every breath, and felt as if I was seeing the world with new eyes. I became overwhelmed with a sense of how precious and fragile and miraculous our existence is, and my despair was replaced with an avalanche of gratitude.

The intensity and gratitude of that moment has never left me.  It became the silver lining to an awful time on my life.

Here are my journal starters.  Use one, any or all of them to get you into writing flow, and to help you focus on the silver lining rather than the cloud.

On relationships that failed:

  • One good thing about (insert person’s name) that I am still grateful for is…
  • If I hadn’t met (insert person’s name) I never would have…
  • One positive thing I learned about myself from that relationship is…
  • One thing I won’t ever do again is…
  • The best thing about this relationship ending is that…

On death, loss and sorrow:

  • One of the happiest memories of (insert person’s name) that I cherish is…
  • (Insert person’s name) taught me…
  • Because of (insert person’s name) I have learned…
  • One thing I will always carry with me in my heart is…
  • We always laughed about…
  • One crazy thing that always reminds me of (insert person’s name) is…
  • One way I can honour their memory is to…
  • One way I can make the most of my own life is…

On making mistakes:

  • The thing I learned from all of this is…
  • If I hadn’t stuffed up I never would have been able to…
  • The one thing this has clarified for me is…
  • One person who’s been really great in all of this is…
  • The thing I’ll do differently next time is…
  • At least I’ve realised…

On diminishment (you being somehow made smaller or less able)  and disappointment:

  • I may not be able to (insert the diminishment) but I can still…
  • I still have the power to…
  • For now I can focus my energies on…
  • This gives me more time to…
  • For now this door is closed to me.  Other doors that are open include…
  • If I’m being made to stop, or slow down, at least I can use this change of pace to…

On people who’ve treated you badly:

  • Because of you, I’ve decided to never…
  • You’ve made me realise that I am better than that because…
  • You’ve shown me how NOT to be in the world.  I’ve learned that…
  • Because you couldn’t give me (love, respect, attention, guidance, honesty, kindness – insert whatever was missing in your relationship) I’ve discovered and grown this great strength in me.  I learned to be the thing you could not do for me.  I have become…
  • The good thing to come out of all of this is…
  • I deserve more because…
  • I believe that the right way to treat people is to…

Summaries:

  • From the hard times in my life I’ve learned that…
  • My greatest personal strengths are…
  • I’m proud of myself that…
  • I’m amazed that I have been able to…
  • One of the best things to come from all of this is…
  • The way I can now help others is…

I hope you can find some comfort too, in these simple activities that can help you reframe suffering on your terms. Holding you, as ever, in my prayers and meditations,

Nicole ❤ xx

The restorative power of deep rest

A primitive type of jellyfish called Cassiopea, which goes to sleep nightly, is seen on the floor of their tank at Caltech in Pasadena, California, U.S. in this image released on September 20, 2017. Courtesy Caltech/Handout via REUTERS

“It’s in the morning, for most of us. It’s that time, those few seconds when we’re coming out of sleep but we’re not really awake yet. For those few seconds we’re something more primitive than what we are about to become. We have just slept the sleep of our most distant ancestors, and something of them and their world still clings to us. For those few moments we are unformed, uncivilized. We are not the people we know as ourselves, but creatures more in tune with a tree than a keyboard. We are untitled, unnamed, natural, suspended between was and will be, the tadpole before the frog, the worm before the butterfly. We are for a few brief moments, anything and everything we could be. And then…and then — ah — we open our eyes and the day is before us and … we become ourselves.” 
Jerry Spinelli

 

Don’t you just love the image of the sleeping jellyfish? It’s the sort of whimsical possibility my mind constantly entertained when I was a child, although I never imagined that they might sleep upside down!

I was lying on my acupuncturist’s treatment table yesterday as he felt my pulse and tut-tutted in his mad professor way at the energies within my body, the colour and texture of my tongue and his many other diagnostic tools. He knew it. I know it. The past couple of weeks of family illnesses and drama have exhausted me.

Hmmm, he said. Deep rest. That’s what you need. Deep rest, and rice and beans and sprouts. Warm foods. Warm liquids. No stimulants. No spices. Deep rest. Sleep.

I know he’s right. A good deep rest now and I’ll be back to normal. For me, deep rest is not just sleeping. It’s also quiet time. Time pulled back from the needs and demands of others. Time stepped back from work and busy-ness.

The alternative? I’ve been down that path, and I know you have too. In fact, I know some of you are walking it right now. That’s the path of pushing. We’re tired but we keep getting up. We’re exhausted but we fill ourselves with caffeine or sugar or both, and we force ourselves to keep on going. We bribe ourselves, pep-talk ourselves, bully ourselves and trash-talk ourselves to get our bodies upright and responsive. We push, push, push. And then we break.

All the while we think that we are okay to keep going. We’re not. We’re barely in our bodies. We’re drunk on lack of sleep. Our innovation and enthusiasm, our ability to bounce back, to laugh it off, to create with joy – all of that is missing.

It can be found again through deep rest.

That’s what I’m doing right now, and will be for the next few days. I’m doing a disservice to myself and to you if I don’t.

Today I’m asking you if you’re okay. Do you need to rest? Do you need to step back for a moment? We can’t help others sustainably nor keep on creating if we are not looking after ourselves first. The energies of 2018 do not support push in any form. If you’re pushing, it won’t be working. Look for another way. Your best solution is most likely to be taking a break, refreshing yourself, and then starting again.

Gentle hugs and much love, Nicole  xx

 

Seeking Help Is Not Failure

Image from news.discovery.com

Image from news.discovery.com

“You are never strong enough that you don’t need help.”
~ César Chávez

 

I had a long chat with a close friend yesterday. She’s been struggling for a while – I’ve heard it in her voice, I’ve seen it in the way her usual happy disposition had given way to a furrowed brow, a tight smile, and an inability to laugh things off the way she once had. I’ve felt it in her energy.

Are you okay? I’d been asking her this year.

Yep, she’d say, shutting down the conversation. Or ‘just a bit tired’ she’d say, before moving us on to talk about something else.

She was doing all the right things – exercising, eating a great diet, getting time out for herself. But at the same time she was spiralling down into a very flat place, where every day was an effort, a place where all the joy had been sucked out of life. Each day was just another day to endure. My friend was shrinking; becoming less visible in her life, and with her friends, and becoming less and less emotionally available to the people who loved her. She didn’t have the creative drive, or the enthusiasm, or the innovative and problem-solving ideas that were a normal part of her disposition. My friend was less like herself each day.

Her life is not so different to many. She has a family member who is in need of extra attention right now. She rarely gets an unbroken night’s sleep, and hasn’t had a decent break for a long time. They have financial pressures, and their household is dealing with changed circumstances. As well as all of life’s usual stress.

Having continuously elevated levels of stress hormones is never good. They rob us of sleep and mood enhancing hormones. They diminish our libido, paint every day grey and leave us as exhausted, miserable shells of ourselves. Our digestion becomes compromised, and our immune systems. It becomes impossible to feel happy, because we lack certain hormones and chemicals that allow us to relax and operate in our usual way.

Some of us can bring ourselves back with meditation, diet, and lifestyle changes. Sometimes a therapist or support services can help. But my friend was doing all of that, and she couldn’t just hand back her family, or walk away from her life. Changing her current circumstances is not an option.

Image from tumblr

Image from tumblr

My friend found herself looking forward to that glass of wine each night. In fact she was beginning to rely on that glass of wine. No, she didn’t have a drinking problem. But she had a sleep problem. An exhaustion problem. A ground-down by life problem. She was chronically over-tired, stressed and wired.

Sound familiar?

Crunch time came when she was at the doctor for something completely different, and the kind physician asked her how my friend was coping.

My friend burst into tears.

The doctor suggested a low-dose anti-depressant. My friend was so reluctant to say yes. But in the end, out of desperation and needing to try SOMETHING to help, she did.

And it HAS helped. Finally my friend has been able to sleep better, to unload some of the tension inside her, and to go from feeling cranky or numb to a place where there is some sunshine again.

We talked about it yesterday.

It was as if my friend had a terrible secret she needed to confess.

I was just grateful she had finally found something that was working, and that could help her cope better with her life right now.

Who would ever want their friend to suffer?

My friend summed it up so well. ‘I needed to do something to make life livable again,’ she said.

As a psychic, people ‘confess’ often to me that they are on medication for stress, or depression, or anxiety. For them it has often been a last resort, after they’d tried everything else and nothing had given them relief. They are all strong people. In that strength they’d often carried on for far too long without seeking help.

Image from pinterest

Image from pinterest

There is too often a shame, or an embarrassment with their ‘confession’. Some kind of stigma about how they may be perceived – because they weren’t ‘strong enough’ or because somehow they are flawed or weak compared to the rest of society.

They often feel that they need to get on and off the medication fast too. What if they become dependent? What if people find out?

Goodness. Why should mental health be different to any other kind of health? Some people take hormones to balance their thyroids, or to regulate ovulation. Some people take insulin to stabilise and regulate their blood sugar. Some people need blood transfusions or anti-virals or immuno-suppressants. No stigma there.

If you are stuck in a place where life isn’t working for you, you deserve to explore all of the options which could lead to a change in how you feel. Talking to someone can help. Changing your diet, exercising and using behaviour-based therapies can help. Changing your life circumstances might do the trick. And for some people, taking medications or supplements to help improve their brain chemistry and hormones works well too.

It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to seek solutions. It’s okay that one of those solutions may come in the form of a small pill which helps normalise your body’s functionality until you’re back in a place of being able to cope on your own.

You deserve to be well, to be happy and to be able to function in the world.

If you need to, ask for help.

Everybody needs help sometimes.

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