“There is no controlling life. Try corralling a lightning bolt, containing a tornado. Dam a stream and it will create a new channel. Resist, and the tide will sweep you off your feet. Allow, and grace will carry you to higher ground.
~ Danna Faulds
by Amanda Votto
In a blink of the eye, everything can change. Many of us have had firsthand experience with the ever changing nature of life. Whether it is a new diagnosis, a move, an accident, a divorce, a birth or a death, we soon realize that life comes without any guarantees. The faster we learn that we cannot control life, paradoxically, the easier and freer living becomes.
Through the practice of mindfulness, we begin to experience two crucial elements of life. The first is that everything is impermanent—our feelings, our circumstances, our lives and the lives of our loved ones. The other is that the only thing we have control over in life is how we choose to respond to our circumstances. Therein lies our power to co-create the life of our dreams.
At different times in our lives, we may get the call—the call to rise up and live the life we are meant to live. The call doesn’t necessarily come in a perfectly wrapped gift box. It may come in the form of a heart attack, a depression, a divorce or a layoff from work. The call is happening all the time but many of us are too busy in our heads to notice the present moment and too disconnected from our truth to hear the call. Don’t worry; the call doesn’t go away. Life is always working in mysterious ways to get us to wake up. If the call is ignored, our wakeup can come in louder and louder forms until our attention is caught, our escape tactics have run dry and we have few options left aside from turning inward and doing the work that is the only path to set us free.
Does this sound familiar? I personally sensed that I was “off path” years ago. I could not put my finger on what I was feeling. In fact, from the outside, it appeared as if I had it all together. I had a wonderful husband, two healthy kids, a meaningful career, yet an emptiness was growing within. I tried my usual escape tactics—keeping busy and avoidance—until the call became too loud that I could no longer ignore it. I felt disengaged from life and was unable to find happiness in the things I once enjoyed. I was confused, disconnected and felt deeply lost. I longed to return to the periods of my life when I felt joyful and connected. I had no idea how I had gotten to this place of suffering nor did I have any idea of how to get out of it.
No matter what I did to “figure it out,” it just didn’t make sense. There was no catastrophic external event that occurred. Letting go of trying to understand why took me a long time. I turned to mindfulness as the crucial step in reconnecting with myself.
I signed up for an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Course (MBSR). Through the practice of mindfulness, I discovered that my answers could not be figured out in my mind. In fact, my mind only created more confusion. I found the stillness that was needed to reconnect with the real me.
Slowly, I began to quiet the inner chatter and trust in myself and life. I knew I had all of the answers within me and with mindfulness, I have been able to access the inner place of unconditional love, patience and trust. My practice has had such an enormous impact on my life that I have now been trained to teach mindfulness to others who seek to find their way back home.
What is your call to wake up? Perhaps if we can see these events with a different perspective—by trusting that life is happening for us and that every occurrence is perfectly delivered for our biggest growth potential. Would we dare welcome the unwanted and make proper room for it?
Mindfulness is a life skill that teaches acceptance and allowance. Through practice, we train our attention to be in the present moment, the only real moment there is. It is in the present moment that we can hear the call, that we can safely feel our feelings, and that we can discover some of the patterns that keep us stuck. Becoming the observer of our thoughts, sensations and emotions allows us to form new choices and patterns and release old patterns that no longer serve.
The call is here. Maybe it is a whisper or perhaps a loud scream. Either way it is an invitation to answer it. Will you?
Amanda Votto is a mindfulness teacher trained at the UMass Medical School Center for Mindfulness and an MBSR teacher at Copper Beech Institute. She leads a weekly meditation group and mindful parenting courses, and is author of the blog, The Divine Within. Amanda is also practicing physician assistant in cardiology. She believes in a holistic approach to healthcare and that we all possess the power to heal ourselves from the inside out.