Friday, October 24, 2014

Thriving in Uncertain Times

Thriving in Uncertain Times
Life on this planet in 2014 sure isn’t boring!  Since the 2012 shift, many of us are experiencing a continuing acceleration in our growth.  On the macro level, there is a great uncertainty about the health and sustainability of our economy and of the Earth itself.
There is a natural tendency for fear to arise in the face of uncertainty.  If we allow our fear to take us over, we will likely experience ongoing stress and scarcity. Fortunately, there is another path open to all of us. If we embrace the challenge that these uncertain times offer, our lives can be rich and rewarding. In this article, I will offer three simple keys to thriving in the face of uncertainty.
Facing Fear and Embracing Uncertainty
There are three main ways respond to uncertainty. The first and most prevalent today is fear. The second is excitement.  Some of us naturally thrive on uncertainty and find it enlivening. The third is peaceful acceptance. We can simply notice what’s going on and take right action when appropriate from a calm, centered place.

If you are fortunate enough to already be in a place of excitement or peaceful acceptance in the face of uncertainty, just keep doing what you’re doing. But, if you’re caught up in fear, you might want to consider shifting your approach.

When I’m willing to face whatever fears arise, they lose their power over me and dissipate. I’ve come to see that fear is a doorway to love. When something happens that triggers fear, that’s an occasion for gratitude.The fear didn’t come out of nowhere; it came from my subconscious. While it’s hidden in the subconscious, it’s controlling me and limiting the amount of love I can experience. There’s nothing I can do about it. When it’s triggered into consciousness, that is my opportunity to meet the fear and free myself from the hold it’s had on me.

Below is a simple process for consciously meeting fear:
  1. Be grateful that fear has come into consciousness. Feel the gratitude as deeply as you can.
  2. Notice where you feel the fear is most strongly in your body. Bring your awareness to that spot and go into the fear. Do this with an attitude of curiosity and exploration. Don’t try to heal or shift fear.
  3. When you’ve gone as deep as you’re ready to go, be grateful for however deep you’ve gone. Shift your attention to your breath. Focus on gratefully receiving the gift of life. Invite the breath to come right into that spot in your body where the fear is most strongly held. As the breathe goes out, have a sense of letting go, allowing it to carry away whatever is ready to be released.
  4. Dive into the emotion again. Repeat this alternation as many times as is useful.
Developing and Trusting Your Inner Guidance
In these uncertain times, all of us are faced with a myriad of choices, ranging from considering potential major shifts in our lives to daily responses to changing circumstances. I’ve found that the best way to make these choices is through inner guidance. Left-brain, rational analysis comes up short when key variables are unknown.
All of us have the ability to tap into a place of deep knowing. Accessing clear inner guidance is a skill that can be developed through practice. Below is a simple guidance method that has worked well for me and for my clients:
  1. Think of a current choice. Release any attachments that might block you from getting clear guidance; prayer is one effective way to do this.
  2. Remember a time when you felt totally clear when making a choice. Feel the “yes” in your body as deeply as you are able to.
  3. Now focus on the current choice. Randomly pick one of the options you are considering and move toward it. As you move toward that option, notice whether you feel a clear “yes” or whether you feel some hesitation, doubt, confusion, etc.  If you feel anything other than a clear “yes,” go more deeply into this option. Does the impulse moving you toward this option feel natural and expansive or does it feel contracted and effortful?
  4. Let go of that option and go back to your reference point of pure “yes.” If it’s helpful, you can again remember that time you felt totally clear when making a choice.
  5. Move toward a second option in the same way you moved toward the first one
  6. Continue the process until you’ve deeply checked all options and are clear about which one is the strongest “yes.”
Living in the Present
When we bring our attention fully into the present moment, there is seldom anything to fear. Almost all the fear we experience is triggered by imagining future scenarios that scare us. When we are in the present, we experience whatever circumstances we are in as an opportunity, not a threat. We can respond with confidence and clarity or do nothing, as appropriate. We can tap into a deep sense that, despite the circumstances, all is well.

Of course, there are times when it is necessary to bring our attention to the future. When we do this from a place of presence and focus, we can effectively assess options and make choices (perhaps using our inner guidance) without fear. What we want to avoid is obsessive, fearful thinking about the future. When we catch ourselves doing this, we can simply be grateful for the awareness and bring our attention back into the present.
Andrew Oser conducts Mt Shasta retreats and spiritual journeys since 1982.

Alternation: Key to Balanced, Happy Living

Alternation is a natural rhythm that is woven into the fabric of life on this planet.

Alternation is a natural rhythm that is woven into the fabric of life on this planet. We go back and forth between day and night, the seasons of the year, breathing in and breathing out.  By tuning into and aligning ourselves with alternation, we can come into deeper harmony with nature and with ourselves.  When alternation is not naturally present, by consciously creating it, we bring our lives into greater balance and open ourselves to accelerated healing.

I first became aware of the power of alternation when coaching tennis.  If a student’s arm was relaxed when hitting a forehand, but tight when hitting a backhand, I would have her alternate between forehands and backhands with the instruction to simply notice the difference in tension in her arm, without judging or trying to change anything.  Within a few minutes, her backhand would be as relaxed as her forehand.  I have since applied the principle of alternation to many aspects of life and found it be consistently effective.  I’ll discuss a few applications below.

Alternation: Key to Balanced, Happy Living
In every moment of our lives, we alternate between breathing in and breathing out. In every moment of our lives, we alternate between breathing in and breathing out.  Bringing our attention to this alternation can have an instantaneous, powerful impact.  Every time the breathe goes out, we can experience a deep release, allowing the breath to carry with it tensions and stagnant energy.  When the breath comes in, we can consciously and gratefully receive fresh energy, creativity, and inspiration.  To some extent, this happens whether or not we focus on the breath.  But when we bring our full awareness to even one cycle of breath, we come home to the present moment and experience immediate relaxation and/or energization, whatever it is we need.

The simplest way to break out of this stressful mode is to create regular gaps, when we take a total break from the doingness of our jobs.Another fundamental alternation is between doing and nondoing.  In some activities, this alternation is built in.  For example, in tennis, this is a 15-30 second break after each point.  But many activities, including most work situations, are not structured to include regular periods of nondoing.  In an office job, we can easily go from one task (phone call, meeting, preparing a document, etc.) to the next one, without a gap. Particularly, when we believe that we don’t have enough time to do everything we think we need to do, we can go into an overdrive mode of rushing and pushing ourselves through the day.  The simplest way to break out of this stressful mode is to create regular gaps, when we take a total break from the doingness of our jobs.  Standing up and taking a few conscious breaths is a very quick and effective way to create a gap.  If we want or need a longer gap, doing some stretching, walking around the block, or listening to one of our favorite tunes, can be very renewing.   When we alternate between doing and nondoing, the doing becomes more joyful and effortless.

If our lives are very busy, it is helpful to create longer gaps.  The traditional practice of taking a Sabbath day once a week is an excellent one.  Scheduling time regularly for vacations and retreats is also a wise practice.  A well-planned retreat, which includes time to relax and rest fully, to connect deeply with God, and to examine your life from a fresh, clear perspective can be transformative.  When you return from a retreat or vacation, it is helpful to watch closely to see if you jump back into your pushing mode and begin recreating stress.  Whenever you catch yourself doing this, be grateful for the awareness, then take a few conscious breaths.

In intimate relationships, alternation between time together and time apart can be very healthy.  Spending quality time alone is often renewing and strengthening.  The partners can let go of identifying themselves as part of a “we” and reconnect deeply with the core of who they are.  The time apart can also be a great opportunity to break patterns of neediness and co-dependency.  When the partners come back together, they have the opportunity to create new, healthier ways of interacting.

Alternation also can be a powerful key to healing.  One simple way to apply alternation in this regard is to first bring your full attention to a place in your body where there is pain or tension. One simple way to apply alternation in this regard is to first bring your full attention to a place in your body where there is pain or tension.Spend a moment simply experiencing the physical sensations and allowing them to be as they are.  Then, shift your attention to another part of your body which is free from tension and pain.  By going back and forth between the two spots, noticing the difference, but not trying to heal or change anything, you may find the tension or pain diminishes.  Shifting awareness between a painful point and the breath can also be effective.

Similarly, alternation can be very effective in emotional healing.  Say, for example, you are experiencing a lot of fear.  The first step would be to experience the fear without resisting or trying to change it.  Then, you could ask yourself the question, “Who is aware of the fear?”   You wouldn’t look for an answer to the question in a word or a concept, but would allow the question to take you directly to the experience of the answer.  Next, you would go deeply into experiencing the one who is aware of the fear.  Then, you would dive back into the fear and notice whether it had changed, approaching the fear with an attitude of curiosity and discovery.  You would continue to go back and forth between fear and awareness until the fear was gone or, at least, significantly diminished.
As you can see, the principle of alternation has many applications.  I invite you to have fun exploring ways to use alternation to bring more balance, health, and freedom into your life. I invite you to have fun exploring ways to use alternation to bring more balance, health, and freedom into your life.A great place to start is by paying more attention to the natural alternation of your breath.  Playfully, see how often during the day, you can bring your full attention to the breath. Notice how this impacts the quality of your experience.  Then, as life presents you with various challenges, be creative in finding ways to use alternation to meet those challenges effectively.

Andrew Oser is the Founder of Summit Coaching Services, which offers transformational life coaching sessions, along with Mt  Shasta retreats and vision quests.  Over the past 30 years, Andrew  has helped thousands of individuals make breakthroughs in their lives.  A summa cum laude graduate of Princeton University, he brings a wide range of experience to his coaching and retreat work including creating and running a successful nonprofit, serving as a top-flight professional tennis coach, and exploring many approaches to personal and spiritual growth.