08/17/2011 08:28 am ET | Updated Oct 17, 2011

Does the Drama of the Dow Have You Feeling Out of Control?

Photo Caption: In this May 25, 2010 file photo, specialist Michael Pistillo, left, and traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Often fear originates in our mind because, try as we may, we have little control over the future. And, the future is where we tend to look for our security, seeking the assurance that everything will be all right. The illusion is that we have control over many variables in our daily life and that seems to make us feel better, at least temporarily. However, we really have control over very little, other than our next breath and our next thought.
~ The Art of Uncertainty - How to Live in the Mystery of Life and Love It.

I know of very few people who are not being severely affected by the economic roller coaster roaring through Wall Street and into our daily lives -- it is, without a doubt, a very frightening ride; the fear of loss and being out of control is palpable. Since the financial meltdown of 2008, I have been observing how the ups and downs of the stock market affects people's sense of well-being.

In some regards the Dow is similar to a barometer that reports the amount of fear pulsating through the collective consciousness. In the financial industry they actually make a practice of measuring these pulsations using a gauge called the VIX (Volatility Index). It is often referred to as the fear index or the fear gauge because it represents one measure of the market's expectation of stock market volatility over the next 30 days.

Talk about forecasting our future based on the energy of fear and expectation of loss. The result is, for many, the Dow is like a "reverse" biofeedback device that, rather than detecting how we are feeling, tells us how we should be feeling each day; when the Dow is up, it gives us cause to feel good -- when the Dow is down, it gives us cause to feel a bit down as well. Metaphorically speaking this is like the tail wagging the dog. No wonder we feel so out of control.

If the drama of the Dow has got you feeling down ... and up ... and down, it's safe to say you are not alone. What is happening on Wall Street (as well as around the world) stirs up our fears. It brings us to the very edge of not knowing what the future holds, reminding us that we are not nearly as much in control of our lives we think we are. What I do know is this: While we may not have control over the dramatic events unfolding before our eyes, we have absolute control of what is going on behind our eyes. In other words, we can choose to either respond or react to the mystery of the moment; that choice will determine how we experience the roller coaster ride.

The primary reason the drama of the Dow is so volatile is that the system is hardwired to operate reactively, triggered by the fear and the perception of loss rather than faith and expectation of increase. How do you perceive life in this moment? Self inquiry is a sound spiritual practice you might want to employ as you take a look at how you approach life today. Are you mindlessly and fearfully reacting to, or mindfully and faithfully responding to what you see and hear on the six-o'clock news? It's never too late to change how you perceive what is.

The primary difference between mindfully responding as opposed to mindlessly reacting is that by responding we create an intentional gap (or space) in time and mind. In this "gap" we can breathe, pull ourselves out of the future and anchor ourselves in the present moment long enough to become the detached observer of our own thoughts and feelings -- before we say or do anything we might later regret. The "response gap" is a sacred space whereby hitting the emotional "pause button" we consciously create an opening for the presence of the divine to be revealed within us.

Will seeing the drama of the Dow through the eyes of infinite intelligence give us more control over the uncertainties of the stock market? Not necessarily, but it will absolutely give us control over our own thinking process in the present moment, which is our only true point of power. When we are present in the moment we are led to make clear minded choices, which can include the mindfulness practice of knowing what and when to let go of that which causes us to suffer.

Reconciling what we have control over and what we don't have control over is the first step to making peace with what is. There always has been, and shall continue to be, the metaphoric roller coaster rides in life, be it the stock market, the weather or any of the other millions of variables over which we really have no control. Perhaps there is greater wisdom than we know in the ancient saying, "This too shall pass." It's true -- anything that has a beginning must also have an end, including the current cycle of economic uncertainty. That awareness may take a bit of the power away from those who worship the god of the VIX.

If the drama of the Dow has you feeling down and a bit out of control, gently guide yourself back to the remembrance of the divine essence from which you came, which is also the ultimate source of all that is. You are one with the source of your good so focus on what you do have control over -- your next breath and your next thought. May it be one that brings you peace in this moment. After all, it's really all there is, so why not breathe and enjoy the ride.