Recently, I have encountered quite a few people who are in the throes of chaotic change after having enjoyed relatively successful lives. Despite doing all the "right" things as far as achieving their education and career goals, it as if life took a sharp detour from their version of the American dream to a slow-motion-plunge down a steep embankment into oblivion.
In some cases it meant a job loss, followed by a longer-than-expected stretch of unemployment, that now seemingly threatens their ability to maintain their housing, health insurance and other "securities" to which they have become accustomed. For others it was a catastrophic business or relationship failure that consumed inordinate investments of time and money leaving them broke and broken. More than a few experienced an unexpected illness and the ensuing domino effect that such an event invariably has on work and finances. And for some of the most resilient, it included a combination of these scenarios.
From my conversations with these friends and strangers alike, and also from my personal experiences, there is one common denominator that I have observed. Somewhere deep inside of us, no matter what level of success we seemed to enjoy, we were yearning for change. It's almost like the "Universe" heard the silent call and granted the wish. And suddenly, life as we knew it, began to fall apart.
When we become addicted to the seeming comfort of our lives -- especially when we have worked diligently to create the version of life we have always imagined -- it is easy to ignore the inner calling to broaden our horizons. To grow beyond the boundaries of the accomplishments that define us when they no longer feed our heart, mind and spirit requires courage. Growth means change and change more often than not, evokes our fear of the unknown.
We can get caught up in the "why upset the apple cart" type of thought patterns and convince ourselves that it's okay to stay within the limitations of our current experience of "success." Playing it safe has its downside; it keeps us smaller than we are meant to be.
In this universe of ever-expanding potentials, it is impossible to remain stagnant. Despite our most exacting efforts to maintain the status quo, there is always an invisible force urging us to grow. Sometimes the actor who has made a career doing thrillers is filled with a desire to try comedy. Other times the Wall Street finance wiz has a frustrated artist living inside them who longs to write or paint. Or perhaps it is true, that the successful attorney is no longer passionate about law, and really wants to start a spa business.
Whatever the case, when life body-slams us causing us to clutch our heads and hearts with utter disbelief and despair screaming, "OMG, my life is falling apart!" There is a Higher Power (or the Divine aspects of ourselves) rearranging our current state of affairs to support our deepest desires for personal evolution.
If we observe this experience through eyes of resistance and try to stop the process, it often compounds the stress and complications. We can become burnt out from trying to save what is being yanked from our hands, angry over the "unfairness" of it all or just plain depressed and unable to get past the idea of "failing" on some level.
However, if we are able to surrender to the deeper message of the experience, we may find it easier to sort through the chaotic mess our life has become, in order to find an opening to the life we were yearning for in the first place. Surrender from my perspective is not synonymous with "giving up," instead I take it to mean, allowing the new levels of excellence seeking to emerge from us to flow unimpeded, by our notions about what could or should be happening.
How does this version of surrender look? I know a successful business woman and friend, who upon being diagnosed with an extremely aggressive form of cancer let almost everything and I mean EVERYTHING, go from her former life. She says:
When I got the diagnosis it was shocking. I said okay God what are we doing? What's next? And I realized that the control I tried to exercise over my life -- even with my health -- did not work. I ate well, I rode 20 miles a day in spin classes and yet, here I was. I realized I had to get rid of all the cancers in my life.
She dissolved her business partnership and formed a new company founded on principals that demand excellence while promoting health and well being; she promptly released many "cancerous" people from her life; and she sold her house and moved to a stress-free zone by the beach. In hindsight, she views the experience as "a blessing!" Because of the upheaval and the changes it inspired her to make, she now enjoys a new level of harmonious success that includes a more suitable balance of work, play and love.
When the chaos of change enters our lives, impulsively fighting to stem the tide, is like a swimmer caught in a rip current frantically trying to swim back to shore. To take such action -- no matter how great one's swimming abilities may be -- will certainly lead to one's demise.
Instead, "flowing with the river," as many sages have advised, is often the most effective option. Quiet reflection, mediation and prayer about the situation will be most helpful in that these practices help us to quell the instinctual urge to leap into action to "fix" the situation from a place of panic, fear, worry or a need to be in control at all times.
Through meditation and mindfulness we will be cultivating our center of clarity and serenity which is a more advantageous position from which to make decisions. Much like being in the eye of the hurricane, we will become the silence within the storm. It is from this place of stillness that we begin to discover our next steps leading from chaos to rebirth. Eventually, with the power of faith and inspired action propelling us forward, we will arrive at the shores of our new life.