Leaving This Moment Better
A few months ago, I had a level of stability that I was grateful for and ‘knew’ that it would remain so. I felt that I had a certain amount of agency over my life and career. My coaching and training work in Hong Kong (after our move from Mainland China) was not just showing a pulse: it looked as if it was on its way to thriving into a successful business. My first book had been published, and the next couple were written and ready as well.
Anxiety, helplessness and worry
Now, the large coaching/consulting contracts are at a standstill and this is not the right time to publish my next book. The last trickle I had of consulting work is at its tail end.
My mind is racing and yet I have to be present enough to make sure my children have a soft place to fall on when they feel stressed.
At the peak of my anxiety during this shift I looked at the desperation of the people at the frontline, people going hungry, losing jobs, the migrant workers with their children walking hundreds of miles, and of course the families losing loved ones.
I have been taking each of these heart-wrenching stories and personalising them. I watch the news and experience them as if it was I who is going through all this.
‘What if this were my mother?’
’What if this was my child?’
‘What if this was my uncle?’
’What about my husband’s health?’
‘What about the rent?’… and the school fees?
I just wanted to do something. Something, anything, to keep myself on the move.
The guilt of being an outsider and a mere observer was putting me into further despair.
Initially I only needed to have a sense of control and predictability. I got into decisive action, a tightly scheduled day or intellectualising as defense mechanism. Moving into a state of judgement of boxing circumstances into good/bad or ugly categories – all to escape from dealing with the angst/sadness that has soaked through to my cells through these months.
The quarantine has had the world frozen in time but my mind was still running the rat race.
Sure, one should sit and wait it out but it was difficult getting off the hamsters’ wheel. My mind kept telling me I was not productive enough and that I needed to make the most of this time.
People are taking classes, working on self-improvement, intense self-reflection, and all other kinds of numbing productivity. Some are working on themselves to come out better on the other side. I would miss out this ‘promised land’ on the other side if I did not join a class or got hyper-connected on zoom.
Starting with accepting what is out of my control
With deliberation and work I have taken time to heal, starting with accepting. Though this may sound preachy, I am work in progress.
I acknowledge that these circumstances have pulled the carpet from under me and it is not under my control. Any kind of incessant dwelling, judging, angst, action, intellectualisation will not make it better.
What I need at this moment is to bring attention to the center, feel, surrender and be willing to receive the blessings, the balancing, the healing this moment is making available. No 'effort', no 'doing' is required!
All the resistance has led me into judgement, and it is because I am trying to see the world from a win-lose perspective, or my personal likes or dislikes.
The world is not supposed to show up as per my likes and dislikes. It is not my personal butler catering to only my needs. There is a world beyond me. Surprisingly, I am not the center of the universe!
The more I think about my personal likes and dislikes, the more resistance I create. My anger, outrage and pain is not expediting the vaccine development or the treatment options, or alleviating anyone from their financial distress.
It doesn’t mean my heart will not hurt, it will and I will let myself go through it. We are going to be affected and we will grief, and we will deal with it in our own way.
But I will give myself the space for detached action! Look at all those people at the frontline of this disaster. Would personalising, guilt, and emotional outbursts help them serve better? Not at all!
A doctor who gets freaked out by blood cannot have an objective perspective and we wouldn’t want him or her to make decisions for us. Like the doctor, we would all be useful if we were more centered and had our wits together. Be alright with the unknowns that are unfolding.
Accepting is the first step towards contributing. Be centered and detached. Do something to alleviate someone’s pain and contribute to someone’s healing, even though the whole pandemic seems so much bigger than us. It will be a drop in the ocean albeit an important one.
My small drop will come independent of the emotional outburst and not numbing myself by service or working thoughtlessly. It will not help me until I come from a place of selflessness. The idea of self, of how the world should show up for me, and how it should serve me. Hence, I have told myself that feeling guilty for things beyond my control is also hubris.
Detachment will help you experience this moment to its fullest.
If I don’t experience this moment to the fullest, how will I be able to do/contribute/serve the moment so that it is a tad bit better? What we have is this very moment.
Take care of yourself, and if possible, serve so that you can leave this moment without contributing to the collective misery. We all will make terrible decisions if we don’t start with acceptance. Let’s all make peace with it. Then peacefully with ease, and without resistance, leave this moment better.
Speaker, trainer, author and C-suite coach. Devika Das is the Founder and CEO of CORE Executive Presence.