Today’s article was written by Change Coach Missy Maiorano
Back in 2018, when I was struggling with anxiety and depression, I was drawn to reading biographies about people who had gone through unimaginable suffering only to emerge on the other side stronger and more peaceful and resilient than ever. In most of the stories, the people were able to find deep and abiding peace right in the midst of their struggle. I read stories of concentration camp survivors, prisoners of war, parents who had lost children, and others who had endured decades-long physical and emotional pain. In every account, the overarching theme was one of peace, gratitude, and love.
As inspired as I was by these amazing narratives, I was equally frustrated by my inability to conquer the unrelenting feelings of overwhelm and despair within me. I wondered if the heroes in these biographies had something I simply didn’t have.
After all, I wasn’t CHOOSING to be anxious and depressed. I wasn’t CHOOSING to have physical symptoms that kept my world small and full of fear. I wasn’t CHOOSING the onslaught of intrusive thoughts that raced through my mind on loop.
I genuinely wanted to be joyful, grateful, and full of peace and love. To make matters seemingly worse, my life from the outside looked pretty good. I had three healthy children, a safe and beautiful home, a loving spouse, and a wonderful network of family and friends. Still, in the presence of all of these things, I couldn’t find joy, peace, or gratitude anywhere.
I cursed my busy, relentless mind.
I felt lost. Hopeless. Resentful. There was no escape because everywhere I went, my mind went with me.
And as it turns out, THAT was the kindness of the design all along.
The very thing I wanted so desperately to escape was actually the gift. The treasure was right there, in the very center of the intrusive thoughts, the pangs of anxiety and depression, and the physical symptoms.
The things my mind had identified as the enemies—the scary narratives of what might happen, the physical symptoms, and the overwhelming emotions—were the invitations to question my unquestioned mind. They were the opportunities for decades of old beliefs and programming that no longer served me to be seen with fresh eyes and shed like old layers of dead skin. They were the invitation to be curious about what was possible beyond the limits of my intellect; beyond the story of me that my mind had so cleverly made-up.
For the first time, I was inspired to be still and get curious about what I was actually fearing, resisting, and fighting.
And, for the first time, it made sense to really question the legitimacy of my mind’s compelling stories and judgments.
What if my mind was wrong? What if it actually was not as reliable or accurate as I had been taught it was? What if there was an intelligence beyond my brain’s speedy little synapses and neurotransmitters—something greater than my mind’s creative stories?
It occurred to me: What if, beyond the comprehension of my mind, everything in this moment, right here, right now, is truly OK?
Something felt lighter about that. There was a brief moment of peace—a sensation of All is Well.
It lasted for a few seconds, like a delicate butterfly landing momentarily on my hand.
My mind quickly came back online and added a fresh new thought, “Yeah, but you still have horrible symptoms and a depression diagnosis.” The butterfly flew away and I was plunged back into this mind-created world of urgency, despair, and problems to solve.
Still, there was a sense in my belly that something new had been glimpsed. There was just enough impetus to return to curiosity.
What if, beyond the comprehension of my mind, this burst of symptoms and rush of overwhelm are actually kindness and love in disguise?
None of this made sense, of course.
But that was the whole point.
I had spent nearly five decades unknowingly enslaved by a left-brained, intellectual, judging, figuring-out primitive machine in my head. It seemed as though my five little human senses, along with that sensory-interpreting mind-machine, were my only tools for navigating the world around me. I had spent a lifetime building a formidable fortress of competence around me. I had assumed the roles of decider, manager, controller, and do-er my whole life.
Thankfully, those roles no longer fit. I had outgrown them.
It was as if I had finally woken up to the fact that I was still innocently wearing my old childhood clothes. They were tight, constricting, and limiting. It was time to shed what no longer fit.
I didn’t know, of course, what was beyond all those old roles; those layers of worn-out clothes. So, I just stayed curious and open.
I began asking, “What wants to happen” rather than trying to constantly assert my will on Life.
Instead of fighting moment-to-moment experiences like urgency, fear, tension, and confusion, I asked what they were here to show me. I didn’t look for an answer, knowing answers would surely come from the ego. But, I simply put the question out to the Universe with no expectation or agenda. Sometimes I found myself physically opening up my chest and arms as if to invite the experience to come closer. Occasionally I whispered Pema Chodrin’s words, “May this experience be a seed to my awakening and to the awakening of all who suffer.”
There was a shift from identifying as the thinker of all those thoughts, stories, and judgments to identifying more often as the witness; the observer. There was a physiological lightness in my body when I wasn’t so locked-in to being the owner and manager of experience. As a result, experience was free to arise, pause, and go on its own. Each moment was brand new and distinct: Life arising as this experience. Then, Life arising as a brand new one. Moments and experiences were no longer strung together in linear time like pearls on a necklace. This allowed for a deeper openness to being fully available to all thoughts, emotions, sensations, and circumstances, no matter what dramatic story my mind told about them.
As I played more with the role of witnessing presence, something kind of cool happened. With my own hands off the proverbial wheel, I found myself more engaged in the world. I noticed that more actions were taken, not fewer. Showing up and taking action, as it turns out, were always part of the natural flow of life. No little “me and my thoughts” required.
These days, it’s fascinating to observe how much emotion wants to move through me, to come up to the sunlight. Old stories and beliefs seem to race through me like the Santa Ana Winds sometimes. A year or two ago, I imagine this would have freaked-out my little mind. But, now, there is a clearer understanding that when we are arms-wide-open, in the loving flow of Life itself, of course those amazing energies in the form of sensations and emotions will pour more freely through us. With each burst of the Santa Ana Winds through my belly and chest, I am gently reminded that I am safe. I am held. I am lived. I am loved. All is Well.
As I finish writing this, there is an apparent absence of All is Well for many parts of our world. It may seem that if we rest as the witnessing presence rather than as the active do-er… if we relax in the loving space of All is Well…we may not be present to the needs of our fellow humans. I’d like to suggest that the opposite seems true to me.
From a space of love, we are moved to take loving action.
From a space of peace, we are drawn to take peaceful action.
From a space of All is Well, we trust the Intelligence of Life itself to breathe us, speak through us, and move us to do what is for the highest good of all.
So, let’s return to this moment. Here. Now. In this moment, All is Well.
“Live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find eternity in each moment.” Henry David Thoreau
Beautiful One, you are lost in confusion.
You’re looking through the lens of your costume again.
Of course you feel unsure and afraid.
That’s the brilliance of the design.
Take my hand.
Let me hold you for a little while.
Let me remind you of the goodness and perfection
Of this costume that bears your name.
See the humanness of the fabric
Made from fibers of insecurity and doubt.
Marvel at the beauty of the threading
Infused with expectations and preferences.
The costume is an expression of Love.
The fabric and threading are impeccable.
Nothing is out of place.
There is nothing to mend.
Beautiful One, can you sense the Love?
Can you look down upon that costume and smile?
The perfection is in the discomfort of the design.
The kindness is in its raw vulnerability.
YOU, Beautiful One, are not the costume.
YOU are the aliveness that animates her.
YOU are the breath that breathes her.
YOU are the space of love that holds her.
Simply notice how she struggles and strains.
Watch with love as she attempts to figure it all out.
Hold her with kindness as she falls to her knees.
Offer her grace as she searches for relief.
YOU are not the costume.
YOU are the expansive space of love
With the capacity to hold and heal
All that the costume brings to the light.
Learn more about Missy here: https://www.missymaioranocoaching.com/