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9 steps to a new life

I had a touching message yesterday from a reader of this blog whose life is being turned upside down by a nasty divorce that also affects a number of children.

“I’m having a difficult time dealing with the rejection and being all alone in an empty apartment with my clothes and laptop,” says this man. “Do you have any advice on how I can let go, rebuild and move on to a meaningful life?”

As I thought about this request it occurred to me that there are no doubt other readers who are also facing challenging circumstances, so I thought I’d share some ideas and suggestions through this post.

1. Let yourself feel your feelings

This is a very hard thing for most people to do, at least when the feelings are painful, frightening, and hard to bear. We’ve been conditioned — at least I was — to try to escape unpleasant feelings. We suppress them. We try to drown them in work, play, alcohol, sex, a new car, a new house or some other distraction.

But I have found in my own life after quite a few traumas that the quickest route to healing and happiness — in fact the only route — is to let ourselves feel our feelings at all costs. If we do, we will make an extraordinary discovery. Any feeling, no matter how awful, or how delightful, has a beginning and an end.

The payoff, if we take this immensely challenging step, is that it opens the door to a real miracle. We become aware of something that does not have a beginning or an end — our own true presence, untroubled and undisturbed through all eternity by any of the vicissitudes of our life.

2. Create a daily ritual

Giving yourself permission to feel your feelings is not “soft,” or weak. It has nothing to do with being a victim. It takes real strength to feel what you are feeling without either wallowing in it or trying to escape from it.

So here’s a suggestion. Create a daily ritual, or ceremony for yourself. It won’t be forever, just until you begin to feel some relief and confidence. Take 15 minutes a day (adjust as you wish — perhaps in the evening) when the only thing you do is sit quietly in a chair and feel whatever comes up in your heart.

You may be surprised by the power of this ritual. It not only opens a door to reconnect with yourself at a deeper level, it also begins to create some boundaries. For example, if painful feelings come up during the day — tell them they will have to wait a little. They will have their chance to be heard later at such and such a time.

 3. Do whatever comforts you and enlivens you

One of my lifelines, when I was deep, deep down in an abyss of despair a few years ago, was going to my favorite coffee shop each afternoon. I was very religious about this. The world might be falling apart beneath my feet, but the coffee shop didn’t seem to be fazed by my tribulations at all.

The people who served me coffee were as cheerful as ever. And just being aware of other people being “normal” — living “normal” lives as they went about their business, sipping their lattes, telling stories, discussing business, or working hard at their computer was very therapeutic.

It helped to relieve my sense of isolation and reminded me that no matter what was going on in my own life, I was part of the larger family of humankind and there was a big blessing in that.

Of course, you may not be into coffee shops. Do you like reading? Do you like hiking? Do you like being with nature? Sometimes a good way to get in touch with your own joy is to remember something that gave you joy when you were a child. I loved reading when I was a kid. I still love books 70 years later.

Your mind may tell you you’re never going to heal or build a new life. But don’t listen to your mind. Listen to life, listen to the wisdom of your own authentic self and let it tell you what you can do that will enliven you and bring you joy.

 4. Do something for someone else

Do something for someone else. This piece of wisdom has been around for a long time, but this is because it works. It connects us immediately with the kindness, compassion and love that is the core of our own being.

And by the way, it doesn’t have to be something big or spectacular. Just smiling at a neighbor or a lady serving you in a supermarket will do it. Little steps to serenity and well-being are just as important as big steps — perhaps even more important.

 5. Perhaps you can volunteer somewhere?

Along this line, perhaps you can volunteer somewhere, and help other people in that way?

6. Stay close to Nature

Staying close to Nature is key, it helps keep us grounded in times of trouble. Find a stream and listen to it. Look at a tree and admire it. Or how about getting a dog?

JoAnn and I don’t have a dog, but we live in a town house complex in which quite a few people do have dogs. I find patting a neighbor’s dog is very therapeutic. The dog usually enjoys it too.

7. Let go of your wife

Let go of your wife. As long as you are estranged from each other she’s the last person you should look to right now for any kind of help or useful conversation. Give her the dignity and space to pursue her own path at this juncture in her life — while you do the same.

 8. Get regular exercise

Exercise has been a true lifesaver for me and countless others in times of trouble. Scientists have discovered that exercise helps burn up stress hormones — amazing, isn’t it?

9. Forgive your ex-wife

Forgive your ex-wife. This may be a hard thing to do, especially now. But it’s critical not only for her but for you too.

If you follow these steps and stay with it you will come to a place of stillness and peace in yourself where forgiveness becomes more and more easy and natural — as easy and natural as breathing. What do you have to lose?

A remarkable Londoner named Alice

I read a remarkable story the other day of a 107-year-old Londoner named Alice Herz-Sommer. She was once a concert pianist in Central Europe, and is believed to be the oldest living survivor of the Holocaust.

Alice, who performed more than a hundred concerts while in a concentration camp, refused to hate those who imprisoned her and her family. Although she lost everything, including her husband, mother and later, a son who died in 2001, Alice insists: “Yet, life is beautiful.”

Your own true greatness is calling you

There are bigger fish to fry here than merely surviving your current misfortune. This difficult, heart-wrenching circumstance is actually an opportunity brought to you by life to discover your own true greatness.

As one of my favorite teachers, Gangaji, puts it: “If for one moment you will allow yourself the experience of losing everything, REALLY losing everything, you can tell the radical truth of what is always present.”

What is always present is the eternal freedom and peace at the core of your own being, unborn and undying, not subject to any external circumstance.  As you allow it to do so it will expand and grow like a flower unfolding its petals in the spring — or like the little chick in the pic.

Blessings and good luck to you. Thank you for your trust in writing to me.

If anyone has any thoughts or experiences to add to this post I’d love to hear from you. What has helped you to meet the challenges of your life? 

Picture credit:

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4063/4488901458_9ec229d3ae.jpg

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandra Lee January 17, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Christopher,
I’m touched by how deeply you see the truth. I hope this piece of advice will help many who are in the midst of turbulence and wishing to rebuild their life. Each and everyone of these suggestions is so helpful on both a mundane level (the coffee shop!) and a profound level (the quote from Gangaji). It was a great inspiration to read this! Thank you.
Sandra Lee recently posted..Free Yourself with Free Writing

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Christopher Foster January 17, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Thankyou Sandra. Thankyou for your words and thankyou for your encouragement and support. I want to reciprocate fully and freely. I love the title of your current post and also the one Patti mentions. I’ll be sure to check both of them out.

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Patti Foy January 17, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Hi Christopher,

How sweet of you to tend to your readers like you do.

These are all such great suggestions… I especially like #’s 1 and 3 because in this fast-paced society it’s often expected that we should move on really quickly. Too quickly, in my opinion. My experience is that taking whatever time you need to continue to feel the feelings and nurture yourself through it is invaluable for real healing and is where many of the gifts lie.

And just last night I ran across a post by Sandra Lee that is jam-packed with so much good info on a very similar topic, with more links at the end, including to a series she did. Perhaps your reader(s) might find some comfort and guidance here:
http://alwayswellwithin.com/2011/01/12/have-you-lost-a-part-of-yourself/

And finally: You like Gangaji? Me too! Great minds… ;-)

Lots of blessings to you!
Patti Foy recently posted..Kiss Your Cold Goodbye Fast With These 20 Natural and Vibrational Remedies

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Christopher Foster January 17, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Patti, thanks, great to hear from you on this. Thanks for your thoughts and also the link and your input re Sandra. Talk about synchronicity. Sandra has sent a comment too that I haven’t looked at yet but I will.

It is very, very special to find kindred spirits in this world. And you are surely a kindred spirit Patti. Hugs.

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Amy Parmenter January 18, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Christopher: This is perfect. Nothing really needs to be added.

But, since I always appreciate comments on my blog I must honor this post with an offering!

Steps 1 and 2 really resonated with me because after my brother died I needed some help. For the first time, I started to write in a daily journal. Actually, I wrote a letter to my brother each day. As I would write, I could picture his response – laughing, smiling, concurring, whatever…and it kept him alive for me in a very peaceful way. Over time…I needed to write less…but it was a comforting ritual when I did it on a daily basis and I turn to it still on occasion.

I’m not sure who this divorcee could write to…but if he could express his feelings in such a way that they were received without judgment, then I’m sure they would be sooner to pass and he’d be sooner to heal.

I have only come to know your site as a fellow alister – but it has certainly made it worth this month’s membership. Wonderful.

Amy Parmenter
The ParmFarm.com

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Christopher Foster January 18, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Hi Amy. What a wonderful idea you had, writing a letter each day to your brother. Thankyou so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences. So happy to be getting to know you.

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The Vizier January 20, 2011 at 10:45 am

Hi Christopher,

There are so many challenges we can face in life. I am glad that you have shared your experiences on how to handle these challenges with us. Here are some of the thoughts I had as I read through your suggestions.

1. Let yourself feel your feelings

I have personally struggled with my emotions when I was younger over heartbreak. It was the most painful thing I ever felt. But I realized from my experience that I had to face and accept the pain I felt. Denying it or numbing it with substances would not resolve my issues, it would only prolong my suffering and make it worse. Only by hitting rock bottom could I begin my upward climb once more.

More importantly, after years of emotional turmoil I realized that the way I perceived the situation was the cause of my suffering. When I learned to manage my perceptions better and to see things as a lesson I needed to learn to grow, my suffering lessened and I moved on in life, at peace with myself.

3. Do whatever comforts and enlivens you

I love your coffee shop lifeline. For me, when I was in the depths of despair, I could not face people. Instead I took long naps and brooded myself to sleep. Worrying uses up a huge amount of energy and I just let my worry wear itself and me out so that I could sleep and heal. This is definitely one of the ways I got over things. I slept and slept until I was ready to face the world again.

I would like to expand on my point of perception above. As an INFJ, I suffered terribly from my excess of feelings especially in affairs of the heart. It took me many years before I learned self-control. One of the most important ways I learned was to change the way I perceived events. Instead of putting myself first, I put the person I loved first. Since love does not fade with rejection, I knew I had to rechannel that energy before it drove me mad.

Thus, I tried my best to focus on what was best for her, to put her interest first. Since I claimed to love her, then I tried to do whatever it was to fulfil her wishes and make her happy even at my expense. The facts are facts. But if we can derive some meaning, some reason from the pain, it makes it easier to bear our own suffering. And to do so, we must put the person who has caused us that pain first instead of our own wishes and needs first.

Thank you for sharing this thought provoking article! :)

Irving the Vizier
The Vizier recently posted..The Price of Freedom

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Christopher Foster January 20, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Irving, thank you for your fine comment. I love where you describe how freedom came when you faced your feelings and let yourself hit “rock bottom”. I also love that you were willing to change your perceptions — how vital this quality of flexibility is to our own growth and sanity.

This has been a crazy week and I can’t remember if I’ve left a comment at your blog yet this week or not but I promise you it is on my list. Every good wish.

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THe Exception January 20, 2011 at 10:57 am

This was interesting – and I am way late in responding! About two years ago I experienced something similar to what your e-mail stated. Friends definitely helped me get through it as did talking it through, writing it out, just letting myself feel the feelings and sitting with them. That said, it wasn’t a quick process in the slightest – and I kept in mind that the experience was one that I appreciated for all that I would gain.

The challenge, for me, was that it centered around a child – in this I mean my focus was the well being of my daughter while his focus was me… and the two didn’t work well together. While I fought for the well being of my daughter, he fought me. We did the no contact rule, at his request, which ended up hurting our daughter more than anything else because children need to see their parents respecting one another and working together.

Given that this man has kids, I love your suggestions – and I ask that he remember that his actions are models for his children. They are perceptive – more than he can imagine… Respect his kids, his mom, and himself… and do it with integrity.

Two years later and my daughter’s father has destroyed his relationship with our daughter in large part because of his treatment of her mom and treating her less like a person and more like a pawn in this situation. Remember, no matter how it hurts, there is enough blame to go around… and that in the end, the kids are all about love… and the parents are a team that loves those kids whether they live together or apart.

Just my two cents.

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Christopher Foster January 20, 2011 at 8:10 pm

A wonderful, wonderful comment. Thankyou so much for these thoughts and experiences, all so touching and meaningful. I have to tell you — one blogger to another — getting a comment like this is a treat and I am sure others will appreciate your thoughts too. Be well.

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Mary Jaksch | Goodlife ZEN January 24, 2011 at 4:25 am

Aaaah – your posts are like a balm. I really love coming to your blog when I feel a bit stressed, Chris.
Mary Jaksch | Goodlife ZEN recently posted..Strengthen Your Inner Core With a Little Soul Training

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Alison Kerr | Loving Nature's Garden January 24, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Christopher, I think your tips are spot on. You have a lovely way of sharing to help your readers. I’ve been through my own share of loss. Taking time to be sad, appreciating little things (like your coffee ritual), and also sticking with a routine to get through the day all helped.

Unfortunately the sadness takes much longer to heal from than we would wish. It’s important to focus in on the present moment as much as possible to help with adjusting. Minute by minute, then hour by hour, then day by day, then month by month, somehow we get through.
Alison Kerr | Loving Nature’s Garden recently posted..A simple guide to buying vegetable seeds

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Christopher Foster January 25, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Thankyou so much for your comment Alison. Just lovely to hear from you. I think your point about focusing on the present moment as much as possible is so important and relevant in any kind of healing situation, and goodness knows, in one way or another we are all in a healing process aren’t we.

I appreciate so much your taking the time to make a comment. Blessings — and a hug.

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Tess The Bold Life January 25, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Christopher,
You are an example for us all. We never ever know the impact our words will have on people. There are clients who purchase my book and don’t read it. Then 5 years later they let me know they read it and carry on how I inspired them.

I’ve had people buy it at used book sales and then call me for coaching. It’s just another reminder of what power words have even when we think they’ve been forgotten;)
Tess The Bold Life recently posted..Running- Why My World Revolves Around It

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Tamal Krishna Chandra February 12, 2011 at 7:45 am

Your suggestions are great to live a happy and peaceful life. But according to me, if you want to be happy in your life, you have to have a very strong wish to be happy in your life.

It is definitely not same for everyone as everyone is different from one another. So everyone has different views about life. I think that it is very important to at first understand the true meaning of life and why you should always try to be happy.

If you understand it from the bottom of your heart, it will not be difficult for you to become happy in every part of your life, no matter whatever situations you are in…….
Tamal Krishna Chandra recently posted..Living Your Life In a World of Nothing

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Christopher Foster February 12, 2011 at 10:04 am

Thank you Tamal. I appreciate your comments and clarifications here very much. I am with you absolutely in your fine work and your unique contribution to life. Blessings.

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rose March 11, 2011 at 3:33 pm

I am actually in the beginning stages of a seperation. I found out my husband was having an affair 2 months ago with a co-worker. I made him leave our home because it was becoming unhealthy mentally and physically for me and my son. Who unfortunately because of his age knows everything. This is not his first affair, I have had several myself early on in our marriage. He is choosing to have his now. He says I should understand, and in a way I do, but it doesn’t make it hurt less and I never moved in with person. He had no choice but to though because his family will not let him stay with them since they do not like what he has done to his family. He is still paying and providing for us financially and say he will always be there for us no matter. But it has been a battle of emotions for me, because I am an emotional person. I hate him one day, miss him and love him another and have shown it. I have been called a victim by friends who want me to start moving on. I am seeking therapy which is helping, but even she says its a slow process. The other day i broke down and asked him to come back. I feel awful now for doing it and he even said it’s not that simple when he cares for someone else. But I have been doing a lot of reading about inner peace and it is slowly sinking in that I have to start really taking care of myself and my needs and stop worrying about him and his actions. In other words I have to start letting go. Whether he will come back or not remains to be seen, but I cannot think of that now. My problem is that I made myself dependant on him and I need to change that. I know I need to start creating my own happiness, my own life because it will not only benifit me but my son. I also need to do alot of change within. This whole situation has made me realize there are a lot of things within myself that I don’t like. This has made me face some hard truths about myself and got me thinking about how I could of done things differently, handle or approached things differently. So thank you for your words, they have resonated.

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