Meditation is the disciplined practice of being mindful of my outrageous, crazy and otherwise counterproductive thoughts and feelings…and gently coming back to my breath to create space, peace and calm in my mind and body. With practice, this gap between me and my thoughts becomes longer and more frequent. This is my time to come back to the present moment and to myself.

Of course, when things are going well it’s a lot easier to be present. You may even breathe your way back to presence when triggered by stuff that used to make you bat-shit crazy. A careless driver cuts you off in traffic – hey, no big deal. You do some deep Ujjayi breathing, smile and wave them through. You are the freakin’ Dalai Lama.

But what happens when you’re in the shit-storm? It’s not so easy to be present when life doesn’t go as planned, you lose a loved one, have your heart ripped out by someone you cared about, feel threatened or you just can’t seem to get out from the quicksand of your own meltdown?

How do you shift your perspective when you’re knee deep in shit?

We can feel at peace while securely on our yoga mats, but when real life hits you and you are faced with really big problems, do you flee or stay? Do you get played by your Ego or do you align with your True Self?

Too often, we run from challenging circumstances and our emotions when we feel triggered, uneasy or edgy, because our Ego comes from a place of fear, judgment and criticism. When you listen to your Ego, it keeps you stuck in a small place and usually leads you to more bad choices. Then we forget everything we learned in meditation and yoga and go right back to our predictable, conditioned habits. Instead of being peaceful, calm, and patient, we find ourselves becoming more unsettled and upset.

Take a look at whatever you are currently experiencing as an incredible opportunity to learn. Don’t run. Stay in that uncomfortable or frightening place. Sit with these sensations and your thoughts, feel them fully in order to let them pass. When you can stay in that place, while not manipulating or retelling the story, this is great opportunity to grow.

I know what you’re thinking, “But Audrey, I don’t WANT to feel these feelings.” Of course you don’t want to sit with edgy, sad, and frustrated feelings. Coming back to your practice is the key whenever the rug has been pulled out from under you.It’s not a quick fix, but this is a lasting method to healing.

When you feel uncomfortable, sad, hopeless or unsettled, this is the time to put some serious discipline into your practice:

  1. Feel the feelings in your body with detachment, rather than getting caught up in the story. Breathe.
  2. Gently observe where your mind takes you and what happens in your body when you are triggered. Mindfully paying attention, with detachment, to what you are going through will help you understand your own pain, and you will begin to heal broken parts of you. Breathe.
  3. Let go of holding on to or manipulating the story. This is an experience you are having, so let it be your teacher. Breathe and create space in order to understand it.
  4. Compassion is important so you can align with your True Self and soften all of the emotional chaotic edginess.  Breathe.
  5. Repeat.

Be compassionate about this process trusting you don’t need to figure it all out right now. Don’t worry about the outcome or when you will fully heal. That’s too much to consume. Continue to return to your practice of breathing, creating space and gently observing the thought or story. The thoughts will soften and you will create space from the harsh feelings. You will land in that sweet soft spot of your heart in order to see the truth. Move from that place and it will lead you to your next step, and then to the next step. The combination of steps will eventually pull you out of the darkness and toward the light.

We can choose to see what is in front of us as threatening, painful, and unfair or we can shift our perspective to one of opportunity to grow, heal and learn. Change takes time. Challenging feelings, the triggers and frustrations don’t go away, but with practice they do become less heavy. One breath at a time, you can learn to face your fears with mindfulness. You have the power to shift your perspective and use what you are currently experiencing as your teacher.