One Little Question That Will Help You Get Through AnythingI have found that, for me, almost every situation, no matter how dismal it may seem initially, can be made instantly better by one little question.  After a few minutes, OK, sometimes hours and maybe even days, and the “Oh crud! I can’t believe this!” feeling, I take a deep breath and ask myself  “How can I make this work for me?”

This one, simple question changes my perspective from being that of a victim who is helplessly at the mercy of seemingly senseless, random circumstances to a conscious person who engages my power and chooses how to take what is in front of me and work with it for my best.  This allows me to take hurdles and make them stepping stones.  Lemonade out of lemons.  Molehills out of mountains. Enough, already?

Pema Chodron, in her book When Things Fall Apart:  Heart Advice for Difficult Times says:  “Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look.”

Sometimes, I’m too emotionally close to the situation and too busy feeling like a “piece of shit,” that I forget to do this.  I mean, my first inclination is almost always to turn away or to do some slick maneuvering to avoid the situation altogether. Then, one of my wise friends will suggest otherwise or I will remember.  Then, I’m like “Oh, yeah!”

This question never fails to completely turn the situation around changing my perspective allowing me to return to my center, my peace, and my joy.  Because, as I have been told many times and as I have found to be so true, all of these qualities are not found in what happens in our lives; they are found in how we think about what happens.  These qualities are totally within your control in your brain. Pretty cool!  It’s your secret super power.

Most emotional torment and suffering, I’ve learned from my own experience, lies in the gap between expectations and reality.  In that space lies the pain and suffering.  After sitting in this space for a while and getting mad and sad, accepting what actually is here and now closes the gap.  Then, I can start thinking of how this can work for me, whatever “this” may be.

I understand that enlightened individuals never even go through the initial panic.  They shrug nonchalantly and think, “Oh, now this.”  I’m working on it, but I’m certainly not there yet.

I also remind myself that just because something causes me pain or isn’t what I expected or wanted, does not mean it’s not in my highest good or that it can’t turn out OK or for the best even.  How do I even know what is “best?”  Think about that one.  Every time I have this “aha moment” it’s like a new revelation to me and brings me so much peace and calm.

I liken it to a kid at the fair.  If the youngster had their way they would have the cotton candy, the candy apple, the blue sno cone, the caramel corn, the corn dog on a stick and maybe even the fried funnel cake too. (I wouldn’t want to sit behind them on the roller coaster! ) Not that we are all immature little kids who will indulge until we are green, but what we like, what we want, and what we think we need is not always going to provide the most growth for us or even get us to our goals.  They have to eat a little broccoli and spinach every once in a while.

The next time you are faced with a not so great situation, after the initial panic, take a big breath and ask yourself  “How do I make this work for me?”

image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jamuraa/

20 Comments

  1. Judy M. Hampton Reply

    Well said. You have had a lot of opportunity to put this into practice and have become quite good at it. They say practice makes perfect. I’d say you have practiced enough and are a real pro now. Kudoos ot you, kiddo! Love you, Mom.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Yes, I have certainly have had plenty of opportunity to put this one to use. Thank goodness, I have found tools like this that work. Makes life much better. The wonderful thing is that anyone can learn to use them!

  2. Ande Waggener Reply

    I love your kid at the fair analogy, Debbie. 🙂 I too am working on the “Oh, now this.” I’m getting better at it. It’s funny about the how question. I just finished drafting post on the right questions, and I decided my question was “what?” “What instead of this?” It gives me a different focus, but I do it from a place of “this is where I am now.” I’m practicing it right now. Mmm, spinach. 😉

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      You bring up a very good point…”the” question is going to be different for everyone. This is what works for me. Everyone has to find the one that feels right in their soul and works for them in their life. This is just a suggestion. Like a bathing suit, a person will have to try many on, I imagine, before the right fit is found. I hope, one day, I can get to the point where I kinda shrug and just observe and not react. Although, I have to tell you, I already feel like an ostrich sticking its head in the sand sometimes because not reacting or over reacting, in my case, is so foreign. Hey, another blog!

  3. Thanks for the reminder sis…. yeah, if anyone has had the opportunity to practice equanimity in their life, it is you 🙂

    For me it comes down to, when I can remember this, not getting attached to my personal agenda or preference as to the outcome of the situation. What is the correct frame of reference and what is the appropriate action for me within the right scale or context. If I zoom out too much I become ineffective and it becomes “all good” and meaningless, If I get too microscopic in my viewpoint then I don’t have the necessary objectivity to remain centered.

    Big hugs,

    Penn

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Howdy, bro! You make another good point about emotional distance. It is going to be different for every situation. I guess, that is part of my deciding how “this” works for me. It will be interesting to be more conscious of this aspect of it in the future.

      Yeah, taken too far, this can lead to the “What me worry?” attitude with everything. Not too healthy either.

  4. Dj Asselin Reply

    For me it’s the constant thought of the last three and a half years. I woke up from a coma after my brain injury and was sent to an assisted living facility. I knew that one day I would leave there, but when I had no idea. I watched many that are never leaving and it made me think that whatever happens bad from now on, or no matter how bad my neck hurts, I would simply never forget those that will never have their freedom again. I get asked all the time why I ride bikes to grocery shop, banks and to pay bills………..because I CAN!!

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Bionictoothpic?? OK! 🙂 It is funny how something “bad” makes us really grateful and able to see the good, isn’t it? It may seem like an over simplification, but it really does boil down to appreciating the basics. I can walk and run…some people can’t. You can ride your bike and be independent…some people cannot. We all have to find the one simple question or thought that turns our perspective around. Good for you!

  5. Your question, “How can I make this work for me?” is so much better, so much healthier, than the victim mentality question, “Why me?” Coming to this point is a big step up – being proactive. From this point you can start taking charge of your life. Kudos to you for stepping up to the plate and taking a big swing. It’s VERY rare that the pitch will hit the bat left resting on your shoulder and turn into a home run.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      I spent most of my life asking the “Why me?” one. This feels much better and allows me to consciously choose my actions given the circumstances which is the only power we ever really do have at all. Was never very good at baseball, but I am getting pretty good at this living happily thing. 🙂

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