Have you ever consciously observed yourself while doing something you'd rather not be doing?
I have - well, in retrospect, that is. Normally I am not clear enough while in the situation. But I am getting better at observing myself. Anyway, let me tell you something: my realizations from those retrospective observations scared me for a moment there.
Maybe you know the predicament: getting out of bed in the morning is a chore already because you dread this one thing. Making yourself presentable is even more of a chore. And then there is this task or thing or encounter.
The one that you've been dreading for months, the one that has kept you awake at times. The one that won't go away right in this moment just because you want it to.
It does go away. Dare I say it? - It goes away without pain and fighting on your side.
How, you ask? This surely must be a miracle - it sort of is one. But one that you can make happen.
The secret is: acceptance. Let me say that again: A C C E P T A N C E.
Very simple, but not easy.
Especially when you first come across this way of life.
It's all about loving what is. Loving "it" to pieces, then sorting through the pieces and putting those that work for you back together in a new constellation, and adding a few new pieces. Making "it" your best friend, treating "it" with compassion, and then letting "it" go.
It's like meeting someone you don't like very much (now) and saying "thank you. I've enjoyed (or gotten something out of) your companionship while it lasted, but now I've had enough, so I will do without complaining or fighting whatever it takes to help you move on. And I will turn this situation around so it fits me perfectly, and you also get the attention and credit you deserve. That way, we're both happy and can stop making each other miserable."
Create a win-win situation, and any old bugger will gladly let you off the hook. That's because you're letting yourself off the hook.
Now, isn't that beautiful?
You don't believe it works? - Oh, it does. Try it! You've got nothing to lose and a life full of joy and effortlessness to win. :-)
In case this has been too theoretical, here's a very recent example from my life: I've had to take this CFA exam. Again.
Let me explain: in the financial services industry, where I work, there is a professional designation by the name of Chartered Financial Analyst. To get it, one needs to pass three rigorous exams, and it takes at least 2.5 years to do that. So, if you fail one of the three levels, you get to retake it the following year (and pay for it all over, buy new study materials etc.). The exams have been designed in a way that makes passing one a bit of a gamble, even when you're super prepared. And you never find out what went wrong, either. Why am I still at it then? - Trust me, if you, like me, work for a company that sees this designation as essential for career progression, you will keep taking these exams until you're done.
I am currently in my fifth year of CFA activity. And i just found out this afternoon that it is my last year. I'm off the hook, as I have finally passed the Level III exam! Woohoo!!! :-)))
So, what did I do the time I failed Level II, and then again when I failed Level III?
Ok, failing Level II was sort of programmed into my life at that point, because I was constantly attending to family issues, with my grandfather and one of my cousins both in hospital with life-threatening diseases at the time. So I won't elaborate on this one. Let's file the experience under "allowing myself to be distracted by life and worry about sickness and death."
But failing my first attempt at Level III? How did that happen? - I had fought hard. I had spent hours and hours preparing. So I had been truly on top of my game.
Or so I made myself belief.
In retrospect, the picture is completely different: I had spent hours and hours fighting the whole experience. Pitying myself, bitching about the people who set up such exams, the unfairness of it all, the injustice of my company making such a big deal of this thing and so on. Hating every second I spent reading or solving practice problems. Just like it is fashionable in the circles of people who have (repeatedly) failed such exams.
I had also spent my free time pounding away at the gym (not something I ever enjoyed, but believed necessary for balance!), and, yes, I admit it, stuffing my mind with Danielle Steel novels downloaded to my brandnew Kindle to keep from worrying too much about the exam.
At night, I would have a customary glass of wine with dinner to relax. And my food choices became more fast food oriented at home. I also was eating out a lot for a perceived lack of time for proper cooking. So I thought I had it all under control, pretty much. The usual fight, so to speak.
And to be honest, quality of life just has to suffer when you’re facing a challenge in life, right?!
– Sooooo wrong!
When I found out that I had failed rather than nailed the exam that summer, I was devastated; my ego hurt and my livelihood impaired. It was like a major punch in my stomach. And meant another precious spring would have to be spent going through the motions again.
But first things first: that experience brought me this close to burn-out. I’ll spare you the details. In the end, I decided to listen to my inner voice and reduce my work hours. Now I work 4 days a week, and am much more balanced and happy.
I also started an intensive yoga course to learn relaxation techniques and to get back into shape physically and mentally. And when my more balanced body prompted me to do so, I gradually changed my nutritional habits from omnivorous (with digestion issues) to ~80% raw and vegan with a preference for fresh fruits and veggies. I got into juicing and green smoothie-ing.
I know this time, something really big went right in my preparation. So I already considered the experience an all-out victory, before knowing the exam result. Tonight, I see myself confirmed, and know that I have truly learned something for life. Through this experience of having to take that exam again. And I've passed, despite all the CFA-Institute prescribed things I deliberately chose not to do!!!
So how did that work? - I accepted that this was a time in my life when I was meant to take that exam again. And that I was being presented with the same situation over because I had yet to experience it joyfully (which, really, is what we are here for on this planet). In other words, I had to go through it again to ultimately dissolve the whole unpleasant experience.
And I did it: I managed to love this exam.
I can pretty well imagine that you’re incredulous at this point.
I also loved the preparation going into it. And that did not mean spending 300 hours (the average amount of time the successful candidate reports spending on preparation) to make myself feel well-prepared. On the contrary, I spent way less than that this year. And still felt and feel good about it.
I promised myself to only sit down to study or do practice exams when feeling motivated to do so. And that every minute spent preparing would be efficiently and effectively utilized.
And when I did not have a choice of the timing during the weeklong intensive review course in April, I chose to love that, too. And to be grateful for the opportunity to review almost all of the material in such a short period of time without having to divide my attention between review and work topics.
Life is just brilliant at throwing gifts at us that we don’t recognize as such at first sight. But if we manage to change our perspective - wow, just wow!
I also promised myself that I would take superior care of my body, mind and soul in the prep phase and during the excruciating six hours of sitting still with very limited access to water on exam day.
And that I would be balanced and eating well, sleeping enough and getting my share of fun and also good exercise. That's also how the photo of me doing a headstand that I posted recently came about - it was my play time while preparing for the exam. I also made sure to spend quality time with my partner and family - something I had thoroughly neglected in previous iterations of the same study cycle. It’s easy and even expected of the candidate to ignore friends and family during that time, too – the CFA Institute has been known to supply candidates with preprinted postcards that warn friends and family that it’s crunch time for the candidate and that they shouldn’t expect any sort of interaction ahead of exam day!
This time around, I also joined a wonderful online women's circle where there is an abundance of loving interaction and mutual support. I signed up for distance Reiki treatments to help me stay balanced and positive. In other words, I made sure to set up a support network for myself, so I would have genuine cheerleaders in addition to my loved ones when I needed them.
Let me tell you something: don’t ever believe anyone who tells you that asking for help is a sign of weakness!
Asking for the help you need is a sign of great maturity and awareness and that you are taking superior care of yourself!
I also went on a fast from my work blackberry, television, radio and news in general. Put "monkey mind" to rest. I made sure to detox my body, too, by relying heavily on green smoothies for nourishment, and by cleansing. No more gym. Truly enjoyable yoga sessions in the park instead. No crappy novels to feed "monkey mind", but uplifting books and blogs about balancing life. Meditation, intention setting and breathing exercises instead of bitching about the unfairness of it all. And spending plenty of time outside in the sun and in the forest instead of locking myself up indoors. I started my blog, to throw something creative in the mix. And finally, the last few days before the exam, I announced to my friends on facebook that I would be taking a facebook hiatus and they were welcome to call or email if they wanted to be in touch so that I would not be sidetracked by facebooking too much. Again, a way to keep "monkey mind" from running wild.
So, when exam day rolled around on June 2, I was well rested and generally happy. Because I had precisely not put my life and well-being on hold during exam preparation. The fact that I didn’t sleep well the night before because of things going on in my family didn’t make me less rested, really, because I had taken such good care of myself previously.
I had also planned my exam day routine beforehand: found a place in town open early in the morning where I could pick up some fresh veggie juice for a light and invigorating breakfast, prepared my green smoothie and almond milk for lunch the night before the exam, and committed to removing myself from the test center during lunch break and to sit out in nature, quietly, without any last minute cramming or discussion of morning session questions with fellow CFA candidates.
Actually, I inwardly smiled when I returned from lunch break just to run into countless pale-faced and hunched over people busily talking to themselves, trying to commit formulas to memory at the very last minute. And I silently wished them luck, a relaxed attitude and much clarity for the afternoon session.
And you know what: with all my mindful and balanced preparation, it still was an incredibly tiring experience that left me feeling empty and beat the day after.
But I am also overjoyed to report that I have never before experienced a CFA exam with such calm and focus. And I’ve never had more time to read the questions properly, find my way around the tricky parts and check my results. And recheck them. And I’d never before sat these exams without fatigue, blood sugar lows, food cravings, nail-biting, headaches and hating every moment of the experience. This time around, I just sailed through. It felt brilliant and exhilarating!
Now, am I berating myself for not having realized and applied all this sooner? No and no and no! I didn’t know any better. There is no point in losing sleep over “mistakes” you’ve made in the past. The point is to live in the present moment. And it is this very moment that you can change from misery to mind-boggling joy!
My working assumption is that I have made the best choice possible at every point given the knowledge that was available to me then. And I assume that everyone else also makes the best choice possible. Always. So stop scolding yourselves for things you now believe were wrong choices! Just change the present moment, and you'll be beyond fine in the future.
So here’s the message I’d like you to remember from all of this: love life. Every minute. Every second. Every challenge. Every setback. Every rain drop and every gush of wind that leaves your hair in disarray. Every painful moment, every bit of physical pain. It’s all here to tell you something. To get your attention.
Laugh. Breathe deeply. Dance. Sing. Smile. Hug your loved ones. Embrace everything lovingly, especially your enemies.
And remember: it all is for your best. You just may not be able to see it that way yet.
Last but not least:
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who helped see me through this experience. You know who you are. <3<3<3
Love, light and healing to you and all your challenges,
P.S. Did I mention that I am available for coaching? - Well, now you know. :-)