Valerie was frantic and pacing. “What is going to happen!” she yelled, “I’m stuck in this house with no one to talk to!” Her friend, John, quirked a brow but Valerie didn’t notice, “My job is fading and the government says a potential viable vaccine could be a year and a half away. What are we going to do?”
On her phone screen, John smiled and asked, “Valerie, are you sick?” Valerie shook her head.
“You’re home alone and you’re not sick now,” John pointed out, which made his friend angrier.
“What’s your point?” Valerie snapped.
“I have one suggestion for you,” John said.
Valerie stopped pacing long enough to throw her friend a quizzical look.
“Mindfully surrender.” John said.
Valerie scoffed. What a ridiculous idea! But then she considered how calm John was, even now. In fact, John always seemed calm, and it wasn’t because his life was charmed. He was calm when his wife left. He was calm when his father died. Yes, he mourned, but he didn’t throw himself on the floor and wail every time something bad happened the way Valerie did.
“How do you mean?” Valerie asked.
What to Do
Many people feel like Valerie right now. Mindfulness won’t make your life easy but with time and practice it will make life easier to handle. Find a comfortable place to sit in your home and even if you just take 5 minutes, create for yourself the emotional and physical space to sit in quiet stillness and reflect. Mindfully surrendering in this context consists of 5 steps.
Determine the underlying source of your fear. Are you afraid of death? Are you afraid of the pain? Are you afraid of being broke and destitute? Be specific. Mindfulness is about being present in the moment without being overwhelmed by what’s happening, and without judgment. Don’t judge, belittle, or dismiss your fear. Go deep within and find it.
If the feared event actually happens, then what? Can you control it? If so, how? What steps would you take? For instance, through their conversation, John learns that Valerie is afraid of getting sick and ending up with a mountain of bills. Between the two friends, they identify three possible solutions if the bills come. Valerie can; a) negotiate a payment plan with her creditors, b) fundraise through crowdsourcing or some other method, or c) file bankruptcy.
Armed with a plan, you can stop being afraid. For the things you can’t control, (e.g. getting sick despite all your precautions), surrender. Visualize letting go of your fear in whatever way speaks to you. For example, blow your fear into a balloon and release it into the sky, or place it in your palm and crush it, then blow it away like chaff.
Return to the present; is the thing you fear happening right now? Whenever your mind starts racing, interrupt it with a mantra that brings you back to the present, such as “I am healthy right now”, or “I am here and I’m fine”.
Create a specific plan for what you can control and surrender the rest. Being present doesn’t mean an absence of planning for the future. You can plan today for tomorrow’s success. But do your best not to stress about things you can’t control. Surrender the economy, your job situation, other people, and all those other things you can’t influence. Where finances are concerned, make a plan to minimize current expenses as much as you can and look for other employment if a new job is needed.
In everything you do, remember that panicking will not help move your strategy forward. After all, today is the tomorrow you were so worried about yesterday, and you are still here.