I have something special to share with you this week. But first, I have a small request to make of you: take a moment to look at the image below. Take your time. See the details. Try to feel what the image is saying to you. Next, ask yourself how this image is making you feel: relaxed? at peace? inspired? Hmm…a bit bored?
OK, that’s understandable. Meditation and spirituality are challenging subjects to learn and understand. But the fact is that without them, we would live half-empty lives. Think of a chair with four legs. Take these out of (they go hand in hand) and the chair will topple. Nurture them and you will have the right balance for a fruitful, rich life.
If you’ve spent some time on my blog, you probably know by now that the ocean is a very important part of my life.I have lived near it for most of my adult life, having been born a mere 50 meters away from it. And for as long as I can remember, the ocean has always provided me a with a sense of awe and wonder.
Living in the Mexican Caribbean, I have had my share of large storms (and one huge one a.k.a. Wilma!) and have seen firsthand a very dark side of nature’s fury and power. But thankfully, and for the most part, I have also experienced its incomparable beauty and spiritual generosity.
The sea is an endless source of inspiration, discovery, and transformation.
Not convinced? Consider:
The ocean provides healing.
It nurtures our emotional and spiritual well-being.
Remember the first time you saw the ocean?
What did you feel?
HOW did you feel after spending time swimming, surfing, kite boarding,etc. in the ocean? Energized? Renovated? Clear headed?…At peace?
Guess what. You experienced spiritual generosity. Celebrate it!
A storm is coming…
Now, below is another picture. Again, have a look. Go through the same exercise as above. What do you feel! What does it convey to you? Foreboding? Anxiety? Fear?
Yes, my friends. As sure as the sun rises every morning, you can bet a storm is headed your way. It is a simple but inescapable part of life. People who faced adversity know this only too well.
And once the storm hits, for a moment at least, you will probably feel all of the above emotions, perhaps as a trickle first, but then, as the storm intensifies and eventually rages around you, emotions like uncertainty, self-doubt, fear, and shame may easily overwhelm you.
Of all the difficult emotions out there, why did I put these four at the top of my list?
Michael, Eric, and Tony are part of a select group of gifted communicators dedicated to improving the lives of millions of people worldwide through self-development and leadership skills. They also advocate spiritual and emotional awareness as a foundational skill that can lead to significant changes in our lives, allowing us to reach our full potential.
Also actively involved in the PD niche is Vishen Lakhiani, author of The Code of the Extraordinary Mind and founder of Mindvalley, Scott Smith, CEO and chief motivational officer of motivationtomove.com, and Ray Edwards of The Ray Edwards Show.
Lately, I have been watching their videos on YouTube, but mostly I have been listening intently to their podcasts. I have implemented and shared some of their most valuable teachings with friends and loved ones for one very simple reason: they WORK!
What I am about to present to you here is a condensed recap of a few of their teachings, as I have come to interpret them.
Spiritual fortitude and wellness are not as elusive to obtain as you may think…
“Just remember to try and keep an open heart and mind!”. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, wouldn’t you agree?
Let’s begin by understanding and shedding some light on the four emotions that made my list. You can think of them as fierce adversaries, determined to undermine your self-esteem at every turn:
Back in the 70s (the dynasty era of American Football), there existed an infamous group of players that became legendary for their notorious defensive strategies on the gridiron. Their field authority was so complete, their aggression so devastating, they became known as the “Fearsome Foursome”.
Their names were Rosey Grier, Lamar Lundy, Merlin Olsen and Deacon Jones. Stay with me on this…you see, the way they dominated the game was very simple: they instilled crippling amounts of uncertainty, doubt, shame and, most notably, fear, on to their hapless opponents. And man oh man were they ever successful. The LA Rams went from a mediocre second division team to an NFL powerhouse, winning seven straight division titles from 1973 to 1979.
Ok, ok, so I also like football (a lot!). How does this relate to wellness and spiritual growth? Really, how is this relevant?
Let’s take this example:
A seasoned surfer, standing at the shoreline, and looking out at a massive break, let’s say, Mavericks. It’s early morning, and not particularly sunny (what’s new!). Half a mile out, bomber after bomber pounds and drills the legendary break…it sort of looks like this…
It’s 35 ft+ and rising…
What feelings do you think are going through our brave charger’s mind?
Self-doubt? Uncertainty?, Fear? (that’s a given), Shame? Take your pick. Let’s briefly break this down:
We all have frequent bouts with this adversary, the first of the “Fearsome Foursome”.
Anybody who denies never experiencing self-doubt is probably lying to you.
Even the most accomplished watermen and women like Mark Haley, Maya Gabeira, Andrew Cotton, visionary entrepreneurs and financial titans like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Warren Buffet, or sport megastars like Roger Federer, Leonel Messi, or Tom Brady, have all had to deal with self-doubt at some stage during their incredible careers.
If not dealt with appropriately and in time, self-doubt can be one of the “Fearsome Foursome” ‘s toughest players to beat. Your best strategy against self-doubt is practicing and becoming proficient at mastering your thoughts. You need to learn how to literally think your way out of self-doubt.
Your thoughts, and more importantly, your emotions (which are turbo-charged thoughts) can help you overcome self-doubt at every turn.
The seasoned surfer mentioned above knows this.
By focusing his thoughts on the successes of past sessions, some certainly more daunting than this one, he exerts control over his doubts. Gradually, he starts emptying his heart and mind of self-doubt, replacing it with healthy amounts of confidence.
In a few short minutes, he has been able to effectively control his thoughts and emotions. But now, as he begins to wax his board, he recognizes two more very familiar emotions creeping up his heart and slowly invading his mind. He knows them all too well. One of them is uncertainty.
Not being in control of your environment can be as disabling as having self-doubt. Just ask anyone who has been through a natural disaster like an earthquake (we have those regularly in Mexico!), a tornado or a hurricane (them too!).
Not being in control can make you feel extremely vulnerable, confused, and many times, it makes you feel as if you are the victim of insurmountable circumstances.
You fall into the “why did this happen to me!” trap. And, for a while, it is actually ok to feel this way…but only for a while.
You must try to remove yourself from that self-destructing attitude as soon as you are emotionally ready to move forward. And one simple but very effective you can accomplish this is by changing the phrasing; from “why did this happen TO me” to “why did this happen FOR me”.
See what just happened?
This changes the whole context of how to deal with uncertainty. Think about circumstances or situations that have been serious life-changing experiences for you. Maybe you got fired, or you lost a large sum of money investing. Perhaps you went through something more intimate, like losing a loved one.
Try asking yourself not why this happened TO you, but rather, why this happened FOR you.
In other words, what lessons, benefits or changes in your life can you apply and use from this experience?
I have found out that applying this strategy to an event as sad as losing someone very close to me truly served as a literal compass. It helped me navigate through the stormy seas of uncertainty until I was able to reach much calmer waters.
Make this strategy your own. It really works!
Back to our courageous big wave charger.
So he’s been able to control self-doubt by focusing his thoughts on effective, relevant self-talk. He has overcome uncertainty by acknowledging that this moment is happening FOR him: to push his physical and emotional limits once more, to challenge his well-earned wave knowledge, currents, riptides and weather conditions which can all weigh heavily on the end result: a memorable session full of stoke or a disastrous visit to the local hospital.
As he finishes waxing his board, he looks away, his gaze is now on the horizon.
The bombers are relentless, almost surreal.
His experience and wave knowledge kick into gear: he figures 40 ft +.It’s getting really big out there.
Fear, which had been firmly under control, breaks loose.
And for a brief moment, his heart and mind take a brutal pounding from this, the most powerful and relentless player of the “Fearsome Foursome”. It’s bad. For an instant, he can’t breathe. It paralyzes him. He regains control again. But fear has firmly settled in his gutt…he feels beads of cold sweat on his forehead. Even with his steamer snuggly on, an uncomfortable wet shiver spreads all over his body. It has nothing to do with the cold weather around him.He shakes his head as he gazes at the massive bombers half a mile out…”What the hell am I doing??”.
Yes. Fear can be all that. And more.
But fear can also be your strongest ally if you recognize it and embrace for what it is. If you have the determination to face your fears, something awesome and quite unexpected happens.
Fear can make you take that decision which you have been avoiding for so long. Whether you do or do not do what you have been avoiding to do, fear forces you into a decision. You may not do anything or you may decide to actually do something about it. Either way, fear requires that you make a decision.
Fear can also be transformational.
It can make you push your limits, helping you to move out of your comfort zone, and allowing you to grow in many aspects of your life.
And, most of all, fear can make you feel alive!
It heightens your senses, making you keenly aware of your present self. Fear releases adrenaline, putting you into survival mode. When the moment passes, you feel at peace yet exhilarated, immensely satisfied, even euphoric. And the only thing you can think about afterward is how you can repeat feeling this way again.
Fear. It can be extremely addictive. More on that topic here.
The moment passes, and as our charger regains his composure once again, he smiles briefly, shaking his head. He makes for the shore break and with a few swift steps, he enters the water and starts paddling towards the impact zone. Self-doubt and uncertainty replaced by healthy confidence and purpose.
Fear, now an ally, enters the water with him, giving him laser focus and determination to face what’s ahead.
He paddles on. The first bomb crashes relatively near to him but he is able to sort his way through the white water explosions that follow. Until, at last, he makes it to the take-off zone. It is still cloudy. The ocean is gray. In the distance, a mountain of blackish water rises steadily, fast approaching him.
It continues to rise, higher and higher.
The mammoth wave reaches the critical threshold. Our charger paddles furiously. In an instant, he’s up on his board, literally free-falling as chaos threatens to engulf him.
But today, chaos loses.
He takes the full natural energy of the behemoth as he races down the 40-foot face. In an indescribable moment that feels like a lifetime, the wave’s energy becomes a part of him. He exits the face of the wave, white water exploding behind him. He raises his arms in triumph, screaming to the heavens in total exultation.
As he paddles away from the receding wave, his heart still pounding furiously, he feels a bit ashamed. Ashamed for almost giving up. Ashamed for letting his emotions get the best of him, even if only for a moment. He would have missed this unique opportunity for growth…for the ultimate stoke.
We all feel shame when we or someone else tells us that we don’t measure up to the activity assigned to us. We beat ourselves silly, recriminating as to why we did not do this or that, or why we acted this or that way.
This is not only extremely harmful to our self-worth.It is also acutely stupid.
While researching for this post, I recently read a quote which hit home so effectively, I thought I would share it with you here. It’s from mystery novel writer, John Scherber:
“Never fear failure – It’s only a poor choice of words to describe one of a series of steps on the way to success, not all of which are of equal value. But they all must be taken and something can be learned from every one of them”.
How’s that for nugget!
Don’t be ashamed to fail. It is a natural part of reaching your goals.
Your failures are growth opportunities deftly disguised.
Take advantage of each failure that comes your way (and rest assured, they will come!) and never feel ashamed for having tried, even if failure looms on the horizon.
Challenged, yes, but always lionhearted…
As I begin my own journey of healing after my father’s passing last February of this year, I often see myself as the wave charger mentioned above, looking at Mavericks’s massive waves, mustering the determination and courage necessary to conquer one of the heaviest waves in the world.
Yes. Self-doubt, uncertainty, fear, and shame can overcome him at any given moment.
But facing and understanding these emotions have made him mentally tough and emotionally resilient. He has learned, and continues to learn, how to control these emotions, and most importantly, how to use them in his favor.
The colossal waves he is about to face will come incessantly, each trying to take him down. Hurt him. Destroy him.
But he knows his way around the legendary break.
His ocean savvy and deep understanding of how the wave works have been hard earned through persistence, discipline, respect, and a passion for the sport, nearing border-line obsession.
Similarities could easily apply on nearly every aspect of our lives.
The real challenge lies when something happens in our lives, an incident or circumstance that is beyond our control. An event so profound and life-changing, that for a while, we are dazed, lost, confused.
And rushing towards you at full speed, four adversaries which have the capacity to impact your weakened spirit with the force of a trainwreck.
But not this time. This time, you are ready.
You have the strategies, the tools, and effective countermeasures to repel and overcome anything these adversaries throw at you. And you can bet that you and these four fierce adversaries will collide.
You will not come out unscathed. But whoever said life’s greatest opportunities were meant for the weak of mind and the timid of heart?
You will prevail and you will come out victorious.
You have learned from your adversaries.
You have even made peace with the fiercest one of them.
You are wiser. You know the game better.
And you are improving with each opportunity that life throws at you.
Make the most of it.
Share your experiences…
So which are your fiercest emotional and intellectual “adversaries”? Your “Fearsome Foursome”? How have you dealt with them? What strategies did you use to overcome and come out victorious? Please share your thoughts and/or experiences in the comment box below. I would love to hear about your challenges and how you prevailed.
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you liked it and if you know of someone who you think may benefit from it, please be so kind as to share with him or her.