The other day, I woke up on the wrong side of the universe. It seemed like everything that could go wrong was going wrong—as if some hateful prick found a Coyote Voodoo Doll and stuck 100 pins in it…. A letter from the IRS. A pipe springs a leak. A good friend goes into the hospital. Frustrating news from my editor. A rude driver cuts me off. More hairs are growing out of places they shouldn’t.
Saint Murphy was to be my Spirit Guide for the day. Fuck!
It happens to everyone. It’s easy to be happily liberated when everything is flowing well. But when stuff falls apart, that’s where the rubber meets the road. Part of living a liberated life is realizing that life is not just rainbows, hugs, epiphanies and great sex. Challenges are part of liberation too. And living in a conscious way during those times is the mark of real freedom.
Back when this annoying little truth first settled in on me, I wondered, how do I face challenging days from the ground of liberation? How do I bring awareness to shitty experiences, rather than being wagged around by Bad Mood Murphy? Now, each time one of “those days” occurs, it’s like a little experiment. Here’s what I found works best (and what to avoid)…
Top 4 Things to Avoid (if at all possible) on Bad Days
Sometimes we don’t have a choice and we have to do important things on crummy days. But not as often as we think. Here is what I’ve learned to avoid on rotten days:
1. Don’t Make Critical Life Decisions
This may not be the day to sign that 10-year deal, abruptly quit your job, leave your wife, or get a full-body tattoo.
Sometimes, we have to bite the bullet and move forward with life. Bad days may require us to show up for work, take care of the family, or clip those claw-like toenails. But in my experience, big decisions made on no-good-very-bad-days tend to not generate my best Life Work. Of course, those big decisions might actually be the source of the rotten day—that deserves a close look too.
2. Don’t “Speak Your Mind”
On bad days, it’s easy to unleash that inner devil who spews forth all manner of petty grievances upon friends, family, and the world at large. Ego mind loves to rope everyone else into its bad days. But that’s bad karma, and you know it. This is a good time to zip the vicious lip.
Or, if you are the “cold shoulder” type, then a similar advice applies. Being a jerk via The Silent Treatment can be just as mean as belching out nasty remarks.
3. Don’t Dive Into Your Addictions So Quickly
Alcohol? Porn? Pot? Xanax? Triple Chocolate Cream Pie? What do you reach for when you’re feeling stressed? Numbing out and self-medicating are easy, but not really effective for long-term healing of the roots of anxious living. Rather than diving right into addictions, try giving yourself some space first. Plan 3 (or more) hours without your pacifier of choice, and commit to meeting yourself fully during that time. If you feel like a toke afterwards, fine. While you’re at it, grab the cheesecake and a fork. Those kinds of medicine can be good too. Let go of the guilt and enjoy the relief.
4. Don’t Avoid Your Reactions
If and when you lash out, own it. You are responsible for you. Say “I’m sorry.” Look deep inside at that childish imp who could not contain himself. Liberated people are fully accountable for their own experience, and stop blaming the outside world. And when they step on other people’s toes, they don’t make excuses, they make amends.
Top 4 Things to Do on Bad Days
1. Lean Into What’s Happening
When we feel uncomfortable, our instinct is to do anything we can to get away from those awful feelings. But escape doesn’t really resolve anything. Instead, lean into this uncomfortable experience. What if you gave yourself permission to feel really bad all the way? Can you respond instead of react to life’s challenges? Can you bring an attitude of curiosity to those feelings? Can you detach from yourself, even just a little, and give yourself spacious awareness to explore bad days openly and honestly?
2. Practice Self Care
Meditate, get a massage, go for a walk, sit in the hot tub, nap, masturbate, take the day off. Bad days are often a sign from the Universe to slow down, take care, and truly love yourself. Loving yourself is not avoiding yourself. But self care can help us reclaim perspective again. Life will be there for you afterwards, and will be a whole lot easier to address from the ground of calm clarity.
3. Go Inside
“It’s always an inside job” is one of those pesky life-truths. We create our reality from the inside-out, not the other way around. So the solutions are not “out there,” they’re inside. That’s wonderful news! We had the keys to Life in our pocket all along.
Try self inquiry and see what’s really going on. Most likely, shitty days are not really about the things that are happening, they’re more likely about some old, unconscious programs being triggered. That’s what I call good news! Sit down, meditate for 20 minutes, then take a piece of paper and ask yourself what you really know for certain about your situation. Left unchecked, ego mind will ramble on and on, weaving its horrific stories out of nearly nothing. But when looked at closely and written down on paper, we frequently find mole hills instead of mountains. “I knew those deductions I took were not really honest.” “That guy in the other car was probably having a worse day than I.” “A few plucks with the tweezers will take care of those pesky ear hairs.”
Then, take the opportunity to go even deeper than the superficial events du jour. Ponder back on the early years of your life. “When did I first experience this feeling?” “What event in my youth reminds me of this day?” “How did I cope with similar challenges when I was a kid?” “How did my parents deal with these situations?” “Who am I without my stories?”
4. Reach Out and Connect
It’s so easy to feel isolated when things are going poorly. Ego mind just loves to support separation because then he knows he was right. “The universe does hate me! See!?!”
So reach out. But beware: egos love to bond through suffering too. This is not the optimal time for a bitch session with your snarky girlfriend. Yet talking through hard experiences in healthy ways is powerful medicine. The source of suffering is separation from Life—of feeling forsaken and hurt. On these days, it may be helpful to reach out to your beloved, a close friend, a mentor, or coach—someone you can trust with your deepest issues, who does not heap on more shame or despair, who holds you in your hour of need, who helps you see more clearly.
If bad days are the only thing you know—if you suffer from ongoing depression, constant thoughts of suicide, or other chronic issues, please get some professional help! Find a great therapist, doctor, coach or spiritual advisor. You are worth it. Your life matters!
Above all, remember “this too shall pass.” That trite phrase bugs the ego mind, because it’s so true. Ego is sure that this terrible suffering will never, ever, ever, ever end. But deep inside you know otherwise. Life is full of ups and downs, good days and bad, and sure enough, tomorrow comes and it is a better day.
My bad was a challenge for me, to be sure. But I tussled with it, turned it over in my hands, took care, stayed present, and by evening the anxiety had dissipated, and new clarity started coming. In a chance encounter, some dear neighbors expressed their love for me, and the rest of the nasty voodoo spell was broken. The Universe, I know, has my back; and it has yours too!
I’d love to hear back from you. What helps you work through your horrible, rotten, no good, very bad days?
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