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Maintaining Light in the Darkness

Have you ever felt that the pain and traumas of the world are too much to bear? Have you felt completely overwhelmed by the suffering of others? The world is filled with stories and visions of deep pain, suffering, despair and the most awful atrocities that we could ever imagine. So how do we maintain our light and joy, our hope and well being amidst the darkness?

Here I share some suggestions as an offering of buoyancy to those consumed by the pain...

Maintain some perspective- When bad things happen, they become news. They are news because they are unusual, not the norm. There are billions of people who are kindly, gently, lovingly caring for others and spreading beauty and happiness in every single moment of every single day. This is human nature- it is so common that we take it for granted. Look for the helpers, look for the gathering of support that surrounds the grief, look for the opportunities for kindness. These simple blessings are everywhere.

Honour the pain - The fact that we feel distressed by the wounds of the world is actually a beautiful thing. It is evidence of our innate empathy and connectedness. We are biologically wired for altruism, with the desire to relieve the pain of another. If we did not feel this, the world would be in a much more dire state than it is. Acknowledge your feelings as an expression of how good it is to be human.

Start where you are and do what you can - We may not be able to help everyone, but everyone can help someone. Sometimes the smallest act of kindness can bring far more relief than we realise and can also give us a sense of purpose and positive impact rather than total helplessness. Ask yourself, what can I offer? Ask someone in need, how can I help you in this moment?

Practice acceptance - Acceptance is not resignation, apathy or giving up. Acceptance means not fighting with reality. See things as they are in all their rawness. It is only when we accept what is happening that we then have the power to act in a way that creates change.

The power of presence - "Be here now" has become my mantra for dealing with challenges. Aside from the biological components of mind and mood, depression is often linked with the near or distant past and anxiety is often a fear of the future, of what could or might possibly go wrong. We spend so much time and energy thinking of a time other than NOW, which greatly diminishes our effectiveness in the present moment. The art of mindfully drawing our awareness into the present can help us to be grounded, to be grateful and to calmly take action.

Carry reminders of strength, peace and beauty with you - Whether it be your favourite song on an ipod, an amulet or charm, a photo or a special quote or saying, having access to something personally meaningful can act as an anchor or a giver of strength in our hour of need. The most unpleasant and difficult times of our lives can become more bearable by connecting with our very own little piece of magic.

Let it be - By allowing ourselves the time and space to feel what we feel without judgement, we give ourselves permission to move through the darkness and back to the light more easily. If we tell ourselves that we "shouldn't" feel a certain way, if we suppress, oppress or resist the pain, we inevitably carry it with us longer than necessary. It's ok to be angry, to cry, to be appalled by the state of the world sometimes. However, if you allow the darkness to change you, make sure it is to become better, not bitter. Allow your compassion to grow.

Be generous with your joy - For many people, a sense of survivor guilt can prevent a natural expression of joy. We worry that it is inappropriate or unfair to be happy when those around us are not. However, shared laughter, dance, celebration and fun is SO important to create new energy and to shift from darkness to light. Give yourself permission to feel good- the world needs more of that.

So when you feel overwhelmed by the negativity of the world, know that you are not alone, that you are empathetic and in training to make a difference. There is ALWAYS light in the darkness- we need only choose to find it.

Luella Cochrane is a Professional Speaker, Trainer and Consultant with over 20 years experience as a Kinesiologist and Health and Education Consultant.

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