Since last December, when I moved to Santa Marta, I feel like my life is falling apart. In a matter of a month, I went from being on top of the world to falling ten feet under it.
Those were my client’s (I’ll call him Javier), first words on our first coaching session.
Often times when we experience loss, we feel overwhelmed with the uncertainty of starting over.
If you’ve ever been in this position, you’ll relate to Javier’s story.
I was living my lifelong dream in Venezuela for more than five years. After almost ten years of studying and working with renowned chefs from around the world, I was a well respected chef with my own restaurant. My friends, who had also moved to Venezuela from Argentina, were my world and family. Two years ago, I fell in love with the girl of my dreams and we moved in together.
Every morning I woke up, eager to live my dream life.
Last November, with all the horrible events in Venezuela, I lost my restaurant. Each and every single one of my friends moved back to Argentina and we lost touch. My girlfriend left me and moved away.
I lost it all.
My mom and sister insisted I come back home to Santa Marta.
In total desperation, I came back. I rented a room and got the position of head chef in this restaurant. In January, I had no plans. I had no idea what to do or where to go. I kept telling myself this was temporary. I never wanted to come back to Santa Marta. It’s a reminder of the life I was getting away from. But, I’m still here and feel like I’m sinking deeper and deeper.
I went from having it all figured out to not knowing what to do. I’ve spend months trying to figure it out, looking and searching for a way out and get back everything I lost; my dream life. It’s been one disappointment after another. All I want to do is cry. When I’m not working, I’m lying in bed crying.
We were seated out on the restaurant’s terrace on his day off, sipping the most amazing exotic iced fruit juice, he had prepared for us.
The first thing I said to him was, “BREATHE!” Take a deep, long, breath and EXHALE!
Then, I asked him, “Right now, in this very moment, seated here sipping this refreshing fruit juice, are you in any deep danger?” He leaned back, looked around and said, “No.” He took another sip of juice, a deep long breath, exhaled and said, “I feel totally relaxed.”
That was his first step in starting over. Breathing in the old, and exhaling it out.
In that brief moment, Javier’s search to fill that empty feeling inside stopped. A space opened and he was able to see all that was around him and within him.
Let’s look at this together from our own experiences.
When we experience a loss, we feel a void, emptiness, loneliness. Starting over presents a terrifying unknown, an uncertainty. We go searching for stuff to replace our void, whether in people, career, money, vacations, or possessions.
In that search, we miss it.
When we search, we already have a goal, an expectation, a desire of the way people or things should be to make us happy. All coming from knowledge, experience and conditioning from our past. We may think we are searching for something new and fresh, we may think we’re taking different decisions, but our mind is leading our choices and decisions with old thoughts and past remembrances. So, when we seek, we will find. What we find may come in different bodies, different careers, different clothing, different house, different countries, but they will inevitably be what we have already sought. So, we end up with the same void and feeling unfilled with no purpose in our life.
This is not to say that in order for change or transformation to take place we become insensitive to our losses and pain. Not at all!
Actually, quite the opposite. Whatever emotion arises, we must give it our complete attention. Listen carefully, our complete attention to what we are feeling: grief, pain, anger and so on. Not on the thing or person, not on the loss, but on how we are feeling.
When you’ve been hurt or wronged, if you focus on the act, situation or words that have hurt you, you’re pain will grow stronger. You end up building a wall around yourself, to avoid that pain. The pain becomes your security.
When you bring your attention to yourself, your grief, your sorrow, your anger or whatever emotion you’re feeling, it becomes a part of you. The pain is no longer something that someone or a circumstance has caused you. You become one with your pain.
Watch carefully, in order to be one with your emotion, no thoughts or dialogue can interfere with the horrible thing that has been done to you or taken away from you.
It’s not to say that the act committed or words said are ok. It means that, to go beyond your suffering, you must understand the pain, not the act. The act has been done, it cannot be erased or eliminated, but the memory of the pain can. See the difference?
In doing so, the sorrow will reveal the truth about itself, the true deep cause for the pain you are feeling.
Ending of a relationship (partner, friend, a family member)
This was supposed to be the man/woman you would spend your life with. This was supposed to be your most loyal friend. This was supposed to be your mom/dad, daughter/son. The relationship was supposed to last for life. Somewhere along the way, the landscape changed, and the relationship ended. You feel a void.
Is the void because the person is no longer attending to your needs to feel loved?
(In this lies the truth to your sorrow).
Ending of a career
You invested so much time and energy, so much hard work and effort to be where you are. This is who you were, your existence. Then, one day it’s all over. You’re stripped of your existence and no longer know who you are. You feel a void.
Is the void because you no longer have a status or position to make you feel like you exist? (In this lies the truth to your sorrow).
You can do this with any other losses (possessions, money, physical appearance and so on). Or, any other situations causing you pain and sorrow.
You may feel like you’ve failed, like no one gets you, like there must be something wrong with you and so on. Or, you may judge the person who hurt or has wronged you, as ungrateful for all you’ve done. Or, as a loser. Or, as a bad person and so on.
These are all the dialogues playing in your mind carried over from past remembrances. If you dwell on them, they will keep you stuck. Please, listen carefully, trying to control them by rearranging the words in your mind around, won’t bring about change in your life.
It’s like rearranging the furniture in your house. If there’s a crack in the foundation or the roof is leaking, merely giving your house a face-lift by rearranging the furniture, will not repair the real damage. You must take care of the foundation and fix the roof to keep your house standing and withstand the harsh weather.
You must go deep in the foundation of your inner house, give all your attention to your emotions of pain and sorrow, before any new change can begin.
Not by suppressing, ignoring or escaping in any way. Take a deep long breath and exhale. Bring your full attention inward, instead of the outward by victimizing yourself or judging the situation. In that attention, an understanding takes place, the inward truth is revealed.
In that moment, sorrow ends. In that ending, a space opens for a new beginning, without the effort of searching.
In that new beginning, is real freedom that comes from wisdom of having learned from life. The freedom from the bondage of suffering.
If we truly learned from a life situation or experience, we don’t need to carry the past.
How are we supposed to keep learning and growing from new life situations in the present, if we treat them and greet them with the same old experiences from the past? We can’t!
We carry on with our pain and are afraid of living, afraid of the constant movement of life bringing changes and new beginnings. If the seed from the past was well cultivated, it will have grown and act accordingly in any given new situation. That’s how it continues to grow stronger and wiser.
Now, do you want to know what happened with Javier?
By our fourth session, he stopped searching. You see, in his search, he was hanging on to his past. His mind, being filled with past remembrances, had no space to be filled with new beginnings and new learning.
In that space, he realized that in just three months as head chef at this restaurant, the ratings sky rocketed. On his birthday, colleagues, new acquaintances and clients, all came by the restaurant to celebrate and brought gifts. He began going to the beach instead of lying in bed on his days off.
His starting over began with the awareness of the abundance he already had in his life and in his abilities.
And, he has signed up for French courses. Yup, he received an opportunity to go to Quebec next year for the opening of a new French restaurant.
P.S. Yes, I gave him a heads up on the Quebec winters!
I’ll leave you with this.
Endings are NOT a sorrowful part of life. If you embrace living and welcome every moment as a fresh beginning, you will never carry the pain of past memories. You will recognize that your attachments to things and people to secure your happiness is the very thing preventing your happiness.
Living is a constant movement of changes. That’s the beauty of living.
Have a great summer and I’ll be back in the fall.