How to Win the Discouragement Battle

How to Win the Discouragement Battle

In the midst of everything going on, we need to allow our hearts to stay open, forgiving, and loving.Evgeny Atamanenko/ Shutterstock
Evgeny Atamanenko/ Shutterstock

If you have been feeling a sense of discouragement, desperation or hopelessness; if you feel like you’ve hit a wall inside and out and think you can’t go on another day, and yet you do, but still there’s something pulling you way down into the abyss; I just wanted to let you know that you are definitely not alone! The waves of loss and grief — especially with all the deeper awakening and reckoning around the social injustice in our country — are hitting home in a big way, and it’s very easy to feel the weight of it all.

I was on a Zoom call with a group of friends the other day and many were sharing that they were going through a lot, experiencing overwhelm and lack of emotional control. However, one of my friends said, “I actually feel very calm, content, and trusting, and I just keep going on,” and another friend replied, “What are you made of, steel?”. He was taken aback and felt judged for expressing that he was doing OK, and he said, “Let me explain. I have found a deep place of acceptance in me with what’s been going on. It keeps me going in helping others in the ways that I can, and it gives me a sense of optimism that things won’t always be this way. There will be a dawn to a new day and a brighter tomorrow.” My other friend asked, “How do I know that?” To which he answered, “Humanity has always gone through horrific things and has come out the other side. That doesn’t mean I don’t have compassion for the people who are struggling so much, I just don’t want to feel that I have to apologize for feeling OK.” So if you are feeling OK, strong, optimistic, resilient, and are even able to keep your joy alive at this time, please don’t feel guilty about that, because we could use more people who are centered, strong, and solid in themselves. But for anyone who is feeling the wave of the downward spiral, I wanted to share a few tips on how to come out of it.

I personally see this challenging time of the coronavirus, the lockdown, uncertainty, and insecurity in our country, the racism and hatred, as an incredible battle for the human spirit. Anyone who’s withstood huge challenges, against-ness, injustice, and loss of everything can become a role model for the resilience of the human spirit. So ask yourself, what can you do to bring peace to yourself at this time? How can you exercise your wisdom? How can you bring forward your perspective on these unprecedented times? How can you listen to the wise voice in you that guides you to do the little things every day that can bring you into balance?

One of the biggest keys I use to shift is prayer — prayer from the part that feels loneliness, turmoil, and wants to give up and cave in, to calling forward the God part of me that stands tall, that is strong and fearless and can rise beyond the circumstances. One of my favorite sayings is, “God is not a being, but a state of being,” and at each moment of our lives and with each breath we have a choice to attune ourselves to that higher state of being which is available to us at any point. So I see prayer as a lifeline and a bridge between the part that feels discouraged, overwhelmed, hopeless, etc. to the higher part that is expanded and at peace right now. Through prayer, I start to feel embraced by it, and it becomes this bridge between the human part and the God part.

The emperor of Rome, Marcus Aurelius, withstood the plague for 14 years and, in his book Meditations, he shares the wisdom of his journey and talks about examining everything you encounter in your life and using it for your growth and advantage. He writes, “If you are troubled by external circumstances, it is not the circumstances that trouble you, but your own perception of them and they are in your power to change at any time.” So whenever you are feeling the downward spiral, consider this: that the negative voice in you is whispering toxic messages, saying, “There’s no meaning to this. You should give up. You can’t handle this. This is too much, it’s overwhelming. I’ll never come out of this. I’m all alone. I feel hopeless. I don’t know how to manage my life. I can’t take another day of this; etc., etc.” Take charge of that voice and choose messages and qualities that can empower, nurture, steady and ground you — qualities like courage, self-reliance, humor, generosity, compassion, reverence, humility, gratitude, and loving — and as Marcus Aurelius tells us, “This too comes from God and no matter what, I will treat everything remembering that it has no power to weaken me, to pay me harm unless I let it.” So give meaning to this time and find your purpose, and it will be easier to cross over to the other side.

But if you’re judging yourself, pressuring yourself to feel differently, and pushing against how the world is unfolding, those judgments are bound to lock you into the state of feeling like a victim. I believe that those who will rise in this battle of the human spirit are definitely the people who are not going to feel victimized by what’s happening, but are going to see this as a golden opportunity to use everything — their conditions and their inner emotional upheavals — as grist for the mill, and will hear the calling of their spirit that needs no compromise or defense, but is as flexible as the wind, light as a feather, and mighty and grounded as the strongest mountain.

What contributes to this state of mind and where we will win the battle is when we allow our hearts, in the midst of everything, to stay open, soft and tender, forgiving and loving. In choosing that over and over and over again, you can experience the power of the unbound heart and the sweetness of life in the midst of the crisis. Don’t let anyone rob you of your smile, your sweetness, and the twinkle of your eye; these will become your weapons against the harshness, the judgments, the despair and the discouragement that creep in and can run you over before you know it. Don’t let it happen. Don’t let the darkness in you win. Outsmart it with the power of your presence that lies in your peace, and trust that you don’t walk alone in this, but with the mighty force of the spirit that gives life to all things.

For more from Agapi, please follow her on Instagram.

Agapi StassinopolousHow to Win the Discouragement Battle
read more

How to Talk and Listen to All Parts of You

Asking yourself these questions each day can help you tune in.

It’s so important to keep the channels of our communication with ourselves open, always, but especially in this time of challenging life changes that we are all going through, it’s imperative that we do so.

Let me explain what I mean by that.

We often operate on one modality from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep. We function on our familiar patterns, going automatically from one thing to the next, interacting, getting things done, engaging and trying to complete the things that our daily lives involve. But many feelings surface during the day, especially in these times. We may feel overwhelmed, upset, disconnected, worried, fearful, out of control. And addressing these parts of ourselves that feel all of these things, and finding ways to give them a voice, is so important if we want to experience our calm.

A friend of mine said to me the other day, “When I meditate, I experience a place of calm and centeredness, but as soon as I start to function in my life my calm slowly starts to disappear. I start to feel anxious and off balance.” This is a friend who’s been meditating for a while, and yet emotions can be very strong and unpredictable. But often because of our daily responsibilities we simply don’t make the time to address these feelings. As adults, we have learned to censor ourselves when we feel upset, disturbed, or hurt. On the other hand, some of us might vent it all out and project it onto other people, which is another way we can feel out of control. Basically, we can walk around getting many things done yet feeling disconnected from ourselves.

So what are we to do? Opening the conversation with these parts of ourselves, and not censoring them, is the best way to bring ourselves into balance. I keep a journal by my bedside, and at night I ask myself these questions:

What worked today? And I let myself write down the things that worked for me in the day. Sometimes they are very simple things; sometimes they are more specific. For example, the other day, when I asked myself, the answer was, “I liked that I worked out on my bike today with my favorite music and I sweated.” Feel free to add as many things as you wish to express, and get to know all the things that you would like more of. That starts to put everything that’s working in a positive light, creating a vortex of what we want more.

Then I ask myself, what would you like more of tomorrow? For me the answer to that question was, “I would like more of that.” The answers come very swiftly. Sometimes, a part of me wants things I cannot give myself at this time. If I say to myself I want to go to the movies with friends, I cannot do that, but I can listen to that part of me about what I need, and what the feeling is behind that — fun, enjoyment, entertainment — and see if there’s something else that I can provide. Very much like a loving mother to a child, you don’t say to the child, “Shut up, we don’t have time for that,” but if you lovingly listen to that part of yourself and give that voice an expression, a safe place, that part can start to feel like the pressure cooker is off. It can tell us how it feels and fully express its needs and wants; and although we might not be able to provide exactly what it wants, we can guide that part towards the wisdom of patience and grace, and see that there is grace to be found in the midst of not being able to give ourselves what we really want. How so? Because that’s where the greatest conversation can take place with the spirit that is always available to comfort us and guide us.

And this is the third question I ask myself, what does spirit have to say to me about this? And I ask a specific question. That’s when I stop, listen and I become very, very quiet, and the answer comes, not from my head, but from the deeper part of me — my wise voice — that gives me the guidance of the particular issue happening for me at this time in my life.

These are the three questions that I find bring me into awareness of what’s working and not working. It’s very simple and doable, and as wonderful as it is to have a therapist, coach, counselor, or loving friend, sometimes the most loving voice is available to us from within ourselves, if we are simply willing to open the door and ask. Build this practice daily of conversing with yourself. There is a vulnerability that can happen during that time. There is a feeling of being unveiled, where your guard falls down and you get into that deeper part of you, and sometimes we may resist that because the ego likes to have its position — even if it’s negative, our ego thrives in its position, pretending it knows everything. Well that’s too bad, because all our egos are now being uprooted and shaken. There is one thing we’re all now forced to do because of our current circumstances, and that is to give up our sense of how important we are. We are all being humbled. Whatever we thought was the way to do things, we no longer have a choice but to cooperate with the nonsensical things that are going on. We are finding new ways to cooperate with one another, asking for help, giving more of ourselves and more of what we have, opening up our hearts to deeper love and compassion, and experiencing neutrality.

I’m sure a lot of us are puzzled with what’s really going on and are pondering how this all even happened, but regardless, we are here now and we need to work with it, not against us, but for us. We need to switch the mindset from being against what’s happening to a deeper acceptance of it all. Allowing our wiser self to awaken, shining its light on our lives, giving us solutions, motivations, and new ways to function and create from that place we never knew before.

So let’s open the new door to our higher wisdom that we’ve been praying for, suspending all judgments and learning how to walk in our wholeness and fullness.

Agapi StassinopolousHow to Talk and Listen to All Parts of You
read more