We all get down sometimes. There’s no escaping it. Life suddenly goes grey, and nothing feels quite right. What looked perfectly fine just a little while ago now looks sad, depressing, frustrating or maybe even unbearable.
It can happen because we’re tired, or because we’re coming down with something. It can happen because we haven’t taken time to exercise, or because we’ve been moving at warp speed for days (or weeks, or months or, gulp…years?). And it can happen for no reason at all, simply because we’re human and that’s what humans do.
But we really don’t like it. We don’t like the feeling and we want it to go away. So understandably we ask ourselves: How do I fix this? How do I pull myself up out of this “down”? What do I do?
We think maybe there’s something “out there” that could help, an approach or a technique that might help us. Maybe we need to learn to meditate, or learn something about mindfulness. Maybe some expert out there has an answer or an idea that might help us figure this out. Maybe there’s a book about it, or an awesome Youtube video we should watch.
But what if we already know, and already have, the most helpful thing of all? What if there’s nowhere we need to look except the ways we’re already doing it, already know what to do?
Consider this: have you ever been out for a walk or a hike, and suddenly woken up to the fact that you just walked an entire mile “lost in thought” and didn’t notice a single thing about your surroundings? And in that moment of noticing, did you just wake up and suddenly actually see the trees, the blue sky, the cute puppy running amok on the other side of the street? And in that moment of noticing, did you get “unlost” from thought and find yourself in this moment, back in the world, just like that?
If your answer is yes, then ask yourself how did you do that?
What about when you listen to a beautiful piece of music? What happens for you? Do you feel moved in a way you can’t quite explain? Do you feel a shift, a new feeling? Do you feel more peaceful, more joyful, or maybe moved to tears?
If yes, then ask yourself again: how on earth did you do that? What did you do to be moved by the music? How did you make yourself feel something new?
Does it even make any sense to ask how we do either of these things? Does it make sense to ask what we should do to notice our thoughts? Or to ask what we should to do to be moved by music? It doesn’t make any sense because there’s no explaining it and there’s no technique for it. It’s simply there, a mysterious and wonderful capacity we all have.
And when we start noticing it, when we get curious about it, we see it in so many of the amazing and inexplicable things we’re capable of: experiencing an upwelling of love for someone, noticing a sudden peaceful feeling when we hear a babbling brook, feeling moved by a kind smile from a complete stranger. There are so many beautiful and mundane ways that we feel these inexplicable inner shifts at any given moment.
We’re simply designed for them. We’re designed to wake up from thought, to wake up to the moment and to notice our surroundings. We’re designed to be moved by music, by beauty, by kindness. We’re designed to love. We’re designed to feel more peaceful when our mind quiets down. We’re designed to be moved by life. It’s just not something we have to learn to do. It’s already there, in the most ordinary, seemingly mundane moments of our lives.
But often we’re not aware of it. It’s like wallpaper that we’ve walked by so many times that we don’t actually “see” it anymore. And if we’re not aware of it, if we don’t know to look for it and appreciate it, we gloss over it and stay stuck in our thinking that “we don’t know how.”
And so we ask how. And we look outside of ourselves for an answer. Ironically, we ask how to do something that has been wired into our very being. We ask how to do something that we’re already doing, without realizing that we’re doing it.
So when we’re stuck in one of life’s inevitable downs, we don’t need to ask “how” to get out of it. We just need to start to see this simple, beautiful capacity we all have. It’s there in every single one of us, no matter how long we’ve turned away from it and completely forgotten to appreciate it.
So we wake up and notice and there’s magic in the noticing.
This doesn’t mean that there isn’t an infinite menu of things that might support us when we’re feeling down. There is. We might be inspired to go for a walk, sit outside in the sunshine, do some yoga, take a bath, exercise or play with our dog. We might be inspired to do nothing whatsoever but notice. But when we know without a shadow of a doubt that the shift to a new feeling isn’t because of anything we do, but because of how we’re designed, we hold the whole experience more loosely.
We worry less about being down, because we have an unshakable knowing that we’re designed to shift out of it as suddenly as we might have shifted into it. So there’s no need to resist it, to fight it or work hard to change it. We’re down and it’s no big deal. And in that feeling of “no big deal,” in that feeling of unshakable faith in our own inner capacity, we create space for our own unique wisdom to bubble up and move us to exactly what we need in the moment. And it bubbles up in surprising and unfailingly helpful ways.
It all happens with less and less worry, less and less resistance, less and less of the feeling of “oh s**t,” less and less of a focus on “what do I do?”
None of this means we get a free pass from life’s ups and downs. We don’t get a free pass from being human. But it does mean that we live the ups and downs with less of a death grip on the wheel, more faith that we’ve got this and it’s no big deal.
As the knowing and the noticing sink into our bones, become part of the very fabric of how we see ourselves and what it means to be human, we find ourselves flowing with the ups and downs with more grace, more ease.
And somehow, there’s extraordinary magic in that simple shift. Over time, it simply changes everything.