As I’m writing this, I am enjoying my first Saturday afternoon of the Spring semester. It’s peaceful right now, but I know that this is the calm before the storm. Every semester of college comes with its fair share of ups and downs, lefts and rights, and trips through the full range of human emotion— thinking about this few-month-long journey I’m about to embark on has the potential to stress me out a little.
However, I refuse to accept this type of stress anymore.
The type of stress that I can control is not what I will allow to control me.
During this time, at the very beginning of the new year, I have been turning inward more than ever before. My reasoning for this? I want to be able to withstand whatever this year throws at me— not just withstand it, but thrive in the midst of it.
I’ve arrived at the conclusion that the best way I can make this happen is by strengthening my own foundation so that I can build, tear down, and rebuild anything that I want on top of it. A key component to this strengthening has been cleaning up my mind-space to reveal the strong foundation that I know is underneath it all.
To start, I will share some questions for self-reflection that I am considering at the moment— questions whose answers will contribute to the strength of my foundation— then elaborate. Lastly, I will share thoughts on a practice to help with all of this— a practice that is quite literally giving me life right now.
My questions of the moment are:
How can you prevent weakness creeping its way in from dampening your spirit?
How can you prevent sadness from ruining you?
How can you prevent chaos from allowing you to break?
How can you set yourself up to weather the storm?
First: How can you prevent weakness from creeping its way in and allowing you to break?
First of all, simply acknowledging weakness takes its power away. Therefore, when you acknowledge your weaknesses, it prevents them from breaking you down later.
In my opinion, weakness isn’t just the opposite of strength; it’s the easiest way to strengthen your mind. There is no better confidence boost than overcoming something. Weakness is simply something you have the chance to overcome, which comes with an increased trust in yourself and your ability to withstand things.
Weakness serves us in it’s very being, simply because it can be conquered.
Next: How can you prevent sadness from ruining you?
As I said, during a full semester of college— or any five month block of time— traveling through the entire range of emotion is a given, which means sooner or later, we will arrive at sadness.
To combat the emotion of sadness, I have determined that whenever I am sad, I will remind myself that the presence of sadness in my heart indicates the presence of happiness. If I have the capacity to be sad, then I have the capacity to be happy.
Sadness must be felt. As a result of feeling sadness, I will be able to feel happiness, because I know it’s opposite.
Sadness isn’t something you should run from. It’s a cloud in your sky, but your blue sky is the constant, not the clouds that come and go.
I take pride in knowing that I will always be able to soothe myself when I’m sad by simply allowing myself to feel both sides of the range of emotion that comes with being human. I take pride in knowing I can clear sadness simply by feeling it.
Last: How can you prevent chaos from wrecking you? How can you set yourself up to weather the storm?
These two questions go together, and directly relate to the overall concept of our foundation.
Storms are a temporary situation, but they are bound to happen. Think of a clear blue sky. It’s not always clear and blue; storms pass by, linger even, but are never permanent. What matters the most is the impact the storms have, which— thankfully— is the part we can control.
If we can view storms as temporary (which we can), then all we have to do is minimize the damage they do.
To me, the best way to withstand possible damage is having a clear mind, so that you know the standard you can always come back to.
This brings me to the practice that I am grateful to share my thoughts on—
Meditate, but not just to meditate. Meditate with purpose. With intention. Meditate to clear your mind, so that you have pure, open space to reside in, and a safe, peaceful place know you can always come back to.
Heads up: this is my very favorite thing to think about and practice lately.
To explain, let’s first think about a simple garden. A garden consists of soil, which contains nutrients that help things grow.
Let’s compare our mind— and what we can grow from it— to a garden.
Your mind is the same as the soil underneath a garden, and our thoughts are what our garden grows. The soil consists of nutrients, which are necessary for growth— we can compare nutrients to our own personal energy.
Now, consider the fact that both weeds and healthy plants consume nutrients from the soil. We can compare weeds and healthy plants to our negative and positive thoughts— thoughts which help us grow as they grow, or thoughts which hinder our growth by just existing.
There’s only a certain amount of nutrients/energy to go around, so you must choose what you give your nutrients to.
All those little negative thoughts that you may be hiding in dark corners are taking up not only space, but energy as well. All the issues you haven’t addressed. All the questions you haven’t answered. All the thoughts you’ve pushed away. All the feelings you haven’t felt.
So how does this relate to meditation?
Through meditation, we can start to declutter our mind, ridding it of all the weeds that may hog nutrients that could be serving a much better purpose. When you sit down to meditate, tell yourself that you are going to travel into those dark corners. Tell yourself you are going to show up for those parts of yourself that often don’t get love. Tell yourself that you are going to weed your garden.
Be careful when selecting which seeds you plant as well, and know that you have the ability to grow whatever you choose.
In conclusion, I invite you to ask yourself these questions— to examine your foundation, and how you will come back to that place of strength when the winds pick up.
Remember that growth often comes not in the answers, but in the search thereof.
I invite you to sit with your thoughts, and consider which ones you can clear out, as you would weeds from a garden. Even if we ignore the weeds, they will keep on growing. The simple act of acknowledgement has so much more power than we may realize.
A strong foundation is one that is built with intention. Free from unnecessary components.
Let’s only grow thoughts that we wouldn’t mind putting in a vase.
And may these thoughts serve as the base for everything you can dream of.