Become the heroine or hero of your life by developing an intimate relationship with life itself
You often hear the phrases: trust the process, trust life, trust the universe.
When people say these words, it often means letting go of control and that things will eventually work out in their own time.
It sounds very Zen and enlightened, but in the actual experience of life, for example when you look into the lifeless eyes of your mother, such statements sound at best trite and at the outer edges, downright disrespectful.
Over time, and a multitude of traumatic experiences, I have asked myself the question over and over again: how we can practically learn how to trust life so that this trust is braided into our core so that when the hurricanes of life come, we can hold firm?
After my mother’s death, the agony of trudging through the underground of grief and eventually coming out on the other side , I might have a found a way.
What is Trust?
“None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have Faith.” — Paulo Coelho
When you meet someone new, it would be ridiculous to expect to trust them right away or vice versa.
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, trust is the “ assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something”
Trust is one of the crucial building blocks of close intimate relationships and it takes time, patience, openness, consistency and a healthy dose of vulnerability to create the fertile ground for trust to blossom.
Over time as people prove their loyalty with the small things, like a seed that is constantly cared for, your trust begins to grow and blossom.
It is no different with your relationship with life. It can be done.
If you are motivated, you can develop a visceral and enduring trust in life, and by extension the circumstances and events life throws your way.
How to Develop Trust in Life
As I processed my life’s journey, I realize that the formula below has served as a guide for me and helped me develop trust in the process of life.
Trust = Faith + Surrender.
What I came to realize is that as soon as you develop faith, then the surrender part of the equation naturally follows. You don’t require any additional effort.
Step 1: Develop Faith
What exactly is Faith and how exactly do we gain this thing which is nominal at best and abstract for the most part as you can see from the Bible’s Definition of Faith.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. Hebrews 11:1 – 3
It is interesting to note that you begin to realize the truth of your relationship to this concept of faith, only when adversity strikes.
After my journey with grief, I have come to relate to faith differently and I have found practical ways to cultivate faith in my life. For example, from experience have faith in the sun - that it would rise every morning. You have faith that if you plant a corn seedling, you will get corn.
Faith in the natural laws of the universe.
How I build faith
The main way I have been able to develop faith in my life is by gathering evidence. I have become a scientist so to speak and my life is the experiment. In all the different sciences whether they are the hard sciences or social sciences, there is always the concept of gathering quantitative evidence and then performing analysis on this evidence to come up with some conclusions.
To help us develop faith, we will need to gather evidence from the past and the present.
Gathering evidence from the past
The concept of gathering evidence from your past is looking for quantitative data that proves that life is not out to get you, that although you might experience difficult periods which are baked into the cycle of life, you somehow found the resources to overcome it and might have even grown from the experience.
After my grief journey, in reflecting on the lessons learned and the wider landscape of my life, I found a theme: out of each traumatic experience, there was always growth, a new gift or talent.
In those moments, I had felt that the pain was insurmountable but somehow, I always had the support I needed and came out with a different perspective.
To get started, set aside some time when you will not be disturbed and journal on the questions below. Note that this might take days if not weeks to process.
Reflect on the questions below
- What were the biggest traumas in your life? You can start with the top 3 like perhaps the death of a loved one, a relationship breakup / divorce, a medical diagnosis etc.
- How did these events affect you? For example, when my mother died, I lost faith in God, I was numb for many months, there was deep existential loneliness and identity crisis, and I could not function due to excruciation grief.
- Include any and all reactions and symptoms you had at the physical, emotional, mental and psychospiritual level
- How did you cope?
- How were you supported during this time? For example, an influx of support from friends or family
- After the dust settled, what changed in your life? For example, did you get an even better job after getting fired? Did you find a life partner that was more compatible with you after your divorce? Did you find purpose after the death of your loved one?
- Looking back at the experience, what did you learn?
Most people have never learned how to perform introspection on the tragedies that happen in life and might be missing some important lessons. As you begin to reflect, notice any patterns, or trends your might find from the different dark periods in your life.
After performing this exercise, I developed the key thoughts below.
- Life is cyclical and there will always be periods of grief, loss and stagnation. It is inherent in the cycle.
- These periods never come empty handed, there are always gifts and opportunities for post traumatic growth where you level up and enter into more expansive versions of yourself
- As you learn how to open up to these periods instead of contracting against the pain, you begin to retrieve puzzle pieces of your life and assemble your unique genius and purpose.
Step 2: Surrender to the present moment
Have you ever been in the middle of a crisis and the emotions feel so big and overwhelming and you don’t think you could survive?
Later when, you have had more time and space to process, you find out that it was not as bad as it felt in that moment?
Gathering Evidence in the Present
The process of gathering evidence in the present will help you learn to surrender to those moments when you feel like your world is spinning out of control and waves are crashing around you.
This process will help you have physical evidence that you will be ok.
The next time you are going through a crisis, take out a journal and free flow write to the questions below.
- What are you feeling right now? For example, if you are feeling angry or anxious, journal for about 2 minutes about the emotion. If your mind is racing and going in circles, write down the different scenarios and draw them out
- Where are the feelings focused? E.g., you cannot breathe, you are feeling jittery and revved up
- What triggered you? If you don’t know, just stream of consciousness write for a minute and see what shows up
- How do you think this crisis will turn out? Write down all your fears for example, my partner is going to break up with me, I am going to get fired, I am having a heart attack etc.
- On a scale of 1 – 10, rate the situation where 10 is all hell will break loose and 1 which is no impact.
- How are you coping or how do you plan to cope?
When the storms calm down, and this might take anywhere from a few minutes to days or even months, go back to your journal and answer the questions below:
- How long did the crisis last?
- Looking back at it, how are you feeling now?
- How did you cope?
- How did you resolve it or how did it turn out?
- Go back and read what you wrote while it was happening
- Rate the crisis again from a scale of 1 – 10; for example, was it as dire as it seemed in the moment?
- Knowing what you know now, if you could time travel to the past and speak to your past self that was experiencing the crisis, what would you tell them? For example, "just breathe, I promise it will turn out ok." Although it feels big right now, you are going to be ok.
In the beginning, it would be still be difficult to surrender to the process and let the storm blow through without offering any resistance, but after completing this process about three times, you will notice a subtle letting go and surrender.
You notice that you are still experiencing the storm in the present, but now you are able to find the eye of the storm and you can begin to include grounding practices to help you weather the storm until it passes.
You begin to realize that the moment feels so big because your flight-fight-freeze stress response has been activated and your amygdala, the part of your brain that processes fear is on overdrive now and has taken over your rational mind which usually helps you see things clearly.
One you see that life has your back, you then begin to surrender to experiences and allow life to unfold.
Life Has Your Back
After experiencing the death of my mother, multiple heartbreaks, and other tragedies inherent in life, in using this process of gathering evidence to develop faith and surrender to the present moment, I have come to realize that life has my back and there is always going to be support available for me. Of course, I am still a work in progress too, and you will have to continuosly remind yourself, but with time you will begin to experience a total committment to the process and an underlying detachment from outcome.
As you journey through life and try out these steps, keep the following in mind;
- It is a marathon, not a sprint– don’t expect too much too soon. It takes time to build and earn trust.
- Increase vulnerability – give life a chance to prove itself to you.
- Be consistent with these practices of gathering evidence.
When my mother died, I was so angry that I wrote a poem called “When God was a dictator”. In that moment I was angry at life, but after the dust had settled four years later, I can see the light side of this devastating experience.
As you begin to build trust in life, you begin to allow experiences to permeate through you and allow the story to unfold as it will. You say “yes” to every experience even if you are unaware of the complete picture and trust that it serves your personal evolution.
You begin to realize that the greatest war is happening within yourself as you fight the present moment and cause much emotional and mental anguish. When you grow into this trust, you become a peaceful warrior and move through life with more ease as you have a deep knowing that is all is well, and all will be well.
Life is a mystery that is always in the process of unfolding. We may not understand where the dance will take us, but with trust we begin to relax and open to different kinds of experiences– but the known and unknown aspects of it.
One day we become the heroines and heroes in our own stories as we assemble the picture of our purpose.