“If the only thing people learned was not to be afraid of their experience, that alone would change the world“ – Sydney Banks
While there are many words to describe resilience, such as spirit, strength, toughness, buoyancy, no one truly understands just how many of these traits they have until disaster strikes.
For me it was 11 years ago today, I received the worst possible phone call from my Dad to say the police had called to their house, telling them my brother had been taken to hospital and was in critical condition. I’m sure you can imagine the feelings of panic and fear that came with those words. As I drove to the hospital, I prayed to God he would be in a more stable condition with hope of recovery by the time I got there.
However, I knew as soon as I saw my husband, who had arrived before me, the news was bad, in fact it was the worst, my brother had died before any of us had got to him.
It was devastating to watch, as more family members arrived to be told the same news, but worst of all, it was heart-breaking to watch my mum trying to deal with the shock and realisation that her youngest child was dead. Up to this point none of us had been allowed to see him as he had to be officially identified. As the oldest and wanting to protect my Mum, I agreed to do it.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen this same scene played out in a movie or TV drama, each time I would feel the pain of the emotions evoked by my thoughts in those moments, bringing me to tears, as I imagined how I might react if I ever had to do this, and now here I was, facing it for real.
The reason I am sharing this is, no matter how many times I had imagined how this might play out, I had never allowed for the resilience and intelligence of our mind and body in the moment, I was too numb from shock to feel or do anything other than confirm, that yes, this was my brother. I can only describe myself as being on auto-pilot.
Looking back I am still surprised to realise, I had suffered more in my thoughts of having to ever do this, than the reality, something I had done many times throughout my life.
Later that night as we all sat around my parents kitchen table, a place which held many great memories of fun and laughter at the many family gatherings held there in the past. However, this time we were too shocked, numb, and trapped in our own thinking, to even speak.
In my mind I worried if we would ever laugh together again.
I vividly remember waking up the next morning, for the first second I somehow forgot what had happened, as the memory came rushing back, I hoped it had all just been a bad dream, my first words to my husband were “is it true?”
I could hear the anguish in his voice as he had to break the news to me again, that yes, it was true, my funny, handsome, fun-loving brother was dead.
And yet, in those painful moments, I knew he wasn’t “gone” and that I would be with him again, somehow.
The next few days can only be described as a blur. We arranged all that needed to be done and felt held by all of the love and support given to us by family and friends.
It was heart warming to hear just how loved he was by so many. And, to prove my thoughts wrong again, we laughed at some of the many great memories his friends shared of him. In the days after his funeral I found myself dealing with so many emotions that I couldn’t sleep, I lay awake with too many thoughts and questions swirling around in my head, I wondered if I would ever have peace of mind again.
In those moments I realised just how exhausted I was. I had been living with an undercurrent of worry and fear for as long as I could remember, growing up in a busy and strict household, the oldest of nine children, I naturally felt a responsibility for my younger siblings, but I now realised, since becoming a mum, 4 years earlier, I felt a vulnerability I was finding hard to deal with.
I was often terrified at the thought of something bad happening to my family. I was living in a wide range of emotions on a daily basis, mostly good ones to be fair, however they were always underlined by a sense of impending doom, I just couldn’t seem to shake from my thoughts.
I often found myself caught up in my thinking, visualising worst case scenarios, mostly involving my children, and worrying how I could protect them from all the perceived bad in the world.
I spent so much time wondering how I would cope, if anything bad were to happen, and now, here I was in the realisation that my worst fears had come to be.
The weird thing was in the midst of it all, I felt a strength I didn’t know I had, I somehow knew I would be okay, I had an amazingly strong family who would help each other get through this tragedy.
I somehow knew we would find a way back from it. I had always had a strong faith in “God” and trusted I would be guided to the answers I needed. And while eleven years of searching and learning might seem like a long time, as we reach another anniversary of my brother’s death, it suddenly feels like it was only yesterday, again the power of thought.
I understand now, part of the reason my journey of discovery took so long was because I had been searching for those answers outside of myself, reading books and completing many spiritual courses, and while I gained some insights which helped me to deal with some of my fears and worries, mostly by trying to control my negative thinking. It all felt like such hard work. I only seemed be able to maintain it for a short period of time, before finding myself back in a low state of mind.
I would berate myself for not being more positive about all the great things I had in my life, and seemed to be going round in circles, unable to maintain the peace of mind I instinctively knew, should be easier to attain.
Thankfully, I found the reason behind this was, I didn’t have an understanding of the fundamental nature of thought.
We have thousands of thoughts passing through our mind every day, lots are habitual, invoked by our senses, others just pop into our mind, seemingly out of nowhere, often leaving us a little shocked, surprised, or even embarrassed, at the idea of anyone else ever finding out what we are thinking.
We often find ourselves lost in thought, which can be nice if they are happy, positive ones, however the more negative ones, can cause you a lot of unnecessary worry and stress, especially if you believe them to be true.
For example, if you have a lot of thinking around a person or situation you “feel” creates a problem for you, you can get stuck in your thinking around that for long periods of time, you try to think of ways to deal with the person or a solution for the problematic situation, causing you to feel the sensations of every emotion attached to those thoughts, be it fear, anger, regret, guilt, shame, etc. Each causing your body to release the hormones related to that thought, for example, if your thinking is fearful, cortisol and adrenalin are released for the fight or flight response, which is needed when you are in real danger. However, the brain does not know the difference between real and imagined threat, plus research has shown elevated cortisol over a long-term can lead to illness.
Having spent many years living with the worry of all the what if’s and maybe’s that could potentially cause pain or hardship in my life, I have now come to understand, I am the creator of how I experience life, while I can’t control what is happening around me, or in the future, I do have control over how I think/feel about it.
Like in the past, I can conjure up fear based, movie like stories in my mind of what “might” happen, how I ”might” react and how it ”might” affect me or my loved ones, or I can remind myself, there is no point suffering unnecessarily by trying to guess the future, instead trusting my inner wisdom will guide me through whatever I need to do, in any given moment.
And so, with special thanks to my brother Roy, I am about to embark on a new journey of becoming a Life Coach, in the hope I can point others to their innate resilience, wisdom, creativity and well-being, and to the understanding it is only insecure thinking keeping us from achieving our life goals.
Believe me when I say I know this from experience, I have talked myself out of so much over the years, questioning my abilities to achieve what I want in life.
But not anymore, at the age of 51 instead of believing my old, habitual, insecure thoughts when they sneak into my mind, I see them for what they are, transient energy that can only be shaped to look and feel real by my thinking.
Better than that, I have an unshakeable knowing, that we all have innate, universal intelligence which will guide us in creating whatever we wish to experience in our lives and the resilience to deal with any situation we may be facing now or in our future.
Thanks for reading,
Namaste: “I honour the place in you in which the entire universe resides. I honor the place in you of love, of light, of truth and of peace. And when you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, there is only one of us.”