This post was written by Leo Babauta, originally for Zen Habits. Republished here with permission.
Sometimes, life just wallops us against the head, deals us with such a blow that it takes our breath away. A loved one dies, you lose a job, someone you care about gets sick, your car gets totaled, or hopelessness hits you. What do we do when the world around us crumbles, when we can’t seem to find a way out? Here’s how to handle the difficult times.
How to Handle the Difficult Times
The times when things are falling apart are exactly the best times to practice mindfulness and compassion. These are the times we’re preparing for, in a way, when we meditate regularly with mindfulness and compassion, during the non-traumatic times.
The times when the world is collapsing are the richest areas of exploration, and when we need the tools most.
So the way to work with these times is this:
Stay with the pain. Don’t run from it, don’t try to do anything about it, but face it with courage.
Stay with the bodily feeling, dropping below your story, and smile at it, be friendly with it, have the braveness to just be with it like you would with a friend who’s hurting.
Do it in small doses if that’s all you can handle. Do it with patience, noticing that your mind wants to run. Keep coming back, and you’ll earn trust in yourself to stay with the hard feelings.
Eventually, you see that the feelings aren’t so bad, that you can stay with them and the world won’t end, that they’ll go away like a passing cloud, that these feelings and thoughts aren’t you but just passing phenomena. You’ll start to take them less seriously, see that they’re No Big Deal, hold them lightly, give them space in your mind.
When the world is falling apart, this is the time to practice.