And then came the shadow ...

And then came the shadow ...

I was just strolling along minding my own business, smelling the roses and feeling the fresh air in that zen-nish kind of way that us mindfulness teachers have...when I noticed a pit of ‘something’ in the back of my stomach. I paid attention to it, and breathed deeply. I stayed with it. Felt it. Let it sit within me. Not ignoring it, but went on with my life. And yet it persisted. Finally it occurred to me that what I was feeling was fear. Naked, cold, overwhelming fear. I complained out loud to myself, “oh no, not that again!” Upon reflection, I acknowledged that it had been a really rough few months at work. The political world has encroached on our clients’ sense of well being since the US election last fall. And our women clients, in particular, seem to be experiencing levels of anxiety and distrust at unprecedented levels.

Never in our professional careers have we seen such cynicism  – towards us, the markets, the economy, the “system” in general, and even one another. It has been a hard slog. Some clients are telling us to liquidate their holdings because they expect war. Others are saying we are being too safe and they want to really “get in there” and win in the markets! The one thing that unites them is a sense of emotional overwhelm.

And finally, it took hold of me too. I could feel my own terrors re-emerge. And with them came financial worries. Anxiety can be like a disease that we pass on to each other. And although my inoculations were up to date, at some point the virus wore me down. Now I had to feel the fear and stay with it mindfully like I had been telling people. And yes, I used the methods that I learned over the years and have taught. First I stayed with it. But it had taken hold deeply and I was unable to fight it off.

I called my mentor who promptly diagnosed me as follows, “you’re coping with FEAR”. And she stated sagely, “shadow follows light”. She reminded me that the two always co-exist. One does not win out over the other. They simply live together. And the more light you have, the more you let in, the more shadow is there. So I began the “mindfulness straddle”. I watched my coping behaviours. I allowed my feelings to be honoured and I was vigilant about my storylines. By storylines, I mean I allowed myself to feel the fear and did not fuel it with old stories or narratives of catastrophe. I stayed with my feelings of “it is enough, I have enough, I am enough, and it is what it is”.

I talked and journaled my way through the days. And the fear finally wore itself out trying to get a bigger hold of me. I let it burn out. I allowed my heart and soul to remain as the drivers and sent my mind to the back seat. The mind is fine for cognitive problems  – like doing your income tax and reading a recipe. But it is terrible for working with primary and fundamental emotions. Those are for the heart. I increased my morning silence and brought in light and love into myself. I gave myself sleep and walks outdoors and the presence of good friends (and some wine!). And soon it began to dissipate. It melted away.

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Tracy Theemes Quote

"Our financial situation is not about the numbers, but the contexts and stories we live in and with."

Tracy Theemes