We are republishing a guest essay by Molly Gordon that we feel is especially useful as we continue to learn to “shelter in grace.” Molly has coached both of us at different times in our lives and was one of the first “early adopters” of the TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)® framework. Since almost everyone is experiencing some level of overwhelm these days, the topic is very timely. The fog of drama can take you over when overwhelm hits… unless you take one wave at a time.
Overwhelm is Optional (Really!)
If a surfer riding the crest of a wave obsesses about the last six waves or the next six waves, she’s certain to wipe out. Yet human beings do this all the time when we (yes, me too!) innocently generate overwhelm.
The illusion of overwhelm.
Most of us live in the illusion that overwhelm comes from overwhelming circumstances. We think that our jammed mental circuits, tight shoulders, irritability, and confusion are inevitable and natural consequences of the situations we face. But that’s just not so.
Overwhelm comes to us courtesy of thought, not the world.
Overwhelm is the product of overwhelming thought, not overwhelming circumstances. Consider surfing. If overwhelm were the natural byproduct of circumstances, every surfer would be utterly and completely freaked out by the ocean all the time.
I mean really, what’s more freaking overwhelming than the ocean and wind?
Successful surfers only focus on one wave at a time.
A surfer who succeeds isn’t thinking about yesterday’s waves or tomorrow’s weather. She succeeds and improves to the extent that she pays attention right here, right now, and allows herself to be educated by the experience.
The surfer who stays in the moment learns naturally and organically on multiple levels as she gains experience. If she over-analyzes that experience, she’s going to gum up the works, stop learning, and perform poorly.
Overwhelm arises from using the small personal mind to do a job it isn’t designed to do.
Overwhelm arises when you try to think your way through situations that you are designed to live your way through. When you live in the moment, life educates you in exactly the ways you require to meet whatever life is serving up. Like babies learning to walk and talk, life invites you to whole body, whole mind, whole spirit learning.
So long as you come back to the wave you are on right now.
Play with this. Reflect on your experience. Where do you notice you or someone around you learning and growing organically? And where do you see you or someone else gum up the works by trying too hard or getting hung up on the past or the future?
Play with the possibility that you are designed to do life with less mental effort than you may think.
We love Molly’s surfing metaphor because it illustrates the wisdom of Baby Steps wish is a core idea embedded in the 3rd Vital Question: “What actions are you taking?” You can read more about Baby Steps in our recent Friday essay.
To learn more about Molly, visit her website—www.shaboominc.com.