I love that phrase. Shit happens. So simple. So true. And neutral, really. Bad shit happens, but good shit happens just as often. It’s just an acknowledgement of the way it is here in Earth School. That there are things beyond our control.
I take it as a reminder to do what I can to maintain my own center, to try to develop equanimity and keep calm while carrying on.
“Shit happens” need not be a resignation or defeat. We can continue, each on our unique journeys, to learn and grow, to help others and to add our expression of the Divine into the mix.
Follow your heart’s truest desires. They are yours alone.
Use your soul gifts. They have been given as provisions for this lifetime.
Also learn what to do if you are course-corrected by the Universe. If a global pandemic wrecks all of your plans for the year. If a good surprise changes and accelerates everything. If sorrow pauses your perceived progress. Learn to ride the waves rather than be battered by the sea, tossed about like a tiny, rudderless ship.
Some simple skills, practices and awareness can help us to develop or maintain equanimity. I’ll offer some here. Some that have helped me. None that I invented. Take what you like and leave the rest.
1. Remember These Three Options
There are essentially 3 things we can do when bad shit is happening- change it, leave it or be with it. Not all options are available for all things. Obviously we can’t change it or leave it when someone we love has died, for example. We can explore what it means to be with it, in that case. To allow all of our feelings and the healing process, and to seek help if we need it to ride that wave.
“Change it” is not directly an option if the struggle is another person, though changing our approach or leaving the relationship or situation may be. Being with it, accepting the other as they are, is always a good start.
So it requires discernment, but remembering that we have choices can help us to not feel victimized or hopeless. The Serenity Prayer is about discernment, a petition for the wisdom to know where our power lies. It can help us when considering our options. You can read The Serenity Prayer here.
2. Get the Lesson
In this school, each thing that happens is a potential lesson. All things are opportunities to learn and grow. And like a good and patient teacher, Life will offer the lesson again and again until we understand it and are ready to move on. So it’s useful to consider what each challenge is teaching us. This can be done during or after an experience. We can ponder “What did I learn?”, “What do I want to take away from this?” and “How did this help me grow?”
Sometimes this fosters a natural sense of gratitude for all things, whether we would label them good or bad.
3. Do Yoga Asana
The yoga poses often put the body into unusual or uncomfortable positions, on purpose. One of the reasons is so that we can develop equanimity. So that we can learn to remain steady when the going gets tough, perhaps even smile and definitely keep breathing.
Our body may stretch and release in a place that was holding old trauma or emotion. Can we allow that to move through us too?
We invert the body for many physical benefits but also to try to practice staying calm when our world is turned upside-down.
Rather than good and bad, pleasure and pain, and preferences of the mind ruling our life, we start to see that we can get a hold of a Center, a Self that is calm and consistent and can carry us through the storms.
4. Row, Row, Row Your Boat
This nursery rhyme from the 1800’s contains all the perspective and wisdom needed to make it through ok when shit happens.
- Keep rowing (it says it 3 times!), no matter what happens. Keep going.
- Row YOUR boat, not anyone else’s. If you try to row some else’s boat from inside your boat, you’ll end up going in the wrong direction for you, capsizing or worse.
- Gently. Not aggressively, not with struggle and strife.
- DOWN the stream. Go with the flow. Don’t make life more difficult than it is.
- Merrily – 3 times! Don’t lose your sense of humor, your joy. Laugh. Love. Dance. Whatever you like. Don’t get bogged down in seriousness, after all…
- Life is but a dream. When the buddha was asked what he was, why he was so different, if he was a god, he said, “No. I am awake.” He had realized that this is but a dream, a brief experience that we souls are having that is not the totality of who we are. When we know Who We Truly Are we can more easily and merrily participate in the dream, controlling and contributing our selves while witnessing it going on around us.
We find Who We Truly Are by exploring our depths.
5. Explore Your Depths
Seated and still, drop your awareness low in your body, below the head and into what feels like the center of your being. Stay there and feel. Allow the attention to expand and explore that deeper sense of aliveness within you for a few minutes.
This is exploring your depths, beneath the surface that is the mind and the turbulence of our thoughts and emotions. Like a deep lake, there is a place in us that is always calm and still despite a storm possibly tearing at the surface, the sun beating down or any other weather condition above at the time.
In our depths we are time-less.
Unchanged when shit happens.