What is Your Anchor? (2014)

What's your anchor-Faith seems to be a theme for many of late. Enjoy this throwback post that recounts a lesson of faith.

by Andrea Chilcote

So many people are making their way through difficulty, living through turbulence without an anchor. And an anchor can be an important tool for managing the natural fears that arise when life throws surprises at every turn. It’s one thing to feel fear and work through it. It’s quite another to let fear spiral out of control.

Several years ago, during a trying period of my life, I had a dream that made a profound impact then and became my anchor during future challenges.

In this dream, I found myself driving my car down a steep but very wide paved road. The road was covered with a thick layer of ice and I was having difficulty braking. My car swerved side to side at first, and then began to slide downward, out of control. About the time I realized I could not stop the forward motion, I noticed that the road ended just ahead, the pavement simply cut off and hung over an abyss. It was a look similar to that of a bridge or freeway ramp mid-construction. Just as the front wheels of my car neared the edge, a very large hand arose from the abyss, reached out and stopped my car. Just in the nick of time.

As if this was not enough, I then found myself once again driving on iced pavement, this time in a crowded parking lot. I was driving up and down the aisles, trying to get to the exit and onto the street. I was struggling to maneuver the lanes without hitting parked cars. After several minutes of white-knuckled navigation, I managed to safely exit unharmed, without damaging another vehicle.

The morning after that dream, I relayed it to a wise friend. Her reply was a question: “Andrea, will you ever again doubt that you are protected?” I hesitated at first, then answered firmly. “No. I have faith that I am indeed safe,” I replied.

In the years since, that dream, that hand, has served as a reminder that no matter how challenging things become, help is always available. The anchor is a comfort to me, even as I experience natural and unavoidable fears that accompany a full life.

What is your metaphorical anchor? What do you or can you call upon to remind yourself that even amid distress, life is still sweet and forgiving, endless possibilities exist, and all will work out?

Take It Easy

by Andrea Chilcote

This week, I’m having an adverse reaction to things that are “hard,” and so I’m practicing ease. This encore post seems appropriate today. It appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where I’m a weekly blogger. This summer, followers of this blog will enjoy bi-weekly archived posts that have appeared on The Spirited Woman but never before on this site. 

I’m struck by how many of my friends and colleagues have been touched by my resolve to not look back. We all know it’s an obviously sensible ambition to remain present and move forward moment by moment – there’s nothing that can change the past – but so many of you have said “It’s hard.”

“Hard” is a concept, a familiar state of being we’ve conditioned our minds to believe. Oh, I get it … in fact, a dear friend commented on one of my recent posts saying,  “See how easy it is …” and I immediately wanted to reply: “That was not at all easy! In fact getting to that realization was very hard!”

But I realized that “hard” can be a mental concept focused on the presumed future vs. the moment (“It will be difficult to remain present when my husband’s children visit.”) or it can be literally true (“This jar is hard to open.”)

What we need are tools for escaping from the mental concept of “hard” when it bears down, eclipsing the beauty of right now.

So how do we make being present “easy?” Many before me have written of and taught tools and techniques. I offer you mine in simple form.

Breathe. Attention to the breath brings attention to the body. When we focus on (or obsess on) what happened before, we are literally out of our physical bodies and in our mental bodies. Practical tool: When you feel fear, anxiety, or guilt – take a breath, then another. Notice it. The result? Your attention will re-focus on now, if even for a second.

Empathize. This one works if you can’t get clear on how you yourself are feeling in this very moment. How is a significant other experiencing it right now? Caution – it’s against the rules to consider what he or she thought or felt moments or days before. This is about now.

Focus. I know this may be the hardest one…oops! There’s that word again. But really, it is the most liberating thing we can do. Stop right now and focus – ask yourself, “What is true now?” and really pay attention. I’m betting it’s not as bad as your mind might have conjured up. If it’s not, enjoy the break. If it is, then you just got a dose of reality to use to take remedial action. Now.

Do what you can (not what you can’t). A friend reminded me of this piece of wisdom she learned in a workshop many years ago. I had told her that while I know that not looking back is a practice we all can manage, I do not know how to advise those who have suffered tragic losses. Who am I to suggest that they leave the past behind, if the past contained love and life that is literally not here today? What I realized is this. When one practices presence in small ways (staying focused amidst life’s small irritations, for example), the “big” things become easier because of habit, not because we worked on them specifically. We never lose the memories but we care for ourselves by experiencing them in the context of this very moment.

Think about the ways in which you work to stay present in your daily lives. What do you do when “showing up” here and now is essential? If you have a practice for times like that, it can work at all times.

What is Your Anchor?

by Andrea Chilcote

So many people are making their way through difficulty, living through turbulence without an anchor. And an anchor can be an important tool for managing the natural fears that arise when life throws surprises at every turn. It’s one thing to feel fear and work through it. It’s quite another to let fear spiral out of control.

Several years ago, during a trying period of my life, I had a dream that made a profound impact then and became my anchor during future challenges.

In this dream, I found myself driving my car down a steep but very wide paved road. The road was covered with a thick layer of ice and I was having difficulty braking. My car swerved side to side at first, and then began to slide downward, out of control. About the time I realized I could not stop the forward motion, I noticed that the road ended just ahead, the pavement simply cut off and hung over an abyss. It was a look similar to that of a bridge or freeway ramp mid-construction. Just as the front wheels of my car neared the edge, a very large hand arose from the abyss, reached out and stopped my car. Just in the nick of time.

As if this was not enough, I then found myself once again driving on iced pavement, this time in a crowded parking lot. I was driving up and down the aisles, trying to get to the exit and onto the street. I was struggling to maneuver the lanes without hitting parked cars. After several minutes of white-knuckled navigation, I managed to safely exit unharmed, without damaging another vehicle.

The morning after that dream, I relayed it to a wise friend. Her reply was a question: “Andrea, will you ever again doubt that you are protected?” I hesitated at first, then answered firmly. “No. I have faith that I am indeed safe,” I replied.

In the years since, that dream, that hand, has served as a reminder that no matter how challenging things become, help is always available. The anchor is a comfort to me, even as I experience natural and unavoidable fears that accompany a full life.

What is your metaphorical anchor? What do you or can you call upon to remind yourself that even amid distress, life is still sweet and forgiving, endless possibilities exist, and all will work out?

If you enjoyed this post, check out our newly released book, Erik’s Hope.