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How To Stay Calm When Life Isn't

By Brenda Shoshanna

No matter what is happening in the world around us, it is never necessary to become caught in depression, fear or other negativity. We are not the victims of the world we see, but have the ability to mobilize ourselves and take charge of the way we respond. There are simple steps to take which when practiced easily turn our state of mind around.

Depression and fear can easily become addictive. The longer we stay in negative states of mind, the more difficult it can become to leave them. Our world grows smaller and we begin to develop catastrophic expectations. However, we have the power to take charge, and to choose actions and perceptions, which counteract negativity. It is the right and responsibility of every mature adult, to choose the responses they wish to make.

The tools offered in this article are part of a process of Centering. The more we practice these steps, the stronger we grow, and the more we can see negativity as something that has no power other than that which we give it.


The practice of Centering is universal. Many forms of exercise, martial arts and meditation are ways of achieving centering. They are ways of tapping into our fundamental strength and courage. In Zen we say, "Open the treasure house within." This reminds us that each one of us is endowed with gifts, which are far greater than we currently realize.

While some of the Centering practices offered here are simple, they are very powerful. When practiced daily, they produce real change. Attention

We are what we think about. Morita, a Japanese psychiatrist, the founder of Morita Therapy, states that all fear and neurosis comes from frozen attention that has gotten stuck and fixed upon recurring negative thoughts. The more we give attention to that which is destructive, the more strength it has to rule our lives. This can be counteracted rather easily.

Take back your attention. Do not let it be absorbed by all that is presented to it. The power of focus is the power of life. Spend time each day developing focus and concentration. Withdraw yourself from the external world for a period of time each day, and pull your attention back within.

Sit with a straight back, do not move and concentrate upon your breath. Let random thoughts come and go. Do not suppress them, but do not let them grab your attention either. At first you may be besieged by many thoughts and feelings. But, if you simply notice them and then return your attention to your breathing, these will soon die down.

Count your breath from one to ten, then all over again. Do this for at least ten to fifteen minutes without moving. By not moving we are stopping what is called the monkey mind, the mind, which jumps from one thing to the next, and sabotages our lives. It is the monkey mind, which causes our sorrow and fear. But it cannot take over our lives, when we take our attention away from it.

This wonderful time spent with oneself is a way to attain balance, and perspective. It allows us to become rooted within. We develop a place within ourselves, which we can always return, for wisdom, strength and comfort. This time becomes a fortification against many storms, which naturally besiege us

Rather than analyze and struggle with our problems, we simply ask -: What am I focusing on this moment? Am I present to the moment, to my breathing, or am I lost somewhere in a dream, Am I dwelling upon the pains and wrongs that have been done to me, or the terrible things that can happen someday?

Reality continually renews and confronts us with new tasks, challenges, opportunities and solutions, day after day. Are we in touch with this ever flowing reality? Are we focusing upon what is available now, what gifts we are receiving and what we can give to others, or are we dwelling upon difficulties?


As we do this faithfully, as our focus gradually changes, we become aware and grateful for all that we are receiving day by day. We also become aware of others, what they may need and what we have to give. And then we give it. We take action. Before long we are doing "deeds of worth", actions that spring from the core of ourselves. The monkey mind is dismantled and passing emotions do not take center stage.

Another effect of Centering is that our attention now becomes placed on what we are doing, not necessarily upon the outcome of our deeds. Our joy and satisfaction comes from acting with a whole heart and mind. We can allow results and consequences to take care of themselves. When we are not absorbed by concern for outcomes, how much anxiety can we ever have?

The most powerful antidote to psychological suffering is an individual's sense of self worth. When we are taking actions that are meaningful to us, self-respect develops naturally. As we become more and more occupied with that which is valuable, and life giving, our resourcefulness increase as does our sense of worth. We can then handle any difficult situation and stay calm in any storm. Living in this manner, life feels like a gift we are constantly receiving, and we become a gift to life as well.

Copyright 2005 Brenda Shoshanna

About The Author
Brenda Shoshanna

Discover the 2000-year-old Zen secrets for being calm, balanced and positive, no matter what's going on in your life in the new e-book By Dr. Shoshanna Living By Zen, (Timeless Truths For Everyday Life), Dr. Shoshanna is a psychologist, speaker, long-term Zen practitioner and teacher, relationship expert, and author of many books including, The Anger Diet, (30 Days To Stress Free Living)., and Zen and the Art of Falling In Love. You may contact her at Her personal website is

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