Leave Roller Coasters to the Theme Parks

My sister recently went to a theme park and shared with me that as she gets older she is not able to recuperate as easily after riding a roller coaster. This is how I feel about the emotional roller coasters we choose to ride on a regular basis. While the ups and downs can seem exhilarating (or even necessary) at times, they are actually quite stressful to our bodies and overall psychological state. I don’t know about you, but I would rather ride the lazy river through life and leave roller coasters to the theme parks.

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I have a tendency to feel things strongly and have spent much of my life experiencing the extremes of a situation. There was even a time when I thought I was bipolar. As I get older, I have less tolerance for this dramatic up and down — both in theme parks and in my mental and emotional life. I desire to be at peace as often as possible and not allow any high or low to debilitate me.

Stoics and Buddhists figured this out thousands of years ago — life is full of more ease and joy when there are fewer ups and downs. There will always be happiness and sadness, highs and lows, moments of ecstasy and moments of doubt but being mindful of a few things can help us shorten the gap between these moments in our lives and instill a more constant sense of peace. Here are a few things you can do to help shorten the gap.

Ask yourself if you have expectations or are attached to a specific outcome. Challenge yourself to let go of those expectations. This is another Buddhist principle — the fewer expectations we place on things, the happier (or more at peace) we can be. We could all do well to heed Gay Hendricks’ advice from his book Conscious Living, "By opening your heart to all of life — but clinging to none of it — you are participating in life fully.”

Ask yourself if you are judging the moment or outcome. Try to avoid labeling things as good or bad, right or wrong. It is sometimes hard to know the purpose of a moment until the moment has passed. Byron Katie says, "What you're believing is what you take with you.” If we believe that this is the worst (or best) thing that could happen to us, then that is what we will experience. We can just as easily believe that this is just the way it is, acknowledge the moment and any emotion we feel, and just be.

Remember that everything is impermanent and that “this too shall pass.” Recite this phrase to yourself when you find yourself at the pit of despair — and even use it as a reality check when you are on Cloud 9. Once we accept that nothing lasts, it is easier to move through this moment to the next.

Now this is not to say that we should not feel happiness or sadness, pleasure or pain. We will feel all of these things many times throughout our life. The goal for me is to acknowledge those emotions as what they are and not let them control me by placing judgment or attachment on them. I now prefer to flow with the ups and downs rather than let them spin me around and turn me upside down.

What is your initial reaction to living a life free of emotional roller coasters? What is your biggest challenge or concern with this concept? Join the discussion by leaving a comment.