We can all appreciate the tailwinds in our lives, the ones that carry us unobstructed to our intended destinations. A good tailwind delivers big rewards with little effort. If we experience it early enough in life, we may mistake it for routine, or at least our routine. We may even wonder why others, caught in the headwinds, are unable to move ahead as quickly, or at all.
But no matter how lucky or grand our circumstance, sooner or later our personal headwinds will prevail. It's inevitable and even necessary. Why? Because headwinds are critical to personal development. They don't just slow us down and force us to focus, they generate lift. They carry us up. Aeronautically, headwinds assist in take-off as well as landing. In life, they are the bearers of challenges and confrontations meant to hone us into the people we are meant to be. Whether they hone us or defeat us depends on our navigational skills.
I spent the first 30 or so years of my life in an exhilarating tailwind. Everything was, I thought, as it should be -- exciting, combustible, hilariously funny, and assisted by an intoxicating rush of momentum. Looking back, I see that there was some headwind even then, but the tailwind was so substantial I barely noticed.
After college and some grad school on the east coast, I moved to Mountain View, California. Call it destiny or dumb luck, but my advertising career was launched in Silicon Valley just as the electronic giants were taking off. I rode that tailwind to quick success, never really understanding the altitude I'd hit or the rarified air I was breathing. For me, it was just the way things were.
A few years in, I hit some significant personal headwind, not to mention crosswinds that generated enough force to knock me out of nearly every preconceived notion I had about my life. First, I relocated to Chicago for my husband's job, and started an advertising agency with a partner. My business thrived just as my young marriage was falling apart. I adjusted to a new home in a new city while starting a new business with a partner I'd worked with only briefly. As intimidating as that may sound, I was still in the throes of a substantial tailwind. But on the wings of the emerging, crippling illness of my husband and a crumbling marriage, I was forced to slow down enough to look my life in the eye and consider a change in course.
Looking back, I see that it was the unwelcome headwinds that forced me to develop and improve my navigational skills -- my inner GPS. Critical skills I would desperately need later in the face of much greater storms. How far would I have gone, I wonder, without these skills, never really looking up or within to understand that life is -- or at least should be -- fueled by compassion, not money or the illusion of success. I was lucky to learn these lessons early. It would be fair to say that I might have avoided that initial headwind by being more astute in the first place. But I know now that it wasn't the headwinds at all that I should have avoided. It was the turbulence.
And turbulence, I've learned, comes largely from within.
My life had a plan, and the only flaw was that I thought I knew what it was. The navigational skills I developed in my first headwind taught me to awaken and take responsibility for my life. It taught me patience, resilience, compassion, and the kind of faith that got me through future cataclysmic events, like the death of my younger brother and the critical illness of my child.
Your life has a plan too. But in order to get to it, you have to release your resistance to the offending situation -- in other words, your headwind. You have to learn to accept it so it can lift you up and reveal its insights. Persistently countering resistance (about anything) from bosses, co-workers, family members, or a significant event, creates turbulence. Tailwinds can't carry a static rigid object where it refuses to go. All it will do is rock you and your grief back and forth interminably until you release the rage, disappointment, frustration, or disbelief that prevents you from rising above your shattered expectations. If your headwind wasn't issued by an illness to begin with, you are in danger of becoming ill anyway from the acidic nature of your resistant emotions.
Releasing resistance and stagnation is generally not an automatic response, except in transcendent beings. It's a learned process. If you are inside a significant headwind right now and the turbulence is intolerable, I offer you a daily visualization to speed the process along, lifting you up and out.
1) Remember that your headwind is here to teach you something important. If it wasn't important, you would not be experiencing so much resistance.
2) Go "soft body" -- release the physical tension. Lie down in a comfortable place and feel the tension from head to toe. Moving slowly from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet, slowly release it.
3) Next, imagine yourself suspended vertically in a river of deep blue energy. Your entire body is surrounded by it. Your hair drifts upward. Your arms float. You are completely supported.
4) Take stock of your body and note the location of any blockage -- the area in which your turbulence is stored. Is it your head? Lungs? Liver? Lower back? Spend an extra few minutes visualizing and releasing it from that spot until you genuinely feel your entire body, and everything in it, float.
5) Now visualize yourself not as a solid mass, but as a transparent element in the river. Picture the crystal blue energy flowing through you, back to front, without obstacles, stagnation, or resistance. The river and you are one. You are exchanging energy freely. Remain with this visualization for at least five minutes, aiming for a goal of 15-20.
Whenever we encounter a genuine life obstacle, the only way to put it behind us is to move through it. Defending our previous position, nursing the wound, railing against God and the universe for allowing it to happen in the first place, may feel good at first, but eventually it compounds the pain. At some point, if we choose to go forward, we have to get back up. By eradicating, or even reducing our inner turbulence, we invite the headwind to raise us up to a new horizon.