Originally published in Comfort Zone Newsletter: February 2009.
There are all sorts of obvious, specific suggestions one could make about managing in these difficult financial times, such as using your powerful HSP intuition to notice changes in society before others and to profit from these. For example, if you can spot a place in the world where some need is not being met, and your talents could meet that need, you can begin a new business or career. HSPs often come up with creative ideas for self-employment such as offering a service no one else has thought of.
For example, many seniors had planned to move into assisted living about now, but because their home value and savings have shrunk, they have to stay put. If they own their home, staying in it would be far less costly than assisted living, except they do need assistance–the help of someone, maybe like you, who, for a monthly fee, would screen, select, and organize their home maintenance, transportation, cooked meals, visiting nurse, or whatever.
A very different suggestion is not about making money, but using your sensitivity to know when to offer your support to others and when, in turn, to accept theirs. Clearly people are going to have to help each other much more than in the past, and it will take some creativity to make all parties secure in the long run that they have not been taken advantage of.
My least practical-sounding suggestion is that you use hard times as an opportunity to develop your equanimity. With it, no matter what is happening to you in today’s weird world, all of that shrinks in comparison to the largeness of your inner peace. Equanimity is probably a goal of yours anyway, but now is the best time for an advance towards it because in hard times you will benefit so much more from your efforts.
Equanimity does not mean passively accepting your fate rather than acting, or pretending to be serene when you are not. It is a genuine state that supports being active because a more settled mind makes better decisions. When someone is in a tizzy and doing the wrong things we say, “Settle down.” It’s that simple: Settle down.
You cannot will a quieter mind, however, but you can develop it–invest in it. This investment does not require money, nor does it ever suffer a drop in value. It does require an investment of time, but it is never too late to get in on it.
Equanimity is easier if you were born with a nervous system that has that leaning or your environment has encouraged it. But ultimately it results from a rested nervous system that has turned inward, over and over, in meditation, prayer, or quiet reflection on the deepest aspect of life. That deepest aspect–whether you call it God, Allah, Brahman, or the Tao–is just that. It is beyond everything in particular, beyond any one thing, because it is at the root of everything.
This root of everything is beyond your thoughts about things, too. You cannot quiet the mind completely for very long, but you can reduce thoughts to the vaguest whisper. You can do it best without any effort except for the desire and the intention to return to that quietness when your mind wanders. As you proceed, you begin to notice what is beyond your thoughts, the screen on which they play. It is so simple and easy.
After being in that state, the thoughts that do come are based on the broadest possible knowledge because your brain has a chance to process everything. It needed this silence, the ultimate contrast to the noise of life. Further, at least on your best days, you sense you have touched some near perfect grandeur. On other days, well, at least you know you have given your mind a break and restored some equanimity, which is just as good.
Some of you may wonder at my blithe use of “grandeur” to describe an experience of nothing more than a settled mind. Even if you do not believe in anything you might call metaphysical, you certainly do know you are part of a universe that none of us fully understands, either its smallest units or its farthest reaches. Just that makes it quite amazing, leaving aside questions of who or what made it. What we know for sure is that we can experience the grandeur of the universe as a very real mystery, with our eyes open looking at the night sky, or with our eyes closed, looking beyond our thoughts to the hum of our neurons, the hum of the atoms and particles that we share with the universe.
But again, for this vast silence and grandeur to give us equanimity, it has to be experienced, not held just as a nice idea that it exists. For equanimity, you don’t just know there is a Bigger Picture, but you experience it. You could say that you are its experiencer, its reflection, or its worshiper. You are a bit of its stuff, particles and forces, organized into one of the more remarkable living (or nonliving) systems to be found, at least on this planet. This system is able to experience the mystery of the entire creation. Put that talent beside your troubles and they do shrink a bit in size. You cannot buy groceries or pay rent with this thing, but every tradition attests that if you make this experience and its resulting equanimity your first priority, these other things will come more easily.
Not only do you have to have the experience and not just chat about it, but you cannot go just once and then expect to be at peace forever–as you probably well know. You have to go to it over and over until it is easy to go there whenever things overwhelm you. That is what makes it a long-term investment. It is the money in your bank that you can count on when things get really tough and you cannot do anything else but turn inward.
Our Greatest Talent
We HSPs tend to see ourselves as so easily overwhelmed that we imagine that we cannot take much stress or overstimulation without breaking down or getting sick. But where we catch up and pass others is in our capacity and desire to experience this Biggest Picture, the one that can give us peace and health if we give it a chance. With that we can, if we must, handle working at Borders at Christmas or for a cruel employer, or having no job at all. It also fortifies us with a way to recover efficiently when we do become overwhelmed. And you will be. You will lose your equanimity over and over. But if you take time to return to it, over and over, whether you need it right then or not, you will grow in your capacity to handle anything.
Key to this is rest. The quality of your experience and the resulting equanimity will depend entirely on how rested you are. You can’t rest while at work or looking for it, but you can focus on rest when you are not. You must get all the rest you can and take care of your body as best as you can. You should also read, think, and talk about this Great Peace from whatever tradition or perspective suits you. Ultimately they all say the same thing: You can be Atman, you can know God, you can be in the Tao, you can serve Allah, if only you turn towards him, her, or it. All traditions recognize that some time in seclusion helps this, and the life of a recluse is a life of rest. You can’t go off to a monastery, but you can make yours an especially restful life.
The perennial teachings also emphasize the importance of love, compassion, right behavior, or the following of God’s laws. These need to be practiced along with turning inward, or else you could say they are the result. But knowing you have done the right and loving thing certainly helps you maintain equanimity.
Again, as an HSP you are gifted in this area. Recall my speaking of the “priestly advisor” class found in so many societies? I said I thought we tended to belong to that class. The members advise the rulers rather than being the rulers and in that way can have more influence than the rulers themselves. The priestly advisors teach, heal, shape the laws of society, and observe the laws of nature. They preserve the wisdom in their society’s history and interpret it through art and story. They are said to be “priestly” in the sense that traditionally they have developed equanimity through the experience of the deepest level of life and found wisdom in the Biggest Picture that humans can have.
So appreciate the type of power you possess, and whether you have the ear of a leader or not, you can advise at least yourself from that deeper, bigger, more settled perspective.