There are various times in our lives when we feel overwhelmed, as if we can’t cope. This can happen as a result of many different situations, internally experiencing so many emotions, and feeling as if there is no solid ground.

The last few weeks have been extremely intense for me, and felt like just as soon as I was grounded something else would come along and blow me away. As it is autumn now, it really felt like I was a leaf that had fallen off the tree and was being blown here and there. Do you know that feeling?

What can we do in such situations?

Here’s a quick visualization that I created on my radio show to share with others.

The visualization is based on the fact that we are either experiencing what we perceive as positive or negative emotions. This is what makes us feel like a leaf that’s being blown everywhere. What if, like the leaf, we became neutral to being blown up or down? This would allow us to come to a place of neutrality, and from this place we stop judging ourselves and the situations around us.

Here’s how to come to a place of neutrality:

Close your eyes and put your hands out as if ready to receive something. In your mind, put everything that feels negative in your left hand (it’s not important which hand you put it in, but let’s just say the left hand for now). You may feel it, you may not, either way it’s okay, as it is only your intention that is needed.

Now, in your right hand place all that feels positive, whether it is your emotions or any situation you are going through.

Feel both of these in your hands, and then slowly bring your hands together. Now, when they are together, place them together in prayer position, bringing them to your heart.

You have now merged what was positive and negative with intention and brought them together. As we know, when you bring positive and negative together, they both cancel each other out. This allows you to come to a place of neutrality. Use this whenever you need to.

Here’s a story that I came across that also was a great reminder of staying in neutral in any situation you may find yourself in.

“There was a great spiritual master and Zen poet named Dogen Zenji, who brought Soto Zen from China to Japan in the 13th century. Dogen was once asked by a student to explain what the purpose of Zen was anyway. It seemed so confusing and indescribable. Dogen answered that Zen was not confusing at all. In fact it could be summed up in just three words. The student, excited that he might finally understand what all this sitting still and watching your breath was leading to, exclaimed, “Three words?! What are they?”

Dogen looked straight at the student and said:

“Not always so.”

It is said when the student heard those three words—not always so—that he awakened as if from a lifelong trance.

“Not always so”… What did Dogen mean by this? I think he was talking about the startling, yet obvious, fact that upon closer inspection, things are not always what they seem to be. People are not always who they seem to be. YOU are not always who you think you are. And what we have come to accept as “just the way things are,” is not necessarily the way they have to remain. Peer a little deeper beneath the surface; go beyond the habits of your own mind; resist knee-jerk reactions and learned assumptions, and a vaster vision of reality opens up before you—a more meaningful reason why someone did what he just did; a more hopeful path through a seemingly helpless situation; a way for you to take responsibility and make the change that changes everything. 

“Not always so” is a mantra, a worldview, a divining rod that serves me well everyday—at home, at work, in the world. It guides me to shine a vivid light into the dark, unexplored corners of my mind. To question my reactivity, my judgments, my prejudice, my anxiety, my shame, my fearful need to stay small, my compulsive will to control. 

“Not always so” puts us in a perpetual state of wonder—not confusion—but wonder. Albert Einstein referred to this state of mind as “sacred awe.” Instead of being cynical about humanity, we can open up with enthusiasm and courage. We can question habitual ways of behavior. We can imagine new and better scenarios. Instead of judging others based on race, or class, or nationality, or political party, we can say, “not always so,” and find a bridge between our differences. Instead of an impoverished vision of our own value and a defeatist attitude about our own influence, we can speak truth to power and say, “Not always so!”

So, today and tomorrow, and all week, when you find yourself shutting down, making snap judgments, curling up in fear, lashing out with aggression, stop for a few minutes—a few breaths even—and ask yourself if you are seeing the whole picture, the whole person, the whole story. Make your answer be: “not always so.” Then, pray for a more incisive and inclusive outlook, one that rounds out your life and leads to freedom—for everyone.”

These tools helped me to be neutral like the leaf and I invite you if you feel inspired to use these tools. It is in this place of neutrality that the emotions you are experiencing can move through you, rather then being trapped in a field of polarity. In the long run, this is what contributes to our health and the health of the planet.

Charan Surdhar, certified Emotion Code and Body Code Practitioner