As a Marriage and Family Therapist and Sports Psychology Consultant, I’ve learned from life experiences as well as from working with my clients that life is inherently impermanent; nothing lasts forever. Seasons come and go, youth gives way to old age, beauty gives way to wrinkles, life gives way to death, and because everything eventually dies, all relationships come to an end. A lot of us, however, turn a blind eye to how fleeting our lives are, and how ephemeral our good fortune is. We blissfully assume that the strong winds that we have at our backs will carry us forward for the rest of our lives. In addition, we become too attached or overly identified with these winds, and we believe that they represent the sum total of who we are. Gil Gronsdal, in a talk that he gave on Equanimity in 2004, referred to these winds as the “EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS.” These winds include praise and blame, success and failure, pleasure and pain, and fame and disrepute.
As for the first of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS, I believe that becoming overly invested in Praise can tend toward conceit, and it can also compel us to seek out external validation from others rather than look inward for internal validation. This habit can feel very dis-empowering over the long haul, as our sense of self becomes more and more dependent on what other people say about us.
As for the second worldly wind, I believe that shouldering too much Blame can lead us to develop a shame-based sense of self. We are not the sum total of our mistakes. I believe that we would make far better use of our time, energy, and resources if we tabled the blame and instead, with self-compassion and self-forgiveness, thought of ways to learn from our mistakes so that we can do things more effectively the next time around.
As for Success, the third of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS: When I see my clients and people in general become too attached to their own successes, I notice that they become prone to becoming arrogant, entitled, grandiose, and narcissistic. Often times, what lurks beneath this inflated facade lies is a profound fear of failure or being exposed as frauds. They’ve become so attached to their success and defined by the trappings of it that they’re fear of falling off the mountain top paralyzes them with self-doubt, and soon enough their performances go down the tubes.
As for Failure, the fourth of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS: I believe that the more we identify with failure, the more we feel intrinsically incompetent and inadequate. Soon Failure becomes an integral part of our life story. We see ourselves as the sum total of our life experiences through this dark prism, and therefore we conclude that the winds of life have always gone against us. This belief system often creates a victim mentality in us, and we walk around with a chip on our shoulders and/or have a contempt for other people and/or have a deep-seeded contempt for ourselves. For those who have become overly identified with failure, they’ve been unable to step back and recognize that although they’ve experienced failure, they never had to allow these experiences to define them as people. We are not, after all, our behaviors or our life experiences. The essence of who we are transcends these fleeting moments.
As for Pleasure, the fifth of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS: I believe that the experience of pleasure is wonderful!! However, when a person seeks personal pleasure only at the exclusion of everything else, his or life often lacks depth, connection, meaning, and purpose.
Reacting to Pain, the sixth of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS: When we experience pain, it’s our natural tendency to contract, resist the pain, and focus on it. Unfortunately, when we resist our pain, the pain is likely to get worse. In addition, when we focus on our pain, it tends to expand. Although it seems incredibly counter-intuitive, the key to managing pain is to acknowledge its presence, welcome it, and be present with it. In addition, practice the art of equanimity, equanimity arises from the power of observation, to see your pain with patience, understanding, and compassion. Finally, remind yourself that you are not your pain; There is a soul or light inside of you that is separate from your pain and watch it from a distance, and when you learn how to do this, you pain will subside considerably for you.
As for Fame, the seventh of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS: As a Marriage and Family Therapist and Sports Psychology Consultant, I’ve had the privilege of working with famous businessmen, businesswomen, actors, actresses, and professional athletes. As a lay person, I’ve also watched the rise and fall of businessmen, politicians, actors, actresses, and professional athletes on television and read about it in the newspapers. I imagine that you, like me, have all watched these famous people navigate their ways through the fame machine and come out the other side with a distorted sense of themselves and a warped world view. In addition, many of them appear to me to be emaciated, ghostly, and like they’ve unnecessarily subjected themselves to multiple plastic surgeries while in their 20’s no less. To me, these are clear signs that these “stars’ got lost somewhere in the darkness, and they lost their center of gravity. In other words, they become imbalanced and, like a leaf carried away in no particular direction in one of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS, they got caught up and then lost in the gravitational vortex of fame.
Finally, there is the eighth of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS, and that wind is the wind of Disrepute. When I’ve seen people fall into disrepute, they often feel deep shame and feelings of personal despair and disgrace. They’ve become so attached to standing atop a pedestal and being seen as larger than life that their fall from grace crushes their ego. They’ve spend so much time cultivating a make believe image of perfection that being seen warts and all makes them want to crawl into a hole and hide forever. Now they feel like leapers, exiled, shunned, and rejected from family, friends, and foes alike. Often times the people who have fallen into disrepute are the very same people who once enjoyed the spoils of fame. Just as their egos and identities became too attached to their fame, now their sense of selves have become too entangled with their broken reputation.
As a Marriage and Family Therapist and Sports Psychology Consultant, I’ve found that there are many ways to avoid getting caught up in one or more of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS. The first antidote that comes to mind is having the wisdom to know that our sense of inner well-being is independent of the eight winds. When we know this, we are more likely to remain on an even keel in their midst. In addition, another piece of wisdom that can protect us from getting caught up in one or more of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS is the awareness of the nature of impermanence. The reality of life is that things change so quickly that we can’t hold onto anything. Therefore, we must become masters at the art of letting go. Letting go brings us peace of mind and equanimity. As an old Buddhist saying goes, “let go, or be dragged.”
Another antidote to getting caught up in the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS is to develop the equanimity that arises from the power of observation; the ability to see without being caught by what we see. Also, it’s incredibly important to learn how to see with patience and understanding. When well-developed, such power of observation gives rise to peace of mind, body, and spirit. When we can observe the highs and lows of our lives from a grounded space, we feel rooted in the essence of who we truly are. In these moments, we remain centered in the middle of whatever is happening. As the “Watcher” inside of us observes all that is going on around us, we remain palpably in touch with the strong presence of inner calm, well being, balance, integrity, and confidence that keeps us upright, like a ballast that keeps a ship upright in strong winds.
Other ways to remain balanced, grounded, unattached, and able to observe life’s EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS without being tossed about by them is to practice meditation, yoga, and to engage in any spiritual practice that is grounded in faith and wisdom. Also, practicing mindfulness, deep breathing, seeing a capable Marriage and Family Therapist, Sports Psychology Consultant, life coach, NLP ( Tony Robbins Stuff) Practitioner, EMDR Practitioner, or turning to any resource that resonates with you and encourages you to cultivate calm and concentration as well as strengthens your sense of self will help to keep you grounded as the Eight Worldly Winds continue to draw people in and spit them out, just as they have for generations and generations.
In addition to practices and resources that I’ve already referenced, I’d also like to strongly encourage you to strive towards being impeccable with your word and having integrity with others so that you can walk into any room in any crowd of people and feel blameless, free from from the ghosts of blame, shame, guilt, and disrepute. When you don’t engage in gossip, it’s amazing how the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS look for new targets to descend down on. Finally, I’d like to encourage you to focus on doing the very best that you can in your life; focus on your “Performance Scorecard,” not on your “Outcome Scorecard.” If you’re identity is riding on your results, then you’re you’re more or less gambling day to day with your sense of well being, because your results are then dependent on variables that are often out of your hands. However, if you’re sense of well being and sense of self comes from achieving your performance goals, then you’re far more likely to feel confident and successful, regardless of the outcome of your efforts. This is because you’ve taken care of matters that are within your control.
If you’re finding yourself swept up in one or more of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS, I want you to rest assured that you’re hardly alone. If you’ve grown weary, however, of twisting like a leaf out in the unpredictable winds and would like to learn how to return to your center and rediscover the essence of who you truly are again, then I want to invite you to e-mail me or give me call so that we can set up a time to visit in person. I would enjoy that very much 🙂
John Boesky, LMFT/Sports Psychology Consultant