From In to Out of the Box: Gifts Found After Job LossDec 10, 2018 02:43AM ● By Linda Derick
We arrive at work one day, and without notice, our position has been eliminated, and we have no or little time to wrap up and leave. Our job may be our life work, financial security, our community and the structure through which we know who we are. Perhaps we have had a premonition, or increasing levels of strain and signs leading up to this conclusion, but still it is a shock to the whole system.
In recent years many people have experienced lay-offs or reduction in force (RIF) job eliminations. What happens when we are suddenly thrust out of the box and find ourselves out on our own and vulnerable? As one tumbles through the many layers of shock, loss and recovery, it is possible to find grace during this transition.
In creating a new life, the challenge becomes how to keep feet on the ground, connected to our inner wisdom and life goals, even as the newness has not yet transitioned into a new normal. For better or worse, working in the box, we grow accustomed and habituated to functioning within a kind of safety, predictability and assurance. Leaving that safety is a shock.
“Psychological shock is when you experience a surge of strong emotions and a corresponding physical reaction, in response to a (typically unexpected) stressful event,” explains Alice Boyes, PhD, on PsychologyToday.com. “You may feel jittery or physically sick... Your mind will likely feel very foggy, and you can’t think straight. You may feel out of body. You may feel anger and want to scream or yell. Since it’s hard to think straight when you’re in shock, you should give yourself a chance to calm down before acting. You need to give yourself a few minutes (or months) for your rational brain to take over—or at least to rejoin the party.”
Barbara Kingsolver’s new book, Unsheltered: A Novel, touches on some of the aspects of losing the shelter of one’s job: “No creature is easily coerced to live without its shelter…Without shelter, we feel ourselves likely to die…Without shelter, we stand in daylight.”
It can be so scary to be thrust out of the box, the known-ness, the routine, the community, the confidence of skillful, experienced helmsmanship, the financial assurance. Yet there can also be a sense of freedom; the exhilaration of being released from a box that had grown tight, restrictive or even soul-killing. This is potentially blissful, if you can surf the fear and stand in the daylight.
There can be grace from a position of unsheltered vulnerability when we have been kicked to the curb. Wise teachers will tell you that life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you. Can you negotiate these “gifts” of free fall, skinned knees and broken heart, with equanimity and courage—and most of all, with loving kindness to this sweet tender soul that is searching for its full, sacred expression of the chip-off-the-old-Buddha-block that it is?
As you negotiate the creation of your new life, there are many survival skills that can support grace. Mindfulness meditation calms and disciplines the mind, and physical activity is a great stress reliever. The practice of yoga and therapeutic massage can support us through life’s many transitions, whether surprises or planned. Relaxation and mindful awareness provide a base from which to remain centered and to find our next step, with confidence and grace.
What we practice on the mat or on the massage table, we carry into our daily lives. We practice equanimity—calm amidst intensity. We practice finding balance between working hard and letting go. By practicing together, we support ourselves and one another in a community of breath, movement and peaceful attention.
A commonly practiced yoga posture known as camatkarasana is often referred to as “wild thing”, but its name also means “the ecstatic unfolding of the enraptured heart”. The translation from Sanskrit can also mean miracle or surprise. As we practice, we get stronger, more yielding and assured that yes, grace is all around all the time.
With each anniversary (weekly, monthly, a year out), take time to notice how you are changing as you grow through the transition. Kingsolver says, “We are given to live in a remarkable time. When the nuisance of old mythologies falls away from us, we may see with new eyes.” If losing your job, getting thrown from the box, should happen to you, take heart. You are not alone. You will find your way through this shattering time and perhaps find yourself growing into and seeing from a new vantage point of your whole, sweet self.
Linda Derick, MA, MA, RYT, LMsT, has been practicing yoga for 50 years and has been a licensed massage therapist for 40 years. She is a certified Stand-up Paddleboard (SUP) instructor and runs the SUP Yoga program on Andover Lake in the summer. A Yoga Alliance certified instructor, Derick teaches all-level yoga classes as well as yoga for people with movement disorders for the “Beat PD: Boxing for Parkinson’s” program. Connect at [email protected] or find Yoga & Massage Therapy at Andover Lake on Facebook.