A Catastrophic Course Correction

Yesterday, the beautiful #beinghappiness coach Gail M. Schock posted this advice on her Facebook page:

Okay so today people…




New Moon, expect lots of travel madness, cancelled meetings, teariness, perhaps even a little distress. This isn’t you, it’s the pull of the water.


My suggestion? Laugh a lot. Enjoy a salt bath. Enjoy the ride and see where the day takes you xxx

I must admit, I don’t know very much about the moon and stars and all that, it’s one of the aspects of spiritual living that has never really resonated too deeply with me, so I pretty much dismissed this one off hand and kept scrolling.

And then everything turned upside down.

I am currently working on my MA dissertation, and for the last month have been working with a particular Buddhist group who were to be the subjects of my research. I have been attending their services, observing their practice and engaging them in discussions about why they do what they do.

When suddenly, yesterday afternoon, I received an email from the group leader informing me that they have decided to withdraw their participation and they no longer wish to be the subjects of my dissertation.

this way, that wayI cannot overstate how disastrous this development was. It means that a month’s work has to be thrown out, and as certain uni deadlines have passed it is very unlikely that I can switch my focus to another group and carry on along the same line of enquiry. This in turn means that I will have to abandon field research altogether, and switch topic completely to something I can do as an archival research project instead, which never appealed to me, as the opportunity to conduct original field research was the most exciting part of this whole year. On top of all this, my supervisor is about to leave the country for her own research trip, so switching topic means I will have to switch to another supervisor, which was quite upsetting on its own as my current supervisor is, quite simply, freaking awesome.

All in all, this turn of events was a complete catastrophe. Looking back at Gail’s post, I had to laugh (rather hysterically). “Cancelled meeting”? A whole month’s work cancelled! “Teariness”? Floods! “Maybe a little distress”?? How about pure and unadulterated shock, panic, and rage! It seems I need to start taking the whole lunar cycle aspect of spirituality a little more seriously…

I thus spent my evening alternating between staring into space in stunned silence, sending panicked “whatdoIdoooo?” emails to my supervisor, and crying in defeat.

When I woke up this morning, the shock of yesterday’s events had passed a little so I wasn’t as emotional. But I was angry. How dare this leader do this to me? How could he pull the rug out from under me like this? Doesn’t he know how severely screwed I am now, thanks to him?! When I started practising my morning chanting, my mind was distracted with my anger towards him and the whole situation. It snidely occurred to me that this action he had taken simply isn’t very Buddhist or spiritual, to drop somebody in the shit for no good reason, especially when the work had been going quite well so far. But then I was also forced to admit that my own attitude towards him wasn’t very Buddhist or spiritual itself. I was falling into the trap of allowing an emotional reaction to direct my mood and potentially my whole day.

So, still practising, I started directing my chant towards him.

I directed a sense of #compassion towards him, that he must have some internal reasons for rejecting me. I don’t know what those reasons are and I don’t need to know to be able to empathise with either a negative reaction he might have had to some questions I was asking, or something even deeper.

I actively chose to #forgive his decision on that basis, and by doing so, released myself from the bitterness and resentment I went to sleep and woke up with.

I realised with a sense of deep #gratitude that there are still, as always, positives to take away from this experience. I had been curious about this group so at least I had now learned a lot about them to satisfy my personal interest. Even if I had to switch topic, I was #grateful that I do still have enough time to produce a decent dissertation.

I finally chose to simply #accept the situation as it is, as fighting our circumstances only results in the kind of inner conflict that can fester and rot our spirits, leaving only misery behind.

With that, I finished my chanting, with still no clue where this new path takes me, but with a big smile on my face and a sense of peace and faith that it will all work out. Which of course it will. Because it always does, and this practice and spiritual way of life has given me the tools and inner strength to roll with whatever punches the universe throws at me – and the insight to understand that they were never really punches in the first place, only opportunities. The smile on my face got broader throughout the day as I came across wonderfully synchronous messages that my instinct in this was right – the best example being this post from the amazing Buddhist Boot Camp:

It might feel like a rejection today… but by tomorrow, next month or next year, you might look at the same situation as a dodged bullet!

As the cherry on top of this struggle into insight, I have since heard from the university that I can indeed modify my research to focus on a different group, despite the lapsed deadline. This means that while I still have to discard the material I had gathered from the original group, I can keep going with the field research I was enjoying so much and conduct the same inquiry with a new group. And thinking about it even further I believe that this change might actually result in better data and an overall better dissertation. This is obviously wonderful news, but what I, and you, should take away from this experience is to truly #GoWithTheFlow – even (or especially!) when the tide seems to toss you around. Trust that it is simply – and always – setting you back on course for happiness and success.

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2 thoughts on “A Catastrophic Course Correction

  1. aine

    What a fantastic post. So easy to get overwhelmed, it’s nice to be reminded that you can choose your own reaction.#happychanter

    • Jessica

      Thanks so much Aine! Indeed it’s always up to you, although easy to forget that in a crisis moment! Regular spiritual practice really helps with allowing more positive reactions to come naturally 🙂

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