Life has Ups & Downs – How to Find Contentment in the Tide

Do you experience times in life when you feel pretty good? Moving along, setting goals – then, for whatever reason, your best laid plans don’t work out… and a nice weighty doldrum or funk sets in?

It’s easy to feel frustration, even resistance, when that happens.
After all who wants to be in one of life’s ‘downs’?

That happened to me recently. When things didn’t go the way I wanted, I was ready to go into self-criticism mode. A mode that can often keep me stuck.

But this time, an article I was reading about self-criticism versus self-compassion caught my eye and reminded me of something. The article was about a study that suggested how compassion has a way of keeping neurological pathways in the brain open for continued movement toward goals. Whereas self-criticism shuts them down.
No big surprise there I guess.

But that’s not always easy to do. So it got me thinking… what are some ways to access self-compassion, to soften our perspective on the funk we might be in?

And I remembered.
I remembered an image that, time and again, has become a touchpoint for me. One that brings me back from criticism or resistance and enables me to keep moving.

It’s the concept of Ebb and Flow.

My relationship to that pattern of the universe, my trust in the rhythm of how life unavoidably operates has often become my solace, and so my resilient strength.

As life continues to insist on presenting its ups and downs, I’ve discovered that choosing not to resist where I am in the tide, allows for compelling movement. And that movement gives me the freedom and power to create my life.

Here’s what I mean…

When I’m in a funk, depressed, overwhelmed, anxious, even just plain tired, I don’t tell myself I shouldn’t be those things or even try to hurry along my coming out of it anymore. I’ve started just being in the Ebb for a while.
You see, it’s in my witnessing of that experience, stepping back and even honoring it, or at least just remembering to breathe, that sure enough I see the rhythm.

Time and again, Flow follows.

And oddly, it’s not a “things will get better” mantra that heartens me when I’m in a down, stuck place. Actually, it’s what comes up in reverse tide.

When I’m in a Flow and things are going great, when I’m on a roll, feeling like I’m making progress and on top of my game – the experience is the same.
I see the pattern of truth there as well… that this too, shall pass.

No amount of grasping or earnest holding on will keep an Up, up.
And you know what – that’s ok.
I’ve really gotten that. And getting it has made all the difference.

So, I make a point of pausing every once in a while to simply get present.
I take a breath and let go a bit.
Paths always seem to reveal themselves when I step back this way – whether it’s an action to get me going or a much needed rest to balance me out.

Ebbs follow Flows. And vice versa.
Large or very small, in every layer of living –
because movement is the nature of all things.

And thank goodness for movement.
Stagnation is a breeding ground for all kinds of dis-health.

So therein lies my solace. Trusting in movement.
Knowing and being ok with the gentle truth that nothing lasts is surprisingly freeing.
It’s an empowering frame of reference from which to practice letting things roll off your back.

Now don’t get me wrong.
In some of my bigger Ebbs, it’s all I can do to remember to breathe through it.
But now, I’ve come to viscerally trust that there IS a ‘through it.’

And having that trust opens a space for me.
A space that fills with gratitude and yes, compassion.

Gratitude and compassion on such a simultaneously basic, and bigger-than-myself level buoys my spirit with contentment – regardless of what the next tide brings in.

The next time you’re feeling stuck in a down space or resisting a swing away from up, I invite you to pause for a moment to simply notice where you are. Let yourself sway in the rhythm of your Ebbs and Flows. And perhaps find yourself in a dance with contentment that creates a life you love.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with how you find balance in life.

Feel free to share below!


  • Irene

    Thank you Katrina!
    Somehow I continue to receive your words at exactly the right time, just when I need them! It is hard to “trust in the movement” when I am right in the middle of “moving”, but you just helped me release a breath and let my shoulders down instead of being so busy with my ‘poor me’ thoughts. Thanks again! Irene

    • Your welcome Irene! That’s the key, isn’t it… trusting when you’re right in the ‘middle of it’? Takes practice, but I guess that’s the point 🙂 … love the physical ‘tool’ of letting your shoulders down as well! ~Katrina

  • Tracy

    Good post, Katrina! I had a revelation around this a few years ago, when in a not-so-good place. I was walking the beach, watching the waves come in and out over my toes. Boom. Hit me upside the head. Just as you say. This too shall pass… and pass… and pass. Beach. Tracy’s number #1 place for seeing the truth of life in all its layers and complications : ).

    • Thanks Tracy! Agreed, the power of a beach to bring us back to life with a capital L is palpable! I think that’s where this post came from… a yearning to get back there in my mind now that we’re moving away from summer into autumn. Glad it reminded you too 🙂