The Emergency Guru: 5 Lifelines for hitting rock bottom

nathansnostalgia / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

I have had the good fortune to meet many masters, many gurus, many teachers from many traditions. Do you know which master, which guru has most inspired me? It is life itself. Life is our best teacher.–Godwin Samararathne

This is my bumbling attempt to lift up 1) my fellow blogger Bodhisattvaintraining who got some intense news this week and 2) all our friends and family on the East Coast who probably can’t read this because they have no power.

You are down to your last $200 while living in your car–I’ve been-there-done-that (btdt). Your girlfriend dumps you and marries the next guy she meets–btdt. You sink all your money into a pipe dream that explodes in your face–btdt. In situations like this, the “everything happens for a reason” crap just doesn’t cut it. You need an emotional epidural STAT.

Here are five quick fixes for emergency situations. These techniques have worked for me in the past, and they continue to work for me in the present. I do not know if they will work for you because I am aware that some of you are suffering from losses that make my hardships look like a walk down the red carpet at the Academy Awards. I offer them not as an expert, but as a friend.


“Breathe in calm, breathe out smile”–Thich Nhat Hanh

Like my Chinese father-in-law says, “It so simpo.” Just breathe. When I was a kid, I had pleurisy, which is a lung infection. Every time I tried to take a breath, I would get a sharp pain like someone was jabbing a metal toothpick right between my intercostal muscles. I started to cry, but this made me breathe erratically which caused more pain. Then I panicked and started to hyperventilate which deepened the pain. It was torture.

When things seem unbearable in my life, I take a deep pain-free breath and thank God for the air.

the perfect moment

“The wound is the place where the light enters you”–Rumi (I borrowed this quotation from Mirth and Motivation. Thanks Elizabeth.)

I once met a Swedish traveler named Julian at a meditation retreat in Sri Lanka–a small island off the southern tip of India. They called Julian “the sitting one,” because he traveled all around India and Sri Lanka to attend every kind of meditation retreat available. With his shaved head and milky white skin, he looked like a little porcelain buddha as he sat for hours without moving.

One day Julian and I were walking around the meditation centre which is located in the secluded hills above a beautiful valley surrounded by tea plantations. When we came to a clearing that revealed a perfect view of the verdant valley and the setting sun, Julian remarked, “There will never be a more perfect moment than this: right here, right now.”

“You can say that again. This is beautiful,” I replied. But Julian just kept walking.

A few minutes later we came to a trash dump. A rusted refrigerator, some paint buckets, and piles of scrap wood littered the shrubbery under a dying tree. β€œThere will never be a more perfect moment than this: right here, right now,” repeated Julian.

I try to keep this in mind when my life starts to smell like a trash dump. It is not the external circumstances that define our existence; it is the moment, the now, that exists only in our minds. We have complete control of that moment. We can make it “on earth as it is in heaven” or we can make it hell on earth.

natural release

“Catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world”–Beach Boys

Sometimes it is good to get away from people, including yourself. I have found that getting lost in nature helps me find my way in society. You don’t have to climb Mount Everest. Just hug a tree for 20 minutes. Take a walk on the beach and let the depth of the ocean swallow your ego and your problems. Follow an ant for 10 minutes and all the work you have to do doesn’t seem that tough anymore.


“When you arise in the morning give thanks for the morning light, for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food and the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”–Tecumseh (1768-1813)

The deeper I fall into despair the more I look for things to be grateful for. Once you find them, they are a lifeline that will pull you out of the miry pit as long as you keep hold of the line by finding more things to be grateful for. When I was living in my car, I was thankful for every night I found a place to park, and I could not believe how many people helped me out. When they saw that I was sleeping in the back of my truck, rather than call the cops, they invited me to park on their property or in their garage. Some even invited me in their houses and let me use their showers. Gratitude makes miracles happen. Regardless what the evening news says, the world is still an altruistic place. All people are full of love and godliness. They might have forgotten or may be ignoring their goodness, but when we are thankful for this inherent sacredness, the whole world welcomes us with open arms.

bob marley

“Thank you Lord for what you’ve done for me. Thank you Lord for what you’re doing now.”–Bob Marley

Cover of

If all else fails, put on some Bob Marley. If Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King had iPods, I guarantee you that Bob Marley would be on their playlists. I don’t know if it is the upbeat tempo of the reggae sound or if it is the word of God that comes from Marley’s lips, but Songs of Freedom have pulled me out of my darkest moments. My favorite tracks are “Thank you Lord,” “No Woman, No Cry,” “Simmer Down,” “Onelove,” and “Acoustic Medley.” “The stone that the builder refused, shall be the head cornerstone.” Lauren Hill‘s “Turn the Lights Down Low” remix will also work in a pinch.

What are your lifelines when you hit rock bottom? Please share.

Thank you for reading, sharing, and/or smiling.


11 comments on “The Emergency Guru: 5 Lifelines for hitting rock bottom

  1. I smiled Kozo, and I thank you very much πŸ™‚

  2. Dieu says:

    For me, it’s all about taking the time to enjoy the moment. People are always so busy rushing about not paying attention to each moment. Nothing is more important than living in the moment.

    • Kozo says:

      I agree, Dieu. I would argue that your poetry captures moments that people rush by for the reader to enjoy. Cheers.
      One of my surfer friends used to say that everything he did was the “best ever.” That was the best ever surf session. That was the best ever pizza I’ve ever eaten. That was the best ever day at work. Then he would say, “And why isn’t it. This is all we got. The future is a dream. The past is a memory. Only the present exists, so it is the best ever.”

  3. diannegray says:

    I love your Chinese father-in-law’s saying, β€œIt so simpo.” – SO true and what a classic!

    I find time heals a lot of wounds. When you mentioned your girlfriend dumping you and marrying the next guy, it reminded me of my first serious boyfriend. He dumped me and married my best friend! That was pretty hard to take at the time, but years later when they started fighting and hating each other with a hell-fire passion it kind of put a wry smile on my face (I know that sounds mean, but seriously – I couldn’t help smiling!)

    I’m what my mother calls a ‘fatalist’ – I think everything that happens does so for a reason and that reason becomes clear later in life. When disastrous things happen to me I take it with a grain of salt and think ‘it could be a lot worse’ or ‘I wonder how this will pan out and what lesson I’ll learn from it’.

    I loved this post – it put a smile on my face this morning πŸ˜€

    • Kozo says:

      Thanks for the comment, Dianne. Unfortunately for me, my ex and her husband are still happily married, but so am I. So I guess i should have adopted your fatalistic attitude back then.
      I also believe that everything happens for a reason. At our wedding, my wife and I had our first dance to Rascal Flatt’s “God Bless the Broken Road.” I thank God everyday that I waited for her to come in my life.

  4. […] The Emergency Guru: 5 Lifelines for hitting rock bottom ( […]

  5. eof737 says:

    This is a beautiful post… inspiring. TY for the pingback. πŸ˜‰

  6. “Gratitude makes miracles happen.”

    I think the biggest miracle it caused for me was my happiness. I have less stuff and far less money these days than I’m used to having, which felt like a rock bottom. However, despite this, I’m incredibly happy and light when I stop to think of, and be grateful for, each part of my life that is easy or going right- even though at first glance, it seems like it isn’t a lot.

  7. We write posts, we let them fly… we never know who they touch and how much they uplift others. Today, I was drawn to this post again… I needed it.
    Thank you Kozo. Stay Blessed!

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      ELIZABETH!! So good to “see” you. Thank you so much for re-minding me of this post. I had forgotten that I wrote it. I’ve forgotten a lot of things lately. Funny enough, I just clicked on one of your tweets this weekend. Reminded me to come by and say hi to an old friend. {{{Hugs}}} Kozo

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