As promised, here is part II of the blog series on innovation and its necessary components. Last time, we looked at the value of restriction. Today, we will explore disruption and the gift of the stop.
We don't easily relinquish old patterns and habits, even if we hate them and know they aren't serving us. We keep going, keep jumping on the hamster wheel, again and again. We can’t stop. The loop of habit and neurosis has too much momentum. Each day we say we are going to do things differently, but then we watch in disappointment as we continue to do the exact same thing. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. We hit the couch instead of walking outside. We eat the cookies instead of the vegetables. We stay up late meeting deadlines instead of sleeping. We stay in the same city when our heart wants to be somewhere else. We stay in unfulfilling relationships because they seem easier. We pour a drink instead of opening that letter from the IRS. We stay in soul-crushing jobs because we can't envision any other opportunity. We believe we don’t have the time. We believe we don’t have the money. We spend more time looking at our phones than the people in the room with us. We constantly seek external validation. We want those ‘likes’. We want someone else to tell us that we are ok. We hate ourselves. We feel burned out. We don’t want to get out of bed. We feel overwhelmed. We feel hopeless. We use the word ‘someday’ a lot. Stuck in our habitual loops, ‘someday’ never comes. All of a sudden, decades have gone by and we are still feeling stifled and unsatisfied, doing the exact same things over and over. The promise of security offered by the known and familiar was too convincing to leave.
Even so, many people do make radical changes. People move from entrapment to freedom all the time. How? First, there has to be some disruption in the pattern. Something has to break. We have to be stopped. Because somewhere along the line, we lost the capacity for choice. We became unable to stop ourselves.
Though there are gentle ways of breaking habitual loops and being stopped, the majority of people do not start here. Developing a meditation practice, for instance, is a beautiful way to begin dismantling old loops. Energy healing and acupuncture facilitate similar changes. When we align and balance the energy systems within a person, we begin to see changes in the external manifestation of all aspects of their reality. What we are doing is aligning their ego self with source energy (the qi/life force and biofield are palpable expressions of source energy) and unblocking pathways for source energy to flow without restriction. The more that source energy is freed up to flow through a person, the more powerfully it guides their actions. I have watched countless people completely transform their lives without even realizing what was happening because we changed the energy and they seamlessly leaned into the flow of their highest expression.
For most of us, however, it takes something far more jarring to break a pattern and be brought to a stop. For many, this means crisis. We get fired. Our spouse leaves us. We are in a car accident. We get diagnosed with a serious disease. We begin having excruciating pain patterns. We fall into a dark, devastating depression.
If we do even think to seek out something as seemingly intangible as energy healing, acupuncture, or meditation, it usually takes something pretty severe to get us there.
When crisis hits, reality shatters; we come to a shocking halt. The old pattern is broken. It creates a state of chaos, where any former sense of stability and order is out the window. In this moment, we are forced (I like to say “invited”) to assess our lives and ultimately, to make changes. To adapt and move on, we must learn to do things in a new way, to view the world differently.
Our first response is often to play the victim and blame the big, mean old world for our distress. We cry and lament that our lives are falling apart. But we forget that we had been very unhappy with those lives. Falling apart is the greatest thing that could have happened. Crisis is divine intervention. Crisis is where freedom is born.
However, before we run off chasing freedom and anxiously hustling to build something new, we have to honor the stop. The moment of complete arrest, of ostensibly doing nothing, is an essential foundation to true change. If we leave this part out, we have not actually changed a thing except the direction of our hamster wheel.
When an addict hits bottom and gets institutionalized, when a person commiting crimes gets arrested, when a workaholic breaks their hip and can’t go to the office, there is often relief. They had wanted to stop, but couldn’t. Arrest means just that: to stop. Despite any outward defiance or resistance of the ego, the soul here feels relief.
The single most important aspect of being stopped is that it makes us face our neuroses. It makes us aware of exactly what we are doing, of how we operate. When we are stopped and unable to engage with our habitual patterns, we experience, at a deeply visceral level, our every impulse to grasp, reject, seek comfort, or escape. When we are still, our internal spinning is amplified. Extremely uncomfortable, given nowhere to run, we must sit with it.
We hear all the voices: "You should be getting something done now, with all this time." "You are always so lazy." "I'm bored." “Why hasn’t she texted me back?” "I hate this." "I need a drink." "What is this itch on my leg?" "When is this going to be over?" "Did the cat just vomit?" “Only 1 month to vacation!!” "My back hurts." “I think I’m going to buy those amazing heels!” "I just want to give up and die." “It’s no use.” “I’m going to check Facebook.” "I know how to fix this." “I’m hungry.” “I need to watch a movie.” “At this rate, I’ll never pay rent.” “I’m so fat.” “I can’t wait for Sarah’s party!”
We see how our thoughts tend to take us anywhere other than where we are. We see the ways in which we distract ourselves. We see the ways we criticize ourselves. We see how we are constantly trying to change the way we feel. We see that we have been running because we are afraid of who we are.
At the initial onset of being stopped, as we begin to bear witness to all of our madness, we might feel overwhelmed. We generally try to run away by whatever means we have available. But, given a situation in which we are forced to stay stopped for a prolonged enough period of time, we ultimately get fatigued and drop our resistance. We even get bored with our typical escapes. Nothing works anymore. So we finally just sit with it. Surrender happens here.
This is our collective moment right now. What a beautiful, beautiful gift. This is a mandatory meditation intensive for all of us, free of charge.
Though many people hold an image of meditation as being some blissful, transcendent space, that is not what it is really about. The true heart of meditation is sitting with the reality of one’s experience. After much practice, the bliss arises from the practiced ability to sit and abide peacefully in all situations, regardless of conditions. The relief comes not from finding ourselves in easier situations, but from embracing the situations that we are in, exactly as they are. Transcendence comes when we stop fighting, when we stop adding resistance to our lives, and we decide to surrender, love and embrace all of it, the dark and the light, the pleasure and the pain.
In crisis, we come to realize -- having fallen down, having lost everything as we previously knew it -- that we are still ok. No matter how bad things seem, we are still here. We are still breathing.
The earth will not drop us.
In situations like now, where we are pushed to stop and sit with ourselves, in all its uncomfortable glory, we are practicing meditation. We might not be on a cushion, we might be screaming, we might be annoyed, we might be fighting with our families, but we are not running away. Even for those whom the word ‘meditation’ has never crossed the radar screen, they become instant practitioners when crisis brings them to a stop. Even if we are not stopped by choice, like we would be in a meditation retreat, the work still works. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what stops us. A stop is a stop. Being stopped and asked to stay stopped means that sooner or later, we will run into ourselves.
Life experience is the ultimate guru.
Many people might be thinking, "but I don't feel relaxed at all. This can't be meditation." In my experience, the more spinning in your head, the more productive the meditation. There is no such thing as a good or bad meditation. There is only the fact that you stayed right there, with all the noise and discomfort. You stayed when every impulse inside you was screaming to run. Right now, we are all being pressed to stay. That is the ultimate aim. To stay. That's it. That's enough. It is more than enough. It is everything. That is where the work happens.
It is also ok if we don't stay. If we give up. If we get captured by a thought and follow it to the end. If we decide it is all too much and dive into a bag of potato chips and Twitter. We are human. The point with all of this awareness is not to shame and abuse ourselves. The point is to learn to accept everything about ourselves and to learn to handle ourselves with care. When our quirks come up, as they forever will, we can lighten up and laugh.
Life is pretty funny. We are all ridiculous.
It is natural that we will fall off track. It is not a contest. The art of living is a moment by moment process. All we do anytime we notice ourselves getting carried off by a neurotic habit is to simply notice that we have been captured. As soon as we realize we have been captured, we are already back. We use our having gone astray as a cue to come back to right now. We come back. To keep coming back, over and over again, that is the heart of the practice.
Don’t forget to do it with a laugh.
We are all doing the hardest work in the world right now, being asked to stay with our inactivity. And we are all doing an amazing job of it, because there is no such thing as doing it wrong. A stop is a stop.
Week 2 Exercise: Identify Your Neuroses and Habitual Patterns
Write a list of the things you find yourself reaching or desiring in times of discomfort. Are you seeking distraction on social media? Are you minimizing situations? Are you escalating the drama? Are you trying to fix it? Are you trying to fix yourself? Are you reaching for food? Drugs? Alcohol? Is defiance cropping up? “I’m fine”. Are you feeling escapist? Avoidant? Are you trying to problem solve? Are you micromanaging? Are you trying to be more spiritual? Are you being rebellious? Do you want to jump in your car and run away? Do you get thoughts of wishing you could opt out of life? Are you looking to be rescued? Are you reaching out to others? Are you avoiding others? Are you hustling about? Are you having a hard time getting off the couch? What types of thoughts are you having? Are you checking your bank account 10 times a day? Are you napping? Do you feel claustrophobic? Are you trying to feel productive? What are the themes that show up in your head?
This is not an exercise to criticize yourself. This is simply a tool to bring awareness to the impulses that show up when we are in fear or otherwise feeling vulnerable.
Remember, you do not need to do anything to change a single thing here. Simply having awareness is enough. The value is actually in the action of letting yourself be. The value is in loving yourself, in the full glory of that circus that lives in your head, and peacefully co-existing with the monkeys.