Sometimes you have to break down. You’re at the end of every rope, your well is dry, your tank is empty, and truly, objectively, the best you can do is cry.
There isn’t any shame in this, and I’m guessing all of us have or will find ourselves there sometime(s).
Tonight I want to talk about all the other cases, though.
I have this set of talks by Pema Chodron called Getting Unstuck (highly recommend), in which Pema talks about our tendency to avoid and numb out and run away from our uncomfortable feelings. The practice she describes to counter this tendency – which really is a tendency that keeps us stuck and perpetuates our lack of peace, rather than the opposite (sorry subconscious; it’s true) – can be summed up with one word: stay.
Sit each day in meditation, she says, and stay with what comes up. Anger? Let anger rise. Don’t try to push it off. Don’t try to talk yourself out of it. Don’t hold onto it, either, but simply observe it. Note what it feels like. Note what it does in your body.
And then stay with the next thing that arises.
You’ll be surprised by the succession, and by the way feelings start to seem like clouds over time, rather than sledgehammers – wisps of weather that come and go across a much more stable sky.
“You are the sky,” Pema says. “Everything else is just the weather.”
As I sit with some uncomfortable feelings this evening – loneliness, vulnerability, a wish for more hand-holding in my process of stepping into my power (the irony, right?) – I’m struck by something I haven’t seen so clearly before:
One of the uncomfortable things that I and maybe all of us need to stay with sometimes is our capacity to give good things and shine our light even when much of us is feeling small, or tired, or depressed, or unprepared, or inarticulate, or inexperienced, or the wrong race, gender, age, height or weight.
This isn’t a pep talk to give of ourselves at the edges of burn-out or impose ourselves where we really need not be. This isn’t about saying yes when everything in us or our lives is saying, “NOOOOOOO!!!”
This is about staying with our vulnerabilities AND our power when our vulnerabilities are trying to run the whole show.
I just spent an hour surfing the internet aimlessly, swimming in feeling small and private and alone. I went to the kitchen for a snack and noticed this strange, simultaneous feeling to these others that didn’t cancel these others out, but was a very different hue. It was a knowing that right in the midst of feeling small, I actually have some things to say. A knowing that my light can shine no matter the weather. Or at the very least, no matter my current internal conditions.
So here I am writing right now. Here I am saying that if you’re feeling small or depressed or insecure or afraid and like you cannot give because of it – cannot write or call a friend or say yes or listen well – consider the possibility that you have more than just that feeling to stay with right now. More than the feeling of being off the hook or barred from giving in any way.
Consider the possibility that there is a well of strength in you alongside the weakness, a flame of light that can shine hope into the darkness.
Consider the possibility that your staying with that power, even when so much in you wants to run from or suppress or deny it altogether – is your ticket to more peace and more joy and more inner spaciousness than your living small or hiding out will ever help you find.
Hiding out is important and necessary sometimes, but may be less important, right now – even far less so – than you think.