January 8, 2016. Elev. 2,420. Cle Elum, WA
This vaguely familiar heavy sensation started to bubble up. It started as a gently rolling kind of feeling. I noticed it, but didn’t tend to it right away. I thought to myself, “Eh, I’ll deal with that feeling later.” HA! I know better than that. And of course, before I knew it the gentle roll developed into a barely controllable Class 4 rapid. Thankfully, for those around me, I got on it before it turned into a 5. I can do that – hold something in until it grows out of proportion and then Boom! “Outta my way biatch!” I hate when that happens.
I might not tend to that feeling right away for a variety of reasons. I convince myself that what I’m feeling is “nothing,” or “silly.” Or maybe “I don’t want to bother them with it.” And then there’s the ol’ stand-by, “Maybe if I drop subtle hints, they’ll get the message and I can avoid the whole vulnerability thing.” The ensuing mess, of course, results in a myriad of passive-aggressive expressions. It’s oh so easy to see it in others, but can we see this characteristic in ourselves? A common passive-aggressive expression might look like this. “Are you ok?” “Yes, I’m fine…” As I aggressively clean up, making more noise with the dishes and cupboards than definitely necessary. Or, it might simply take form in the complaining to others about something my friend did rather than having an honest conversation with her. Yes, it’s hard. Sharing your true feelings, if you’re not used to it, seems to take a huge amount of courage. Expressing them manipulatively feels like the much easier route. A wise woman once schooled me, um…several times…about holding things in. She said, “The stronger you hold on, the more it takes a hold of you.”
Over the past several years I’ve committed to learning about myself for the sake of finding deeper happiness. I had to start at square one – to connect more deeply with my body to understand what it’s telling me. If I don’t know myself, how can I know what makes me truly happy? And if I’m not truly happy, what’s the point? Not just happy because I bought a new pair of shoes, but solidly happy. I think we’re born with a natural sense of what we need, but we can get confused as we passively conform to the culture around us – beginning at a very young age when we learn about rewards and punishment.
“There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy.” Friedrich Nietzsche
Getting to know myself, and what I’m feeling hasn’t come easy, and it’s taken a lot of work. And it will take a lot more work. Self-study, reflection, practice, and peeling away of layers doesn’t happen overnight. I suspect those layers might be infinite. After all, it took 50 years to acquire those layers, perhaps another 50 to unravel them? I’ve learned how to tune into the messages of my body. Sometimes by intense means – like sitting in meditation for 11 hours a day for 10 straight days. Our bodies don’t lie. Especially when my mind thinks it knows what’s right for me. Hah! Silly mind. The ability to listen to what’s going on in my body comes and goes. When I allow my mind and ego to consistently direct my thoughts and behaviors I notice I get frustrated more often; I’m less patient; my cravings (physical and emotional) rear their greedy little heads. “I want!” “I need!” “I’m right, you’re wrong!” All that stuff that pulls me into struggle and suffering. It happens before I know it. My life was calm, peaceful, and easy last week, and all of a sudden, it’s anything but. Back to the drawing board I go.
Back to this recent bubbling feeling turned Class 4 rapid. What was that about? I felt a pressure sensation in my gut and chest – the energy was tight, stifling, and sticky. I needed SPACE! Physical and emotional space. Once I started asking myself the question of what I needed to get back in balance and return to a state of spaciousness, I was able to take appropriate action.
Inappropriate action was the arguing, righteousness, gossiping, being judgmental. All those things seem to feel perversely gratifying in the moment, but they left me feeling dirty, ungrounded, and well, lonely. Space to hear and feel myself. Space to figure out what I needed to be a better, kinder person. Space to show up more fully for others. Ironically, I needed space to not feel lonely. I remembered some skills I had learned along the way and could get to work. It really wasn’t that hard.
- Spend more time alone. When I’m constantly with my partner, or friends, I start to lose my ability to sense what’s I’m really feeling. It takes more work to return to a balanced state when I’m around people. I love my partner and friends, but I have to be mindful of how I share my time. Additionally, I end up consuming more junk food, and alcohol – those pesky distractions and space fillers.
- Use Facebook as part of my spiritual practice. Wait, did I just say that out loud? I find that the less happy and ungrounded I am, the more time I spend pissing away time scrolling through the newsfeed on Facebook. I need to tailor my FB experience to how I want it to make me feel. Spending more time on FB is a huge sign for me that I’m trying to fill a void. The funny thing is, scrolling the newsfeed of mostly people I don’t even know does not leave me feeling good. Why choose to do something like that if it doesn’t feel good? So I went to town with the “unfollow” feature. I originally set up my account with the intention of acquiring no more than 100 friends so I wouldn’t get bogged down with the minutia of the cyber world. But alas, I now have over three times that amount. I had hoped it would be an additive, pleasant thing in my life and that I might for example, learn something from people around the globe who share the common interest of adventure motorcycling riding. That could still happen, but lately that approach has been sparsely additive for me, and sometimes actually disturbing. People use FB for different reasons. My reason in this new year is to use it to be exposed to, and share messages that inspire, bring joy, beauty, and kind laughter. I will use FB to practice my intention of using my time in ways that nourish me. I will get my world news, opinions, and editorials from another source.
- Have more honesty in my life. I started saying “No” more often. One example is that my partner is involved in an interesting project that requires hours of her time nearly everyday. I’m involved with the project, but to a much smaller degree. I noticed I was spending more and more time in conversation about it, and working on more tasks than I really wanted. It wasn’t that this stuff isn’t interesting to me – it is! But I had to set boundaries around how much time I could devote to it, otherwise, the things that nourish me (writing, reading, snowshoeing, my work and volunteer projects, meditation) start getting pushed back and then I start to feel resentful. Boundaries are good – especially when discussed with care.
When clear boundaries exist, everyone will be happier because they understand what’s expected and desired. When I start complaining about other people, I check in with myself to see if I’m being transparent with them. If I’m not, I take the next step and ask myself “why not?” The next step after that might be to ask how I want that person in my life. Its up to me to make the first move. It might be awkward, but at least we’ll be moving forward. That forward movement might be a step towards a deeper connection, or it might be a step away from the relationship. After all, I’m the one responsible for my happiness.
My hope is to enter 2016 more gracefully than I left 2015. By harvesting these three lessons I’m already feeling more spacious, creative, peaceful, and hopefully, more pleasant to be around. Now the work of practicing these lessons every day begins.
May your 2016 odyssey by spacious.