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There are moments when I’ve experienced the accumulated weight of personal and global struggles pressing down on me, and taking their time doing so—a slow and insidious form of dissatisfaction.
As an empath, I’ve found myself susceptible to absorbing energies around me and have had to learn to “tuck my antenna in,” as the wonderful Joni Mitchell says.
However, on certain occasions when I’m not mindful or have fallen out of a conscious or spiritual routine because of work or having not changed my surroundings for a long time, I internalize the dissatisfaction until it grows, and, not so surprisingly, I implode.
It feels like I can’t breathe well, and there’s a ball of energy in my chest bracing me inward. Like I’m wearing a suit of armour and every exhale bounces back to me a forced inhale. One step forward, two steps back. Or no step forward, and a general sense of feeling anchored down and unable to move.
These burdens often don’t materialize in front of our eyes until they’ve befriended all the other tiny burdens and made an alliance of discomfort and anxiety. I call it being stuck.
It’s not radical or revolutionary—we’ve all been there. I had just never truly defined what it means in my head to be stuck until now.
Stuck means no movement. My feet are fixed. I can’t see what direction to take, or don’t have the opportunities to move forward. I’m as still as a heavy rock, and wishing I could be as still as the Buddha instead.
I’ve looked around and realized that many of us do the same thing.
We fall inside the problem, often dwelling in it and allowing it to contain us rather than us containing it.
After all, there are certain circumstances that are out of our control that we can’t actually fix. When that happens, we can’t see ourselves moving forward and leaving a problem behind unsolved, and this is especially true for perfectionists who need to pave their way with order and leave no breadcrumbs in their trail.
Most of the time, perspective and change lies in finding a solution to the problem, but so rarely is the emphasis on moving with the problem and giving it some forward momentum—whether we have an immediate answer to it or not.
I understood what it means to “move” a problem out of my system—rather than search for an answer—earlier this year in the most spontaneous and unexpected way.
On New Year’s Day I went to my first ever drum ‘n’ bass gig with my sister. She encouraged me to go see one of the pioneers of drum ‘n’ bass who was doing a special show in Sydney.
I knew some songs, but I wasn’t a die-hard fan. The music was incredible, but my body was slow, and I was moving my upper body but not so much my feet. As the night rolled on, I began to feel like my feet were shuffling on their own accord. By 4 a.m. I felt light and elated, and for the next few weeks, my step was fast and energetic.
I started realizing the simple physical motion of my feet was transferring this consciousness to my mind, telling it, “You too: move.”
I recalled other times where physical movement helped do the same:
When I hiked up a steep mountain and it helped me break through the mental barrier of “I can’t.” Or when I did a yoga class, and with every Sun Salutation, the tension in my body eased—and by the end of the class, I felt such peace.
I began to understand that movement has a way of nudging our stagnant thoughts and pushing them into a better sphere of presence. It allows the trapped thoughts that can’t find a way through to catch up with our dynamic movement, inspiring them to flow just as much as our body does.
It’s not just physical, but also emotional, artistic, and creative movement that has this power.
I reflected back on other moments when motion has driven me out of the shackles of a particular situation and into the stream of mindfulness. I thought of how an artist can get into a trance while painting infinite strokes, or how the steady repetitive beat of a snare drum drives a song forward till the end. How watching fish swim or birds migrating to warmer skies also made me feel this ever-flowing nature of time where seconds go forward and not backward.
I’ve also felt this on the open road, when I would roll down the windows after a long day and the wind would calm my nerves. With every mile, my problems seemed to disappear in the rearview mirror, and all I could do was drive forward with the streets holding a promise of a sweet unknown.
“Nothing behind me, and everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” ~ Jack Kerouac
I felt it in music, even when I wasn’t dancing. I once read an album review for one of my favourite bands, and it said their music “captures a sense of past and future, owing nothing to either,” and I realized in that moment that’s exactly how I feel when I listen to them. I’m inspired to be in a state of motion—and I’m completely present.
Time and time again in the history of music, many artists played with the idea of “rolling with the punches” and “riding the wave” and for good reason. There’s a familiar peace we feel when we allow situations to flow as they are. They show us their own personality.
“We’re just a feeling down by the harbour
I’ll catch a strong wind through my mind
Just keep it rolling, I’ll take it over
I’ll push it over this time”
~ The War on Drugs
Now when I feel stuck in a situation, I know I have different portals to awareness and presence. I try not to fall into the trap of labels and judgements, but rather I choose to embrace motion as a way of stepping into the crux of the chaos. I dip my toes into an act of motion with mindful intention, and it carries me forward.
It takes courage to look at a problem and choose to take it on a journey.
The focus is shifted to the problem being an energy. I’ve found that realizing we can bind to and steer this energy gives us personal autonomy and confidence that a problem can never be bigger than our spirit can handle.
We can choose to move when we feel stuck. We can choose to allow ourselves a chance to connect to the natural rhythm of life and time.