We all have action-reaction patterns that show up in our lives over and over again. Uncomfortable and often heart-wrenching external situations that re-occur until we become aware of the pattern, learn all we can, and consciously decide to change.
This may look like leaving one job we hate, just to end up at a different job, with a different title, that we hate just as much as the one we left (and for very similar reasons). Or maybe we end one relationship, just to find ourselves dating the same type of person with different colored eyes, hoping it will be better this time around.
Then we have the periods of our lives that exist in the spaces between the times of hard choices and constant action-reaction. These periods seem to go on forever and are made even more obvious to us by the overwhelming and distinctive feeling of “not knowing;” the important decisions have been made and the situations that no longer serve us have been left behind, but no new situation has yet presented itself to fill in the space. Now we don’t know what to do, we don’t know what’s coming up next, and we feel like complete failures because any attempts we do make at action are met with no reaction whatsoever.
I fondly call these “in between” places the Gap, because in all honesty, the Gap and I are old friends at this point, and we’ve been through a lot together.
For some reason, however, it took me a very long time to realize that the Gaps in our lives form their own patterns and that the “in between” times require the same level of awareness as the times of constant action-reaction.
The Gap reminds me of those negative space pictures, where at first all we see is a vase until our focus changes and we notice the two faces in profile on either side of the image. It is the use of negative space that makes the picture interesting. Similarly, when we hear a compelling piece of music, the moments of silence are just as important to the composition as the musical tones played.
Without darkness we cannot perceive that there is light; without silence, there is no sound. The Gaps in our lives form their own patterns and have their own lessons to bestow upon us. The times of apparent inaction are equally important as our times of great action and are just as worthy of our mindful awareness and introspection.
Over a year ago, I made the hard choice to leave my career as an aerial circus instructor, based on a strong intuitive knowing that it was just “the right time.” Since taking that decisive action, the Gap and I have been reunited, only this time I recognized the pattern. With this awareness, the lessons I needed to learn started to become apparent.
Being an aerialist was a huge part of how I defined myself, and I strongly believed that it was the one thing that made me special and worthwhile. The discomfort of no longer being able to call myself an aerialist encouraged me to take a closer look at what did define me (because not knowing who I was did not feel like an option).
It quickly became obvious that my job title wasn’t the only thing I was using to define myself, or to prove my value to the world. Over the course of the next year, circumstances began to strip away all the other external conditions that I thought of as crucial to my identity. All the actions I tried to take to prove my worth produced little or no results and I was forced to look my feelings of uncertainty and failure in the eye – Every. Single. Day.
It took me a while, but after spending months asking myself, “What do I need to do?” without answer or result, I tried accepting my circumstances and surrendering to my situation for long enough to ask, “Who do I need to be?”
The answer came instantly into my mind. I still remember vividly the feeling of gentle kindness and the sensation of being wrapped in a warm blanket of love, that accompanied it. The thought was…
“Can you be happy not knowing?”
This is the lesson that the Gap has to teach us.
We become so focused on what we are doing, on taking action and creating obvious changes to our external environment, that we downplay the importance of inaction and focusing upon who we are being in each moment! The Gap asks us to figure out how we can be joyful, fulfilled and content without depending on productivity, creation, or action.
Unconditional happiness comes from within. It can be mindfully and consistently cultivated even when nothing seems to be going our way in the world around us. Happiness stems from how we choose to focus and how we perceive ourselves and the world around us.
The awesome part is, that if we can find happiness internally first, we are more likely to see that happiness reflected in our external reality and may just find ourselves inspired to take great, joyful action once again!