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In an effort to find safety and stability during trying times, many of us reach for a coping mechanism that lends us a sense of control over our lives.
This shows up in many ways. Like, overworking, manipulating our diets or our fitness regimes, obsessing over our looks, or the cleanliness of our homes, or our social media following, or being the “perfect” mother/father/partner—you get the point.
Whenever we attach ourselves to extreme or performative acts, we are attempting to exert control over our lives in order to achieve an outcome that we believe will make us feel happy, fulfilled, loved, safe. And we do this either consciously (“I must eat a strict vegan diet in order to lose weight to find a partner.”) or unconsciously (i.e. people-pleasing).
When we feel we are “in control,” we experience a false sense of power and imperviousness to whatever pain we’re carrying.
For a while.
Eventually, the façade crumbles as the stress of the control we’ve been attempting to exert gets to us. At this point, many of us crack, and then crack some more as we are brought face-to-face with the pain we’ve been running from.
I believe this is a sacred moment. And if it happens for you once or twice or multiple times, take it for the opportunity that it is: one of serious self-reflection and massive growth. No matter what’s brought you to your knees, the result is often exhaustion coupled with an inability to be anything but your raw, unfiltered self, which, while painful, is a great spiritual gift.
In this moment, we are pushed to consider who it is we truly are, what’s going on with us—and why our pain hurts to the degree it does; it pushes us to consider, too, what we want, and what we don’t want in our lives. It is a moment where the ego surrenders and gives way to the emergence of our higher self.
All of that said, we don’t have to step onto this emotional rollercoaster. When we encounter a difficult period, we can reject the seduction of control and choose instead to sit with what is arising for us.
This isn’t easy, as we’re programmed to constantly be doing. So to not only shift into a state of presence, a state of being, but in the midst of difficulty…is absolutely challenging. But it gets easier the more you practice. And, more than that, it is worth it. Experiencing pain head-on is how you dissipate it rather than prolong it as we do when we attempt to stifle it.
So, how do you actually surrender and allow yourself to move through your feelings fully?
It’s not about doing a whole lot. It’s about shifting back into a state of presence.
I had a chat with a new friend recently who spoke to this. She said:
“It’s okay to do nothing. We’re so afraid of doing nothing that we often leap and then wonder why things fall apart.”
The “nothing” she was referring to isn’t the twiddling your thumbs variety though. She was speaking to what looks like nothing in our society today: sitting in silence, thinking, imagining, dreaming, philosophizing, wondering.
This “nothing” refers to opening up to a gentle curiosity—about ourselves, our true thoughts and feelings, our honest desires and fears.
As we move through our days, doing “nothing” in this way points to showing up fully in conversation with others, playing with our kids, creating for creation’s sake. It points to staying grounded in our bodies, to noticing when we’re feeling off or, by contrast, thrilled—and, later on, asking ourselves why.
Above all, this doing “nothing” suggests being patient and trusting. Patient with our own process of self-discovery and with life as it unfolds. And trusting in God/Spirit/the Universe that we’re being guided and supported, that everything is truly working out for us, so that we may learn what our souls need to learn in order to evolve into the deepest, truest version of ourselves.