Feel like you’re going to cry? It’s okay. Don’t run from it.
Feel blocked, stuck, unable to create? It’s okay. Don’t seek distraction or try to find inspiration. Stay empty and see what fills you up.
Have an overwhelming sense of anxiety? Or boredom? Overcome by anger, frustration? Don’t turn your back. Instead, try to inhabit the feeling. Or rather, let the feeling inhabit you.
It’s easy to write these words. It’s not so easy to live them. See, I have problems doing this myself. For the last forty five minutes, I’ve sat, staring at a blank screen, listening to the same song on repeat, wondering what the hell I was going to write. Several times I almost got up to make a cup of tea. Often I thought about ending my writing session prematurely and hopping on social media. Multiple times I was poised to pull out a book and flick through. Or browse my collection of quotes and ideas written on 4x6 index cards. But this time, for the first time, I didn’t do anything. I sat. And I’ve begun to see this as a solution to many of the problems in my life.
So often, it’s easier to respond to a problem or feeling with instant action. Not necessarily intentional and deliberate and effective activity. Just action. Just something. We feel that that’s the right thing to do. When we’re pushed by something, the instinct is to push back. But sometimes, a lot of the time, that instinct needs to be over-ridden.
I used to be overcome by a wave of anxiety just before lunch time every day. I’d have completed my morning ritual, done my writing, worked on a project, and then had to decide what to do for the rest of the day. Such open-endedness would collapse my spirit. So I’d read for a bit. Then flit around online. Then check my emails and social media. Then have a snack. Then watch some jiu-jitsu. I’d do this until I come out of the funk several hours later and could work or focus again.
No more. Now I’ve learnt the value of inaction when I’m tempted to avoid a feeling via action.
A lot of the time, when we feel compelled to run, to react, to move, to do, what we actually need is to be still. To sit with our problems and delay our response. In that gap between action and response, in that stillness, we can either formulate a more effective response, or discover the root and witness the dissipation of the problem altogether. In that space we can see that the problem wasn’t really a problem, just a passing storm of undesirable feeling.
Whatever your problem is, try not reacting. Try not distracting yourself or chasing down some other avenue. Turn off the music. Turn off the TV. Disconnect from the internet. Take time and find space.
Our problems present themselves as an unstoppable force. Try being an immovable object. Whatever it is, sit with it.