I’ve recently been noticing that in times when anxiety, fear, sadness, or hurt come to visit, there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to ‘be here’ anymore.
When these difficult mind states arise, something in me wishes the moment away and convincingly tells me that “only when this feeling is ‘solved’, can I go back to living and loving life”. Listening to this perversely compelling voice can lead us to putting life on hold until there’s a perceived sense of ‘having it together’, “feeling OK” or “feeling good” again. Does this sound familiar?
Understandably, being ‘with life’ when it’s painful, unsatisfactory, hard or shaky is incredibly hard, so it’s not surprising that our survival-trained minds are extremely well-versed in ensuring survival – sometimes at the expense of avoiding living. We can put off ‘being here’ until we are no longer scared. Until we feel motivated. Until we have the money. Until we have the time. Until we have the permission. Until we have the energy. We can also put off ‘being here’ by distracting ourselves – and oh there are so many captivating ways to do so in our modern world.
The downfall of this avoidance strategy is that life by nature feels ‘imperfect’, unsatisfactory, ungraspable, ever-changing. There’s always something that can feel “not quite right”. Moreover, the more we give into the voice that doesn’t want to ‘be with life’, the more we’re refusing the full human experience which life is asking us to embrace. It’s indeed often the case that experiences that we resist tend to persist in us until they have the space they need to dissipate, to be expressed and move through us.
I came across this quote last night: “True freedom is being without anxiety about imperfection.” So what if there were another way? A way towards discovering this freedom?
What if even when things feel hard, shaky, impossible- we could play with loving and living life anyway? With going with the flow rather than against it?
Yesterday evening, I could feel anxiety and restlessness tightening my throat and chest and decided to experiment with this inquiry. I went for a wander near the Cypriot village where I’m based this week.
As I set off, I consciously asked myself “as well as this anxious tension in my body and mind, what else is there here?”. I was immediately struck by infinite touches of “life loving life” around me – sights, scents, sounds, smells. Naturally, doesn’t it seem that life loves to be alive – with all that it brings? Nature doesn’t pick and choose what to experience and what to resist. Nature welcomes all of it, just as it is.
The swifts were whistling and twirling up against the summer sky. The trees were swaying dreamily in the breeze and golden light. The cooler air felt kind and gentle after the baking daytime 40 degree heat. I walked barefoot across a stream feeling its refreshing flow. I heard the sweet, timid calls of a flock of bee-eaters. The evening felt light, airy and wispy and the magnetic ease of life around me enabled me to melt back into ‘loving life’ a little more again.
I then turned my attention – which had been somehow infused with the ease of the evening – back to the tension in my body. A gentle relief came over me as the tight sensations dissolved for a moment in some mysterious fusion of an inner and outer dance of direct sensations of aliveness.
We may feel pain, anxiety, fear and sadness. But perhaps these don’t need to be alarm calls to ‘check out’ of living and loving life but precious invitations to tune back in?
When we come out of our minds’ habitual attempts to resist our unfolding experience, and into our direct experience, is there not somewhere in the background a quiet, natural, underlying, presence which whispers something like “Whatever is going on, everything is OK, there’s no problem here”?
Our internal emotional storms and associated narratives can be incredibly compelling, and there will be times where perhaps the only momentary glimpse of this background whisper is the simple sensation of the support of the ground beneath us, the feeling of the breath in and out of the body or the soft sound of a breeze. And what if whatever we can manage in any given moment were enough?
The occasional glimpse of this quiet anchor could grow little by little into a gentle magnet calling us again and again back to aliveness – reminding us that perhaps, even when that part of us that doesn’t want to ‘be here’ can seem incredibly overwhelming, there’s always a part of us that is wholeheartedly naturally willing and able to continue living and loving life anyway?