When we are in pain, suffering, and stuck against some vicious patterns, the grace in this is that we must act.
Finally, we have to risk change. Perhaps we dare to pray, or find other ways to ask for help. And then we find inspiration, insight, a teacher, a coach… life offers up a path. We find a path to peace that in some way makes sense to us. In some way, it speaks to us about transformation, aliveness, change. We can see the path we need to take to move forward.
Maybe – if we are really available, really ready – we will get precise, practical, step-by-step instructions. And we find there is a natural inspiration to follow those steps.
And then we take a step, and it feels good. We take another, and it feels really good. We run a little down the path, feel some spaciousness, some ease, something softer against our broken, wounded places. We are sure this is the way forward. We may even come off a little self-righteous in our certainty that this is the way forward.
Then a voice of fear whispers to us. It whispers doubts, subtly, spinning out of nowhere like spider threads, softly at first, and it’s hard to even notice the web. Fear says that we are not really going to continue at this pace; it tells us we aren’t doing this right. It tells us little ideas about not being worthy of peace, that it’s not safe to dare for happiness, or finally love.
These whispers are soft, but enough to make us pause our step for a moment. In that pause, leaning in to the whisper, fear starts to remind us of all the injustice in the world, and begins listing our past betrayals. And we begin to falter in our step. We are leaning toward those memories, these images, those painful concepts. In so doing, we are less sure footed on the path… but just a little.
Now we move with half-steps forward. One foot is still on the path, but the other foot steps wider, to the side, on the grassy, boggy bank. We continue on like this until we find that we are uncomfortable. We don’t feel that same ease, certainty, and flow as before. Instead, there is more discomfort. We pause again. We are flustered, we don’t seem to be moving very fast. We find ourselves confused and admit finally that we aren’t entirely on the path anymore and it is becoming hard to see it as clear as before. Fear is coloring our vision.
We need more inspiration. We need more support. We need life to intervene on our behalf and make the path obvious again.
And again, we risk some kind of prayer. We ask, and we are genuine in our need, and it appears. Inspiration, support, a ray of light become available. The path is clear again, we have something to follow again. And the fear, our forever companion, starts in again…
But this time, we know. We know the path better; we are steadfast that we are not going to step off this time. So we keep walking, and fear keeps talking. And it’s getting very irritating with these voices barking away in our mind. So we keep one eye on the path, and just stop and listen to try and solve all this irritation. We start to rationalize with fear. Or we try to apply some good old common sense. Eventually, and we don’t know how this even happened, but we find ourselves fighting with barking voice in our mind. Every justification seems to get us nowhere fast, and it all starts to spin into something really unhinged – something so boggy, draining, and dull. And now we find our attention is on the chronic negotiation in the mind.
We attempt to negotiate new conditions with our companion fear. We will accept some of the terms, sure… there seem to be a few rational arguments going on, even though some of it is rather suspect because it just feels like the old stuck patterns. So maybe, without being very conscious of this, there is an indulgence of fear. Part of us really does want the fear to stick around… but just on the sidelines, calling out a warning to us if we are in danger. A kind of acceptance is at play. There is a resignation to its insistence, but not a total surrender to its terms. But in all this negotiation, we have lost the path yet again. We got so very involved. Still, something does seems quieter in ourselves. It was getting so triggery and so loud, and now something seems quieter.
Then, in a moment, it happens. Suddenly it seems like maybe the whole path was an illusion and it was all just a strategy to avoid being stuck in the first place. Maybe we can accept all of what is right in front of us. Not just the insistent resistance of mind, but also the dull sensations, and the discomfort in the body. Right here, on this one spot, it seems suddenly clear that it is all fine. It is all okay just as it is. And then, in that curious exploration of surrender, freedom gets stumbled upon. And everything, all of it, drops away.
Something mysteriously got settled. And surrender becomes something more realized in your system, more deeply groked. Suddenly, it all feels spacious inside of you – like peace, like this could be all that you were looking for.
Yes, this is peace. Here, just stopped like this.
And the stopping remains.
Because it starts to feel a little empty, a little too void, and although it’s very hard to notice, those tiny spider threads of fears are spinning again. It starts to seems restless, here on this step. And we start looking around; it feels like it is time to start moving again. We are itchy for some movement.
But we’ve lost the path. We had this insight and then we stopped and now all motivation to follow those steps again has been corrupted. Doubt and confusion seem to be a strong influence. It just doesn’t feel the same to keep going.
But perhaps there is a path to follow anyway. Perhaps it is very close to the one we were following before. Maybe if we skip ahead? Nope, it just doesn’t feel the same. Doesn’t feel so clear, so transformative, so easy. We can’t find it.
We are aimless. Once again we come back into the familiar stuckness, and the only thing that now seems really clear is that we are bogged down, heavy with doubt.
And our buddy fear whispers: “See, you have tried and tried and nothing changes. You have failed. There is no use. You got ahead, things even got really good for a bit, but here you are, stuck again. There is no point in continuing.” And we agree.
We sit down. We are stopped, but this time it just feels stalled out. We feel paralyzed and disconnected. It’s painful. Maybe we wander a bit, indulging the fears, because at least that is something. We can even be very busy, which is somewhat depleting, sure, but that is better than the emptiness, than the void ahead, we rationalize to ourselves. We can’t find an easy inspiration to act upon, and we are distracted, with distraction that feels kind of juicy, and it is easy.
It continues to be painful. And pain is such a useful teacher; it is so effective at making us change our route. It takes awhile for the pain to get very insistent again, but it does. It gets very loud, maybe in months if we are lucky, maybe in years if we are not. But wandering with fear is uncomfortable. Sometimes we are jumping out of our skin, even if it often feels manageable, being rather busy, distracted by an endless doing of tasks. But the good news is that eventually it becomes not at all manageable, and it builds to an unavoidable crescendo.
And we do, in fact, finally change.
First, the crescendo forces us to stop. Then we pray. We ask on our knees for intervention. And it happens; intervention comes. Inspiration comes: a teacher, a coach, an insight. We are again clear on a path. You find yourself so grateful, so lucky to get clear again; you were gifted inspiration and are again clear on a route to follow.
And it feels good… it feels really good. And we start to run a little down the path, feel some relief around those jagged edges. It feels good again.
Fear is still beside us, and it wants us to linger a little with injustice, or a past betrayal. Confusion or doubt come calling again.
Will we be uninterested, finally?
Will we skip down the path, devoted with our full being to just this simple step in front of us: this one step, this next step, clear, simple, sweet, just placing our foot down right in front of us?
Or do we find ourselves once again a little captivated?
In my last post, I talked about boundaries. Naturally, many of you started looking at where your fear of boundaries originally came from, and where…
Fear. It’s a very potent emotion. And ironically, a devoted spiritual practice can sometimes bring us an awesome amount of experience with this emotion. And…