After a pretty manic start to the new year, I finally found myself back in England, at home, with the time and space to digest and assimilate the recent events of my personal life. And it did not go smoothly… in fact, I had a total meltdown! My whole body started responding to the world with resistance. My brain felt completely clogged up with the fabric of negativity and reticence. Fear descended on me like sandbag, sitting on my chest, my heart in my throat.
After some wise words from my friends, a long walk, and a date with my meditation pillow, I started to work through what it was that was poisoning me. My conclusion:
Resistance to change.
We all have such great intentions. Such powerful goals and plans. Visions of the future.
These plans and future imaginings often provide us with joy and motivation to continue through our days, through the mundanities of daily life. But how often do our dreams become a reality?
Often we are the flaw in our own plan. We resist change as something dangerous and unknown. Taking action towards our goals requires unsettling ourselves from the comfort of routine. We sense safety in familiarity. We are held back from our goals by our need to provide ourselves with perceived necessities – the comforts that we have grown to believe constitute the Self. This is where society blurs the line between life and lifestyle.
Attachment to goals and resistance to change – the fear of the unknown, or the fear of loss of control – plagues mankind.
Rather than living in a space of trust – trust that we are provided for and that we are beings of freedom and exploration – we have this strange notion that we are in a constant battle to maintain some sort of lifestyle equilibrium that is unshifting and unnatural.
We fail to recognise our identity as unified and innately connected beings, and instead consider ourselves to be isolated, individual pods, fighting for survival through the maintenance of some sort of manmade homeostasis.
The world is on our side. The air is there to be breathed. The earth is there to support and nourish. The water is there to cleanse and vitalise. And it is so easy to forget.
We live in a time of excess and of entitlement. We are raised with lifestyle standards that we spend our lives dedicated to upholding. We live in the future. In fear of what is to come. We ignore the present in order to plan for the future. But why? The future is always far away, and the present is always present. By living in the future we are only successful in missing out on life that we had been looking over to see what might be coming next.
We have become so conditioned in our thinking that we have become incapable of resisting the need to hold on. The mind becomes stagnant and clogged up with habituated notions of how we should live. Sometimes the strain of this begins to take its toll upon the mind and the body. We become tense and rigid in our beliefs, leading to feelings of intolerance or a lack of compassion. We lose the ability to think for ourselves and affirm what is true to our own innate nature.
It is easy to distract ourselves from ourselves by making bold and sweeping plans for our time on the earth. While these goals are often of a positive nature, we must be wary of allowing them to stifle our progression upon a path of self-truth and a practice of spiritual inquiry.
To use the cliché term ‘less is more’, perhaps we need to step back and assess the volume and frequency of our thoughts. Perhaps what we really need is cultivation of peace, and supposed ‘inaction’, to counter the fury of activity that we have culturally come to understand as positive social progression.
Stress and anxiety are two of the greatest causes of disease and premature death in the western world. They are being addressed by the health industry at large. But what we fail to recognise as individuals is our personal responsibility to ourselves to create space, recalibrate, and restructure the unfocussed formulations of the mind.
And it’s scary.
Stopping and dis-attaching and making space is scary.
Listening to the chatter of the mind – all of the good intentions which don’t always go your way; the fears and distractions of the future; the sense of guilt and responsibility towards events that are beyond your control.
We become strangely comforted by the constant chatter of the mind. It provides a distraction from what is real and what is calling us. We have stopped listening. We are afraid of what the consequences of listening might be. Ignorance is bliss. To remain in our bubble of illusion is much easier than taking steps out into the world and recognising oneself as a simple atom in a construct so much greater than we can ever be. We come to rid ourselves of the illusion that we have control over our lives. We have to release the attachment to an outcome of our choosing and come to understand our roles of service and learning.
Don’t be imprisoned by the ‘when’s’. When I have done this I will do that. Before you know it, life might just slip you by. We become so bound up in the cycle of survival – the nine to five job, the family holidays, the weekend dinners – that our dreams of the future remain in a fictional stage. The repetitive cycle of life takes hold, and we allow it because we take comfort in its consistencies.
But holding onto things only holds us back. The more we experience, embrace, learn from and let go, the more life we have to live and the less regrets we have.
You have to jump before you can learn to fly.
So let go of the consequences.
Spend your life in pursuit. Pursuit of knowledge. How do we become so stable in ourselves that we are no longer beholden to our material safety blankets? How do we have such firm faith in our practice and worldly action that we no longer fear loss or resist change? How do we come to recognise ourselves as divine beings rather than products of circumstance?
Let us be like the trees, rooted and grounded in our self-assurance, yet mobile and fluid with the changes in the wind, holding fast to the knowledge that we are and always will be fine, to allow trust to take the place of fear.
Let go of that which doesn’t serve you.
Get unstuck. Allow yourself to live by liberating yourself from the shackles of attachment.
Be in the knowledge that the accumulation of material things can only serve you temporarily – they cannot come with you!
By giving ourselves the permission to be free from fear of loss of control or attachment to illusory necessities, we open ourselves up to great new experience. We provide ourselves with new opportunities for growth as we sit as a witness to what we gain and what we leave behind.
So whenever you are overcome by those inevitable moments of panic – when you are consumed by the fear of your life spiralling out of control – stop and take time to reconnect and create space and clarity in the mind. Check in and see:
Can you hear your breath? Can you hear your heart? Can you feel the ground underneath you?
Bring all of your awareness to your breath. To its power. Its consistencies or inconsistencies. Feel its nourishment. Allow deep inhales to fill you and long exhales to release everything that is not of service. Remind yourself that you have everything you need within yourself, and fear is only an illusion that preys on mental fluctuations.
It takes practice. Learning to be still and learning to listen. They don’t come naturally to us anymore. But with compassionate patience we can learn to have gratitude towards the naturally quiet rhythms of the universe, and our part within this cosmic system.
So this year be open to change and learn to have stability within yourself – you are your own security blanket, and no-one can ever take that away from you.