Don't Just Do Something, Sit There!

Finger String


What happens when you sit with a difficult question or feeling?


People ask me about change and what to do when they come up against a difficult question or feeling. With thousands of clients, I've seen one major differentiator: the ones who sit with the feelings and the ones who run themselves into the ground trying to avoid them.

There's no denying that change can be hard. It isn't always pretty, awesome or fun. When it's challenging, our first instinct is to run to avoid the pain or difficult feelings and thoughts. I've learned this never works, in fact it often drags the painful process out even longer. As the saying goes, "you can run, but you can't hide."

Running from difficult thoughts, feelings or questions is how we avoid being present. We sometimes do this by busying ourselves with tons of tasks and responsibilities and we call it, "being responsible" or "being busy". We justify our escapism so we can validate our decision to avoid the painful stuff.

I get it. Bills need to be paid. Laundry needs to be done. Dishes need to be washed. Work tasks need to get checked off. But over time, this way of being only reinforces the muscle we have around avoiding and running. We don't strengthen the muscle of staying. We don't become more able to sit with pain and tough stuff, we just get really good at avoiding it so it never feels more likely or more possible to endure it.

We perpetuate our very predicament.

I learned to sit with hard feelings during a few different transitions in my life. When I felt challenged by something at work, with a relationship or within myself, I intentionally told myself to sit. Sometimes I even had to sit on my hands or wrap my legs around the chair rungs. When I did this enough times, I became able to sit with my thoughts, however painful or hard, and eventually I changed my perception of those thoughts. They were no longer painful or hard, they just "were". When I stopped being afraid and stopped being so busy to avoid facing my fear, I became more able to face whatever change was coming my way. I breathed more deeply, got more air in my lungs a thought more clearly.

It helped me plan my next move and helped the change process move more smoothly.

Next time something challenging or painful comes up, don't just do something---something to avoid the tough stuff---just sit there, instead.

You might be amazed how productive sitting still can be!



photo courtesy of livingaquotablelife




The Paradox of Spring



Paradox: any person, thing or situation exhibiting an apparently contradictory nature.


One of my favorite movies is The Power of One. During this coming-of-age film about race relations in South Africa during WWII (from a white boy's perspective), a wise grandfather says, "anything in life, any question you have---always find the answer in nature."

I often think of this wisdom when I'm feeling challenged by something that I can't explain or solve.

Just this past week, Mother Nature humbled me with her wisdom once again. I was battling some profound restlessness and dis-ease of my spirit. I am going through some massive transition in my life and was really struggling in the transition zone---that place between the past, the present and wanting to know what the future will bring. Futile yearning, that. We can't possibly know anything other than the present moment. But I still wanted TO KNOW. I wanted things TO CHANGE.

I noticed this restlessness, how it did feel just like a coiled spring inside of me. I saw how my response to it was playing out in my life--most especially how my perfectionism manifested and how I tried to control people, places or things outside of myself. I saw this. I recognized it for what it was, but not before it taught me a valuable lesson. Spring is a paradox of sorts.

We equate the word spring with sudden movement, abrupt change in location or reality. But the spring I notice around me and within me isn't happening suddenly---it is happening slowly, one tiny bud opening, one blade of grass sliding from up from the ground, quiet, humble. No rush. No urgency. But intentional. On schedule. The beauty of spring comes from us gradually moving from stark, bare branches and barren ground to buds of light green, warmer air and the visible proof that change is upon us. The dark cold is over, new life is here and brings with it a feeling of hope, wonder and gratitude.

The restlessness that felt like a coiled spring inside of me is the perfectly-timed change that is occurring below the ground, at the tips of tree branches and within all of us. 

I've always enjoyed the spring season because sunlight and warmth boost my mood and I move from commuting by bus to gliding along the streets on my beloved bike. I shift my eating habits. I come out from hibernation and move around more. This spring, of the year 2012, holds a lot of significance for me. I am using these weeks, days, hours and moments to mimic the magic of nature all around me. I am allowing buds of awareness to come forth, blades of grass to come up from the ground slowly as I recognize that nothing in nature happens overnight. Nothing within me or anyone changes overnight. Nothing in our lives shifts so abruptly.

The paradox of spring is that it isn't springing at all--it is coming into awareness slowly, with intention, with awareness----renewal of self and spirit happens one breath and one bud at a time.