Your unbearable place isn’t a secret to anyone…so stop hiding from yourself

One cannot will the wind to blow when you are stuck

I knew that Jack (name made up) was a successful banker by his awards and his suits. He exuded the manifestation of success to everyone around. He has a beautiful home, successful professional wife and is often the guy at the center of a group of well groomed men where a sudden laugh comes out of the group. He looked happy and successful from the outside.

What should have tipped me off did not. I guess I was not looking that closely but soon it became clear: he was constantly on the move. He traveled to the far reaches of the Amazon to photograph rare jaguars, and collected trinkets from the many indigenous peoples he met. His photo stream was long, rich and diverse. He relished the explorer life at all times possible and it looked fun if you simply looked at the photos.

But there was something major missing. There was no stillness.

The adage “water that is unstill is not clear,” comes to mind.

An un-still mind, cannot be clear.

Jack, it turns out, was miserably stuck in his outward self and when he admitted it, said “he felt empty, heavy and without purpose.”

When we are stuck inside, in that heavy unbearable place, it feels horrible. So, horrible that we cannot even admit it.

For me, it was heaviness in the left chest, a tight right shoulder blade and deep heaviness in my belly. My mind used words like despair, sometimes sadness.

For many the unbearable place has an external manifestation like a bad job, bad house, bad relationship, money issues, body self-hate etc.

For others, it is just a feeling of stuckness, and a feeling of “life has no meaning.”

Either way — it sucks and for some it lasts a while.

For the first while, I thought I could find a way out of my unbearable place by talking to others or even by riding my motorcycle into the hills of Norcal. But one cannot will the wind to blow into one’s sails when your boat is literally becalmed on water with no current, no direction.

Martin Sheen classified people into two sets: those that you know have self-love and those that do not. I will add that those that do not have self-love are often stuck in their unbearable place truly believe that they can think their way out.

Spoiler Alert: Your body will find a way out of your unbearable place before your mind thinks you out.

But this will only happen when you spend time in stillness.

In earlier writings, I talked about Tara Brach’s concept of trust and how the physical and mental feelings of separateness comes from a lack of trust.

Our brains (the anterior cingulate cortex that forms part of the amygdyla in particular) are biologically built to sense risk and danger and to regulate our response. Someone likened their role to a radar system. They are constantly scanning 360 degrees. When a danger is sensed, the scanning is narrowed. When new danger or even excitement and arousal occurs, the scanning is further narrowed.

It thus argues that, when our brains our not still, the scanning becomes overly active and overly narrow.

How could a narrow brain see it’s whole self? Well, I would argue that it cannot.

So when we are in an unbearable place and our brains are sensing, scanning, in an excited state and we feel miserable, we cannot even see the bigger picture of our selves sitting on the boat in the calm water.

What can we see when we calm out bodies? Well it differs for each of us.

For some of us, calmness allows for patience. For me, I was able to see space around me and I could explore the space inside me. As my body calmed from the simple discomfort of the unbearable place, can you guess what happened?

Movement.

“Movement?” you ask.

Yes. My body began to feel the place I was in differently and like an injury that shows signs of healing as the pain begins to move, so did my mind and my body.

There are many approaches to stillness but I’d recommend two:

Start a breathing practice daily. Consider belly breathing.

A practice is something you do at least three times a week.

Meditation need not be long but if you do it at least three times a week (I try to do it daily), you will find stillness. I have recommended the calm app before and cannot say enough good things. There are mantra or breath watching meditations that are quite simple and effective. Or, use Tara Brach.

Clarification: By stillness, I do not mean an empty mind. I mean a listening and watching mind. Your quiet time, without your phone or outside intrusions should show you that you can see thoughts and feelings come up from various parts of your mind-body. Simply watch them if you can. I use the word “noting” or “listening.” See how many you can simply note and not follow.

When you find yourself following a thought or a “gotta do” from your mind, just come back to your inhale or exhale or the mantra you are using.

Good luck.

See you in stillness.

Gregory