That’s what I found myself asking yesterday. It was Monday morning and I felt I should know what to do. But I didn’t. The coronavirus crisis and its impact had left me – like many others – floundering at times.
Yesterday was one of those times.
Each time I thought about doing something, it didn’t feel right to do that thing. I felt dis-abled somehow. The two parts inside myself pulling on a tug-of-war rope, each desperately wanting to win.
Act! Sit still and just be. Act! Do something! Be quiet and wait.
Then the ‘should-ing’ started. I should reach out to more people. People need help with coping with their feelings right now and you can help! Look at you, just sitting here!
The inner-bully had arrived. She was in my face. Thankfully, though I spotted her early and welcomed her in. I know her very well now and although I can hear her, I don’t always have to listen or act on what she says.
I needed to check-in with myself. How was I feeling? What did I need? I knew that I was pressurising myself to do something. Anything. But who was that ‘anything’ going to serve? Was it really for everyone else or to ease my own dis-abled helplessness? Was I people-pleasing or perhaps even feeding my ego by needing to be seen to be doing something, by others?
Was I Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Or Tired? (A lovely acronym used in 12-Step Programmes). If so, what might I need to feel better? Attending to our own needs first before helping anyone else forms the foundations of 12 Step Teaching – and makes complete and absolute sense!
But how many of us actually practice this? How many of us are in a position to practice this? Sadly, not everyone. Wherever possible, it is always advisable to look after ourselves before leaping out to look after others, lest the help we offer is unhelpful or we harm both ourselves or others in the process.
Why do we even want to help? That’s a very good question to ask as we check that our desire doesn’t come from our own unmet needs or pain avoidance ourselves.
Can You Feel It?
As I sat with the ‘not knowing’, more frustration arose. Agitation. Criticism of myself on the inside. I should know. I want to help. Yet in those moments, I continued to feel helpless. And then? Of course! We all feel helpless. I needed to feel the collective feelings.
So many of us want to help. So many of us want to leap in and deliver a solution. To fix this mess. To ease each other’s pain. So many of the caretakers, at least. The empaths.
The Paradoxical Nature of Pain
But the more we acknowledge, stay with, feel and experience our own feelings – owning them and using them for personal reflection – the more we all expand and grow. Pain can feel debilitating, restrictive. Yet if we dare feel it, that pain transforms into something else.
It expands. We expand.
And the more of us doing this, the greater the expansion all-round. That might sound crazy to some, but really, as more and more people are realising now, we are all just one big soup of energy.
Collective thoughts and feelings impact all of us whether we realise it or not, whether we are in touch with this or not and whether we believe this or not.
Think About It
Isn’t our ability to sit with ourselves, to form our own views and perceptions of our world before choosing to act one of our greatest gifts? This is our free will. So, perhaps it makes sense to get to know what feels right for us in any situation, not just a crisis situation.
Easier said than done, I know!
We are all constantly impacted by each other’s energies and thought-patterns. You only need to watch news on TV to see – and feel – evidence of that. We can so easily get shot like pinballs in the world pinball machine, thwacked into black holes we didn’t know were there.
So, the more we challenge ourselves to let go of that which no longer resonates with us (and may never have resonated even as small children) the more we will befriend our truest selves to make authentic choices from these deeper, more generous and connected parts, instead of those younger, adapted parts perhaps desperate to be liked or survive.
When We’re Addicted to ‘Doing’
I continued to notice how my mind kept wanting me to get busy, planning, executing. How it harassed me again and again to make the most of this time. Not waste it. To create, reach out, help make a difference, start acting, share my knowledge, skills and experience.
But none of that appealed to me yesterday. I didn’t feel inspired to do very much, except write.
I noticed the push, push, push energy was here again. And the criticism of my desire to write, write, write, got louder and louder.
As I allowed myself to hear the criticism, but write anyway, I could easily see that this pushing to do, do, do was connected to the world’s addiction with more, more, more. For too many years now, we’ve valued growth over connectedness, with achievement over experience, having bigger, better, faster, slicker and stronger over slower, considered, smaller, or enough.
When will enough be enough?
Even whilst we’re in the midst of a pandemic, much of the Western World is still busy, busy, busy; scrambling over and under to create a whole new world elsewhere [online] which can keep up the same level of pace, the same push, push, push, with the same level of activity and productivity every day.
And the subliminals? How can we keep this going? Stay afloat. Things can’t crash! Quick! Quick! Quick!
However, if only we could be still. Just for a while. I believe the earth is screaming out for this right now!
Maybe things need to crash? Maybe ‘The System’ as it is now is broken? Not fit for purpose?
Maybe we can all stop? At least for a while?
Perhaps we could set up a global time for some shared silence? Time and space for every single one of us all to just be with ourselves and each other. To share our inner hopes and fears, our love, our community, our togetherness, in silence.
I believe it’s largely fear that keeps us all buzzing with activity. Reacting. Responding. Repeating and Returning again and again, over and over for more and more. Anxiously agitated, we’re unable to settle with the underlying message of ‘if we’re doing something, at least we feel valued and valuable and we don’t have to feel otherwise’.
But what are we afraid of? Death? Annihilation? Of no longer existing? After watching this fascinating lecture by Dr Albert A Bartlett on Arithmetic, Exponential Growth, Population and Energy this week (note…it’s a long one) I felt less concerned about dying than ever before!
For an introvert like me, the online world is starting to create increased feelings of overwhelm, right now.
We’re being bombarded with content, updates, immediate resources, instant ideas and suggestions for coping, doing business and living life in new ways going forwards. We’re all springing into action. And this isn’t a criticism; I’ve responded myself (or was I reacting?) offering support in a free, weekly call. Rather it’s an observation of how easy it is for all us all to unconsciously act with our knee-jerk re-actions. We may still be in shock, in grief or just not yet know the best way we should greet this undoubted Great Teacher called Corona; her whole impact, unknown.
Do Nothing And Everything Gets Done
It is at times like these that I love to remember the teachings of Lao Tzu who taught us that sometimes when doing nothing, everything gets done.
Sometimes there is just nothing to do – except be.
Being with ourselves and just noticing ‘what is’ really is where inspired action arises.
So, What Should You Do When You Don’t Know What To Do?
Well, firstly I’d highly recommend doing no-thing – if you can – and if you can stand it!
Sit. Notice what you notice about yourself, your energy, your life and the space you experience around you. Notice your physiology. Your feelings. Your breathing. Your thoughts. Your heartbeat. Notice your aliveness!
If it’s easy for you, connect to a power greater than yourself. God. The Universe. Anything you believe might be ‘out there’ which is bigger – and more powerful – than you.
And if you don’t believe in anything, just remain sitting, noticing what’s going on in your thinking, feeling and sensations in your body, without judgement. Listen to the sounds of silence. Watch nature.
Notice how natural and un-pushy it all is!
Then – and only then – if you feel moved to, express yourself; what you see, what you’ve become aware of or what you sense about your experience. Talk to someone about how you’re feeling. Paint. Write. Laugh. Cry. Dance. Make music. Sing. Scream. Exercise. Question.
Some of these things I do.
But only ‘do’ something if and when you feel moved to. See how long you can stay with yourself until you naturally feel inspired to move.
Watch what happens. Listen to how you feel. Sense the deep changes inside yourself as you move through these times differently; without rushing, ‘having’ to do this and that by then. Having to help this person, that person, email back here, upload there, create this, edit that.
And out of that space, know that whatever you end up doing next, that will be the right thing – not just for you – but for humanity as a whole, as we all start practicing the art of Being and Becoming Slow(er).
And If You Want to Get Curious…
Here are some reflective questions which may inspire you to reflect on your-self, your life and your perceptions of the world right now.
And as my therapist used to constantly remind me by quoting Rainer Maria Riike
Sarah, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
What do you believe is happening to the earth and the world right now?
What might the purpose be, for you, for others for the planet as a whole?
What is this time teaching you – about yourself, your life and your role in humanity?
What aspects of your life would you like to change if you could, moving forward?
What do you value about your life, your relationships and your contributions right now?
What are you grateful for during this time?
Remember, Your Authentic Life Matters!
And if you feel inspired to share your reflections, responses and realisations, I’d love to hear from you.