What to do, what to do…

Do you have some sticky issue holding you hostage, constantly preoccupying your thoughts, niggling at your equanimity, in spite of all sorts of attempts and efforts to wrestle the little beast into submission?

I do.

Mind you, I’m not talking about anything major here. Thankfully, at the moment my life is going along smoothly, even joyfully. I have things to do that I care about doing. Surprises and serendipities keep popping up, adding richness, delight, and happiness I had not imagined possible. I am blessed beyond measure in my relationships with my family and friends.

Nonetheless, there is This Little Conundrum that continues to hijack my busy little mind, sending it into whirlwinds of thoughts about possible courses of action… maybe this one, or that one,  or, or…

What to do, what to do …

My general line of defense has two prongs. I have learned that the thing I need to do first is to sit with a situation. Literally. Sit. Still. Allow the discomfort, instead of trying to sweep it to the nether regions of my consciousness. (It’s possible to do this, but unwise. All that happens there, it seems, is that what is buried brews, bubbles, and moils, creating all sorts of inner mischief.)

To say the least, sitting still is not easy when I’m agitated, but stopping to sit is important, because it forces me to focus on the issue. Feel it. Chew on it, so that I can carry it into meditation with the intention of releasing it into powers greater and wiser than my own.

Second prong: somewhere along the way as I try to deal with unresolved issues, I pull out my journal, and start writing. In The Artist’s Way*, Julia Cameron talks about the magic of “morning pages”, a sort of mind-dump she advocates doing daily. An important aspect of morning pages is that they are written “longhand, strictly stream of consciousness” because there is some sort of mystical process that is unleashed when we stop trying so hard to be logical, write beautifully, etc. etc., instead allowing the hand to write whatever comes to it unbidden from the depths of our being. Running the gamut from the ridiculous to the sublime, the results are often astonishing, revealing things we’ve struggled to understand but have been unable to articulate.

Although I no longer do them every day, the process of writing morning pages always – and I do mean always – loosens logjams in my spirit. Which is not to say those logjams dissolve, or that magic resolutions takes place. Subtle shifts, perhaps, but always shifts.

Here’s the interesting part: Cameron advocates writing three pages, even if you resort to writing “I don’t know what to write” or “I need to pick up some donuts for the office,” etc., because what the subconscious is trying to get through to us often doesn’t show up until the third page. I wouldn’t blame you for being skeptical about that, but I have found it to be true time and again, although not always. Sometimes the pages are downright boring, bearing no revelations at all. Doing them with regularity, though, encourages those inner juices to start flowing, uncovering pieces of our vast, rich, inner consciousness.

It happened today. After two pages of blather,  I was ready to give up and stop. Remembering Cameron’s dictum and hoping for a useful kernel, I turned to page three: “Okay, journal. Time for ‘aha’s’. Bring ’em on…” This led to summarizing and, in turn,  to one of my self pep-talk mantras popping up, unbidden: “Be peaceful, patient, and curious”. (Nothing new there.) However, the next phrase that appeared without intention (that is the significant part)  was “which does not mean you have to be proactive, or reactive, but rather – just simply and directly – ‘active’. “ To this very moment, to now.

This is worth repeating: “Be peaceful, patient, and curious, which does not mean you have to be proactive, or reactive, but rather – just simply and directly – ‘active’. “

Aha! Not making things happen, nor feeling like I am being passively “happened upon”, needing to react, but rather doing only what is obviously called for by this very moment.  Simple, direct, clean interaction to what is going on now. Not even this afternoon. Now!

“Doing nothing”, therefore, is not necessarily passive, although, of course, sometimes it can be exactly that. It means that if I don’t know anything to do about my sticky issue at this very moment, then nothing is a good thing to do! It is an active choice. Doing just to be doing does not solve any problem. In fact, often it complicates an issue instead of resolving it.

This isn’t a new idea, but as a generally proactive person, it’s helpful for me to be reminded of it. Patience is not a synonym for  passivity, it’s just that not all action is outward and tangible. Word’s dictionary defines patience as “the ability to endure waiting, delay, or provocation without becoming annoyed or upset, or to persevere calmly when faced with difficulties”.  Patience, it seems, is inner action, a discipline calling for staying absolutely and completely in this present moment. This requires a great deal of active spiritual engagement, because only belief in the larger rightness of things, in a far bigger picture, makes this possible.

Some months ago, when a sticky conundrum in his life quite suddenly dissolved,  my son had this to say: “…sometimes you don’t have to figure out what to do, you just have to allow it to happen.” It’s lovely when that finally happens, but far harder to stay serene in what can be a long siege of waiting for the path to emerge in its own destined time.

Back to my journal, bottom of page three: “…so I will do what is obvious in this moment. If nothing is obvious, then it is ‘nothing’ that I shall do.” This means, Sticky Issue, I will wait you out. Actively.  With a measure of serenity, if possible. Meanwhile, I invite my forever-friend, curiosity, to inhabit my spirit, helping me wonder, instead of worry, about  what will happen next. No doubt, it will be an interesting ride…

* The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron: Check it out. It can change your life.

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