Entrepreneurs. Creators. Doers. Magic Makers. Manifesters. Movers. Shakers. Hustlers?
I was with you, and then "hustling." I think of myself as a recovering Type A. I'm organized and driven. I make plans, execute, and get results. Calls, meetings, proposals, presentations. Hustling. What exactly are we celebrating? If it's believing in ourselves and in our dreams enough to back them up with positive, continuous action and manifest these amazing lives and this amazing world that we envision and plot and plan about so persistently? Yes, I'm all in with that. But sometimes I think we are celebrating something different.
Busyness. Chaos. Stress. Running. Rushing. Always thinking of the next thing and never really here for the now thing. Hustling. I'm not here for this. This is the part I'm working so hard to recover from. This is not the kind of life I want to live. This is not success. And, here comes a big one: this is not required by success.
I once worked for a non-profit organization who brought me on to turn what had been operating as a recovery residence into a treatment program. This was a great and noble goal, but one that would require raising more money, hiring more highly trained staff, meeting more regulatory demands, and changing the "way we've always done things." And really, the organization wasn't on board with any of that. We accomplished our goal, but not without constantly butting heads with my bosses, our funders, and volunteers. We kept pressing on because it was such a worthy goal, but it was unsustainable in such a system - one that ultimately had different goals. In the end, I gained one of the most valuable lessons in my life: sometimes obstacles are not here to be overcome. Sometimes they are signs that you're on the wrong path. Sometimes its better to find the people who already have the same vision, who are already working towards the same goals. Sometimes it just doesn't have to be so hard.
Herein lies my issue with this whole glorification of "hustling." Hustling sometimes teaches us to keep fighting no matter what. To wear ourselves out in the pursuit of "success." To sacrifice peace today for tomorrow. To approach everything with such a forceful attack. Maybe we could be gentler with ourselves. Maybe we could allow ourselves the grace of peace today and tomorrow. Yes, there will be bumps and obstacles along the way that are meant to be overcome. But when we hit wall after wall after wall - perhaps we are needing to learn a little more deeply that we are worthy and deserving of a life of abundance and ease. Yes, we have to work for success. And yes, the work is hard. But maybe just not that hard.
Find the moving current. Step into it. Hustle and flow. Hard work and grace. Abundance and ease.
Void. Nothing. Numb. Missing. Ache. Bored. Lonely.
These are feelings that we often describe along with the word "empty." We are often fearful of emptiness. It's a thing that most of us would say we don't wish to experience.
In one of my first Buddhist meditation experiences, they were talking about the experience of non-self, as if this was the ultimate goal of spirituality and meditation. Immediately, me: "uhhh, not what I signed up for, y'all." I'm here for being more in touch with myself. I'm here for finding out who I am at my innermost, not for whatever non-existence craziness y'all are talking about! I'm here for fulfillment. Definitely not emptiness.
I think that we think of emptiness as empty of happiness, of joy, of love. But I'm not sure we can ever be empty of those things. When I experience emptiness, it's empty of the exhausting swarm of thoughts, empty of to-dos, empty of shoulds and why-did-yous, empty of anxiety, empty of shame, empty of ego, of striving, of judgment. And into that emptiness, like air into empty lungs, floods silence and peace. Divinity, if you like. A different kind of energy.
Then exhaling again fully, and noticing where in the body you most feel the sensation of emptiness. Breathe deeply into that space, imagining that the feeling of emptiness would grow and expand as you inhale and exhale, emptying more and more space inside of you. Continuing to breathe slowly and deeply, eventually you clear out the whole space occupied by your body - you are embodying this feeling of emptiness. Allow the emptiness to flood your mind as well. Noticing the space and silence between your thoughts, and then allowing that space to grow. Sit silently, noticing your experience of emptiness.
I would love to hear from you! Share your experience in the comments, or email me!
For another perspective on emptiness, check out my discussion with Brett Bagley of Purple Treatment Center and Sober Adventures in Be Well ATL podcast episode Hollow Bones.
Being seen. Being known. This, so much, this is the unmet need at the core of many of our problems today. Feeling seen, heard, known, and held is a large part of what is so healing about relationships - whether they are therapeutic relationships between a counselor and client, a doctor and patient, friendships, family relationships, love, or simply strangers sharing a rare and passing intimate, vulnerable, supportive moment. When we feel seen, there is healing in that space.
What if we take that same concept and apply it inside of ourselves? So often when uncomfortable feelings show up, we close our eyes to them, push them aside, try to numb them, run from them, smash them back into whatever box-from-hell they came from, or otherwise avoid them. But what if instead, we just simply allowed them to be seen? What if we tried to hear them out? To get to know them a little bit?
Have you ever had a really crappy day, called up your person, and then they tried to fix everything? Or a caring someone asks how you are, and you break the "I'm fine" mold and say that you're a little anxious about a big meeting coming up, and they offer you all sorts of unsolicited advice - all of which you've already tried or it just straight up doesn't apply to your situation? Sometimes even when caring and well-intentioned people try to "fix" our problems, it can feel like another way we are being pushed aside, not seen, not held - just checked off of some list and left behind.
Don't we do that to our feelings too? Rush to fix anything that doesn't feel good? (My hand's definitely in the air on this one!) In my own life, and in my work with clients, sometimes we work really hard and we end up digging up a new "core belief." A new discovery of what's underneath the things that keep tripping us up, holding us back, sending us off-course. It's exciting and feels like a break through! And then... "Ok, what's next?" How do we fix it? How do I get rid of it? What exactly do we do with the damn thing?!
What if we just look at it?
I mean, what if that's the answer y'all? Did your shoulders just soften? Because mine did. Maybe the answer is not more striving, more work. Maybe it's just to see it. To hear it. To hold it. To know it. Let's practice that, and just see what happens.
I took a training recently on EMDR (Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). It's an admittedly kinda funky, but highly researched and incredibly effective treatment for trauma, and for un-sticking your stuck core beliefs. Here was one of my favorite nuggets: Negative thoughts and beliefs are symptoms of the problem, not the problem. Through an EMDR lens, the problem is old traumas that weren't sufficiently processed by the brain. So it goes in, and processes the shit out of them. For me, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy so often ends with finding the core belief. EMDR lets us pick up from there and stop with the striving. Because the way that it processes them is not with your expert-problem-solving brain. Actually, let-me-fix-it-no-really-I'm-so-great-at-fixing-things you needs to sit back and chill for EMDR to really work its magic. Our brain and our bodies have an intuitive wisdom that body-focused treatments and practices tap into in amazing ways. EMDR gives us another option outside of the oh-so-human attempt to fix the mind with the mind. The good news is that our brains already know how to heal themselves, and they want to! I have such a crush on the work of Matthew Sanford (you should check him out) - he was in a car accident at age 13 where his dad and sister were killed, and his spine was shattered, among other serious injuries. He is now a yoga instructor and works within the realms of from trauma, mind-body connections, and asking us to rethink healing, ability, and embodiment. He talks in his book in such a beautiful way that our body is always "moving towards living, for as long as it possibly can." Humans are amazing and we naturally move towards survival and wholeness. We just have to get that manager-in-our-mind out of the way.
Sound familiar? So much of the theories and concepts behind EMDR are right up my yoga and meditation alley. Connecting to the body. Really listening to what it has to say. Creating a space for healing to naturally occur. Practicing a radically-accepting awareness of what is. And just being with whatever comes up. Seeing it. Hearing it out. Holding space for it to be, without pushing it, resisting it, hating it, or judging it. Letting it be known. You can try it right now. Get quiet. Focus on your breath, breathing deep, full, delicious belly breaths in and out through your nose. When your attention wanders, just notice it, and bring it back to your breath. Do this for a few moments, and then place your right palm on your belly, and your left hand on your heart. Continue to breathe deeply, and just notice whatever is there. With so much love and zero judgment, what do you feel in your body? Tension? Sensations? You can scan your physical body, as well as your emotional body. Thoughts? Energies? As you notice what's there, give each sensation your full attention, and send your breath there, as if your breath was carrying loving awareness. Notice what happens. No judging. No fixing. No striving. No doing. Just noticing. Just being. Just seeing.
I would love to hear from you! Feel free to comment on my blog or social media, or email me!
You can find out more about EMDR here: http://www.emdr.com/frequent-questions/ and http://www.emdria.org/?120. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment, click here or learn more about my counseling services here.
I also provide yoga and meditation instruction. If you enjoyed the exercise above, I encourage you to check out the book First Breath, Last Breath, by Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati, and especially her Healing Breath of Noticing, from which the above exercise was adapted. You can purchase this book at Kashi Atlanta when you come for any of my public yoga classes, or online.
Want more Matthew Sanford? Of course you do.