“To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.” ~ Lao Tzu
The weight of obligation can be a real burden sometimes, especially when there are two opposing “shoulds” pulling at us simultaneously. The temptation may be to work out the dilemma with our mind by analyzing details, weighing pros and cons, evaluating collective impact, etc. Yet doing so may only lead us further into a schizophrenic state of confusion and stress. Thinking may only lead to more thinking and indecisiveness. Hence, the saying, analysis paralysis.
A client of mine was recently in such a quandary. Her uncle had just passed away, and she so desperately wanted to drive south (12 hours) to support her grief-stricken father. And, of course, she wanted to attend the funeral to pay tribute to this man she loves. But at this time there was another pressing matter in her life. She was preparing to get married, and blend two families together nonetheless, and was up to her elbows in logistical considerations. Simultaneously this and the thought of not being by her father’s side weighed her.
It was a dilemma her mind could not see a way out of. Either way, people would be let down, hurt. Back and forth she went between the conflicting circumstances and potential consequences, the pressures of obligation building, while she deepened in despair and guilt.
I decided to ask her to consider holding the situations differently—not as heavy opposing obligations, but rather as two truths; not as two things she needed to do, but as two things she dearly wanted to do; not as shoulds, but as desires that were both deeply valid. “What if we started there,” I said. “What if you held them that way for a while, a truth in each hand?” Having her imagine holding them in her hands was a further step towards freeing the mind—the situations were now externalized from head to hands.
It was then that she started to descend from her busy head down into her heart, wading into the waters of the body. There she more tenderly felt how she wanted to give herself in full to both circumstances; how deeply important they were to her; how much they were both heartfelt truths. She started to experience these situations less as burdensome tasks and thoughts, and more as genuine desires tightly woven in her heart.
Emotion then arose. She wept. Compassion was felt for herself, for how hard she was working, for this very human dilemma, this very trying time. She grieved the challenging depth of each desire, and the possibility of not being able to do/be all she wanted. For the first time, feeling preempted thought.
And then, after a few moments, the clarity she sought suddenly came to her. She could not travel south, she realized. It was better to stay put and focus on the wedding.
The clarity came when she embraced, rather than bypassed, the raw human heartbreak of the situation, which opened her to a deeper place of knowing the mind could not find. In grieving, her heart broke open to truth.
In my own experience, thinking my way out of difficult situations or complex problems often, if not usually, does not work. I need to somehow remove myself from my frenetic mind by going for a walk, sitting in nature, meditating, crying, playing, dancing, having a bath, cooking a meal or partaking in some other embodied and authentic activity. Something needs to happen to change the energy up, to move the energy, and get me in my body where I can hear the soft stirrings of my intuition—where the answer finds me.
It’s not easy to do because we have busy lives; because we believe, and have been taught, that pounding it out leads to figuring it out; and because walking away is letting go of control, which is not easy for us humans. But in walking away we learn to trust that which we cannot control. In letting go we learn let in. In slowing down we open to speeding up. And in the wisdom of the body we find the truth we seek.
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Check out Vince’s book: Let the Fire Burn ~ Nurturing the Creative Spirit of Children, A Children’s Book for Adults