Let’s think of anything you’d like to change in your life or in the world right now but feel stuck with.
It could be relationships, finances, job, health, housing, motivation, fears, insecurities, … anything.
It could be wanting to change someone else that we worry about, are scared of or responsible for.
It could be racism, sexism, violence, climate change, terrorism, poverty, pandemics, politics…
Thought of something?
The big question then is – what is stopping that change from happening right now?
Why are we sometimes stuck with a thing we want to change but just can’t find a way?
Let’s look at the anatomy of stuckness.
Let’s say, for example that the change I’d like to see in my life is earning more money. Whatever I try, it just doesn’t seem to happen.
There are at least six elements to that stuckness:
- The thing I want to change (eg. earning ability)
- The experience of that thing (eg. frustration, hopelessness, insecurity, shame)
- Other people (eg. impact of my income on family, comparison with more successful others)
- The past (eg. memories of money being important, scarce, wasted…)
- The certain future (eg. fearful images that come to mind of scarcity, eviction, homelessness, having to depend on others…)
We can adapt this for whatever it is we would like to change but whenever we feel stuck those elements will be there. Whatever the change required, it is the same.
The crucial element is that it looks like all of these things have to be controlled, managed and changed for me to be OK. I’ve put ‘for me to be OK’ in bold because, whatever is going on, that ‘me’ is at the core of this whole experience. Making ‘me’ ok is the ultimate goal. I have to control all of that and then I will be OK.
The irony though is that not only is there no ‘me’ to be ok, it is the belief that there is that keeps everything we want to change fixed in place…
Let’s pause there for a minute because this can sound ridiculous.
The last thing we want right now is some airy-fairy nonsense that seems to have nothing to do with the actual reality of the awful situation and that sense of being trapped, a failure, shameful or whatever other label the mind is creating.
But hang in there because any glimpse of the truth of what I am saying will start to reveal a peace and freedom that you might never have experienced since the idea of ‘you’ first arose.
What we are considering is that all all stasis, all stuckness, all hopelessness hinges on three core beliefs:
This is happening to me.
I am not OK with it.
I have to find a way to change it.
But that self that we are trying so hard to protect, that cannot be exposed, that has to control and manage the world around it doesn’t even exist.
It’s not an objective thing.
It is an idea or a thought or a belief or a concept.
It is not a fact or an entity or a truth or a consistency. It is simply a thought that appears and disappears.
It appears in that thought of needing to earn more.
It appears in the thought of how people will look down on me, pity me.
It appears in the comparison to others who have their lives sorted and who can earn whatever they want.
It appears in the memories of past difficulties with money and in the image of myself sitting on a pavement.
That is where it appears.
And what is made of?
It is made of thought.
Because when it is not appearing there, in that thought, in that shame, in that comparison, where is it…?
Where is that self when the thought isn’t there? Nowhere. It doesn’t exist anywhere.
The whole idea of what I am is created by whatever understanding there is in that moment about who I am. It is an idea that arises in a particular form, disappears, reappears in another form, disappears and so on.
Everything about what needs to change (the bank account, the frustrations, the comparisons, the past, the future…) all arise in concert with the self idea.
When ‘selfing’ is happening then everything else appears through that distorting lens.
It is all playing out in a hall of mirrors and the mirror reflections are taken as evidence that this is real.
We’re trying to fight our reflection over and over and over again. And all that fight does is make the reflection that more and more separate, more and more real.
But the self idea is a learned idea of what we are. It began in childhood and those initial beliefs were fixed in place as the evidence seeking mind collected more and more reasons to be convinced of that limitation and separation.
So in other words, the stuckness isn’t revealing anything true about the situation, about ourselves, about what has to change. It is only revealing the belief system.
The feeling of stuckness is only ever a reminder that the whole thing — self, other, experience, past and future — is a creation. It’s a creation arising from the beliefs of what we are.
All of it can only appear in a certain way because of what is being believed in that moment.
Whatever reaction is going on in the moment is the only reaction possible, given what looks true. And the suffering that arises as we go about our day to day life takes us deeper into that belief-created reality. In other words the more desperate we are for change, the more cemented in place the whole circus that revolves around this idea of me.
So what can we do?
We start with reality, as it appears.
That is the only thing ever on offer and it is the richest gift.
We start with what is being resisted in that reality – what looks scary, shameful, hopeless, confronting – and we move towards it with curiosity and intrigue.
We move towards what we most resist as David Attenborough would approach a tribe of gorillas – gently, lovingly, openly, playfully, baby step by baby step.
Because as we move towards, reality shifts. It gives itself up. It was only ever held conceptually. It was never how it appeared to be.
This gentle movement towards is a healing movement. It is in this space that the needs, fears and shames of that developing idea of self can be honoured and integrated.
The entire reality of self, body, experience, other people, past and future shifts in that movement. Because what was believed to be true when held ‘out there’ at arm’s length, looks completely different close up.
And that shift, that falling away of what is not true, means we are no longer fighting the demons of our mind, no longer held in an imagined prison, no longer stuck.
Concepts give way to reality.