A few years ago, I found myself in a state of total overwhelm. My head was in chaos. I couldn’t sleep or really eat. I couldn’t pretend to be my normal self with friends so I avoided company. I was shaking, exhausted and low. I was looking into the future and all I saw were bleak, desolate choices which had nothing to do with the life I desired. I was looking at the past and seeing how things were not at all as I had thought they were. I felt I was living on quicksand. Everything – past, present and future – seemed jumbled, awful and desperate.
A few people in my practice recently have talked about feeling absolutely overwhelmed. Sometimes, something has happened, an event that seems to have pulled the rug out from underneath their life. Or sometimes nothing has happened and they have gradually become more and more stuck or confused or tired. Everything seems so hopeless. It is impossible to believe that there is a way out.
There were many moments when I felt like that, when it was absolutely beyond me to think that things could be different. There didn’t seem to be any options or possibility.
All I really knew to do during these moments was to keep breathing. So I kept breathing. Sometimes my head cleared enough to notice that I could breathe. At other times my thoughts were so whirling and painful that all I could do was live in the full confusion.
Breathe. I knew to do it.
It was one small breadcrumb on the tangled ground of an immense, chaotic forest. All around it were weeds and thorns but there it was, one single breadcrumb. I knew to breathe. That was it. It wasn’t much but it was enough. I knew to do it. I knew how to do it. It was obvious and clear and it made sense. It was all I had.
And I stayed with the breathing. And in staying with the breathing, I could see the next breadcrumb. In staying with what I knew to do, I had put myself on a path and on the path was another breadcrumb. I picked it up. As I picked it up, I knew that the crying I was already doing made sense. I didn’t try to stop it. So I cried. it made sense to cry.
And because I was doing something that made sense to do, I could see the next breadcrumb.
I picked it up and I knew to speak to someone I trusted. It was a terribly hard conversation to have but I knew to do it. It was just one breadcrumb, one small thing.
I did that small thing that made sense right then and that opened the path a bit wider. The next breadcrumb became slightly more obvious. Then there was another. Then another. And gradually by following these breadcrumbs I emerged from the chaos.
And this is all we can ever do when our head is so full and our reality is upside down and our mind is numb or racing. Look for the first breadcrumb. It will be there and it will be there just for you. What makes sense for anyone else is irrelevant. There will be something there that is just for you.
It might be an action to take. Perhaps just to notice the wisdom that is already keeping you alive like breathing or eating or drinking.
It might be to continue doing what you are doing right now – crying, shouting, raging, sitting.
Or it might be a non-action action like resting or stopping work or no more crying or shouting or doing nothing or not seeing anyone.
Or it might be to stand up or sit down or open a window or go outside.
It might take you in the direction of a connection. Perhaps a connection to yourself and something you know to be true.
Or it might suggest a connection to another person or an animal or to a place or a book or a poem or a piece of music or water.
It won’t promise anything. It will never say ‘do this and everything will be sorted out.’ Because this is about your expansion and growth and your realisation of who you are. What you can see in this moment, however useful it is right now, will not apply as you rise up the mountain. It will simply say ‘This makes sense right now’.
And in this action or non action, connection to self or other that makes sense right now we open up a space. We shift our view by a fraction of a degree so that what we are looking at now isn’t quite the same as it was, there is something slightly different. And breadcrumb by breadcrumb, fraction of a degree by fraction of a degree we move forwards towards the clearing.
There are more of us than we could ever imagine, seemingly stuck in chaos or trapped in numb confusion. However hopeless it seems though, there will always be one breadcrumb, one small thing that we know to do. One tiny crumb in a world of whatever turmoil or disillusion we are experiencing.
It is not much but it is always enough. It is always there. And there will always be another.
This is the Breadcrumb Club. It is a good place to be.