“I’m in an early relationship that seems to be moving fast. I’m not sure if this is right for me. How can I know?”
We all have had the feeling that we are being pulled along by a force outside ourselves. This could be in any area- career, intimate relationship, a single conversation. Maybe we wake up one day and realize that we are only climbing the corporate ladder for larger paychecks- that we may have been happiest at work in our entry-level position from years ago. Or, as in this question, we are carried away by new relationship energy, making an “insta-relationship,” without giving the adequate time to get to know the other person’s personality, in all kinds of circumstances. Or we keep having the same kind of banter with someone that leaves us feeling… icky.
In some instances, this action without even having to think much can feel like divine purpose- like we are in contact with some power greater than ourselves, and consciously choosing to go with the flow of that power is sublime. While lovely, this is not the type of “being pulled along” to which I am referring here. The feeling I am referring to is a product of being out of touch with that greater power- out of touch with our higher purpose. It feels over-powering, not just energizing. Neutral, negative, blind or frantic. Not joyful and inspired- though it can be hard to really distinguish between these sensations, if we do not give ourselves the space and time to discern, for ourselves.
If you find yourself in a moment- or several years- of following a path that doesn’t feel right, it’s time to take care of yourself. Here are some steps to take to look into this apparent dissonance between your actions and your heart.
Take some time and space away from the activity. For a career question, maybe it’s clearing a weekend or even tacking on an extra mental-health day to the weekend so you have time to look into your own heart. In an intimate relationship, let your partner know that you need to take a span of time for yourself (this looks different, depending on the nature of the relationship- casual dating means just not going on a date for a week, a spouse that you live with might mean taking a weekend vacation by yourself.) In a conversation, it would mean ending the conversation, “Anyway- it has been good to catch up with you, and I need to stop now and take care of some other things.”
Have you ever seen the 1980’s TV show “Out of This World?” I’ve always wished I had the same superpower as Evie, to freeze time so I can do all the things I want to do in the course of an already busy day. We may not be able to freeze time, but we can clearly set aside time for the things we want- need– to do. If gaining clarity for yourself is important to you, set the boundary with the people and tasks in your life around this exercise. Take the time and space you need, where nothing else can intrude.
Set the Stage for Inquiry
Maybe this means finding a chair for yourself and your journal in a quiet corner and letting others in the house know that you will be unavailable for anything but medical emergencies for the next half-hour. Maybe it means spending several hours in a day or over a weekend in a room of your home with candles and incense burning. You don’t need to book a cabin in nearby mountains, or a spot on a weekend meditation retreat that allows space for personal practice. However, if you have the means and wish to, please do that! Do whatever it is that you believe is going to be most conducive to this self-inquiry.
Look Deeply and Embrace
Now that you have paused the activity in question, and have set the stage for your inquiry, it’s time to check in with yourself and embrace what you see. Go slow. Before you begin your inquiry, give thanks to yourself for seeking clarity and alignment in your life. Give thanks to all of the teachers, ancestors, and conditions that have allowed you to be in this exact position in your life, able to take stock and grow. If you pray and/or believe in a higher power, ask for guidance. This can be silent or out loud.
Next, sit quietly and gradually scan your body- head (including mind,) neck, shoulders, torso (including heart and gut,) arms, hands, hips and reproductive organs, legs, feet. Notice the qualities of energy, weight, and heat you feel in these parts of your body. If you are completely new to the idea of a body-scan meditation, here is a short (5 minutes) video online to get the idea: Body-scan meditation.
Now that you have settled and have a sense of what’s happening in your body, bring to mind the activity in question- your career path, the relationship, the uncomfortable conversation you were having earlier. Rest your mind and heart gently on this topic- not tearing into it with intellect, but allowing its essence to seep into your body. It may not take long (a few seconds?) before you begin to feel what is changing in your physical sensations, when exposed to the activity in question. Once you feel you have settled enough into your physical inquiry, allow the physical sensations to speak to you.
Is the constriction in the chest saying things are going too fast for you? Is the fog in the mind saying that there is confusion about the topic? Are the sweaty palms spelling out anxiety? Let the flavor define itself- note that we are not using intellect here. This is a corporal way of knowing, different from what most of us do every day. Many of us have spent lifetimes building our intellect, and we obsessively ruminate about everything under the sun. In this investigation, we are setting rumination aside and listening to other sources of information- this is an aspect of intuition.
When the mind naturally returns to thinking, we re-direct our attention back to the physical sensations that are arising, and the feeling-words that may appear with them. Do this for as long as you need. Take breaks for tea or stretching, if your inquiry is taking a lot of time and you need to break it up. If you are approaching the limit of the time you have for this exercise, and no insight has occurred, this is okay. Move to the next step.
Write it Down
Whether you have gotten some guidance just yet or not, it is time to journal. Record your question (“Am I on the right career path?” “Is this relationship building me up, or bringing me down?” “Are these conversations good for me?”) and what your body told you. If there is not a clear answer from your corporal knowing, write your intention to receive clarity- from the passage of time, or from a higher power. Setting the intention for clarity, now that you are aware of this prominent question, may be all the progress you will make at this time.
Now is also when- if you are giving yourself plenty of time for a larger life-question- you can allow the intellect to look at facts about your area of question and to evaluate them. This is much better done in writing, as thinking tends to be repetitive and is slower to insight than writing. This could be simple journaling (writing whatever comes to mind,) or a “pro” and “con” list in response to the question of keeping the status quo or changing things up. It could be an “evidence for” and “evidence against” list in response to some belief you may be circling back onto, but which feels a bit sticky, maybe skewed.
If you have established that your activity in question must change, you can continue with making a plan to initiate change- see next week’s post about that. Whether you are making a plan for change right now or not, make sure you close your self-inquiry with a few moments of repeated gratitude: to yourself, your teachers, ancestors, and other conditions that have led to your existence, on the path you are walking. Finally, make a commitment to yourself to continue to listen to and care for your own deepest truths.
Important skills you are strengthening: