Sitting With It

I grew up fighting in a fiery nuclear family with almost too much personality, including my own (so like at least 5 additional personalities). Reacting to things has always come in two forms: (1) instantly blowing up (like the volcano in Dante’s Peak) or (2) silently creating the illusion of being totally okay, but actually nursing a red hot lava pit of rage that’s ready to burst (like in the 30 minutes before Dante’s Peak, when everything was still okay but about to go terribly, terribly wrong).

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I really want to re-watch this movie now.

The point is, whenever I’m emotionally uncomfortable, I do what most people do. I react. Fight, or flight. But neither of those ways have helped me so far in feeling stable. Truly stable. Stability, meaning not frantically striving to attain (fighting) and missing the point, and also not frantically sticking my head in the sand and pretending like nothing’s happening and totally missing the point. To me, that stability means responding to each thing that happens to me from a position that I can call my home.

Meditation has become one of my favourite things, and one of the only things I’ve been able to consistently do on a daily basis. It is literally sitting with things - your thoughts, emotions, reactions, bodily sensations, opinions, judgements, you name it. Sitting with it and letting it all marinate has been one of the best takeaways and applicable life skills I’ve been able to build into my life. And although I’m far from being where I want to be, I have truly never felt more grounded and happy to be in the world, all thanks to the practice and process of sitting with these four things:

Sitting with People

This means that instead of reacting to people by either running away, or rushing to them because of how they make you feel, you can accept them as they are without judgements or expectations. This is treating people with equanimity and acknowledging that even though your backgrounds and perspectives may appear to be vastly different, each of you can have some common ground or shed some light on a personal dilemma.

When we sit, we don’t run away from people, or fight them. It’s not ignoring their existence, or trying to beat them down. It’s neither cold nor hot. It’s being able to settle the internal self-protection stuff that tells you you either have to cut someone out, or change their mind to validate your position. Sitting with people means just that - being with them, not trying to change them, trying to see all of them and not just the 3% on the surface that we’re all so used to fixating on.

Recommended: The Klan - Snap Judgement

Sitting with Projects

This means sticking with things, not running away from them when things get hard, and not forcing hard delivery dates. When we start projects, it’s great to have a launch date in mind, but if you’re not happy with it, then there’s no point putting it out there before it’s ready. Sometimes, projects just need time. Maybe you need more experience to finish the project. Maybe something else needs to happen before you can bring this project to life.

Sitting with projects does not mean starting something and then giving up. It means taking a break, taking a walk, and remaining committed to putting your best work out there. Sometimes that means you have to get yourself in the right headspace to finish your project - that takes time. Don’t get overwhelmed and quit, and don’t try to rush to prove something (nobody really cares if you don’t deliver something). Give yourself a break, if you need to request more time from a stakeholder then do it upfront. Come back to it refreshed and, as the Spanish say, poco a poco, little by little your project will see the light of day.

Recommended: Controlling Stress, Nutrition Upgrades, and Improved Health - Tim Ferriss Show

Sitting with Possibilities

I used to call this uncertainty, but rebranding uncertainties as possibilities frees you from the trap of either (once again) running away from all the ‘terrible things that could happen’, or becoming so anxious with the unknown that you to try to control the scenario to increase your odds of getting the outcome you want - sometimes at the expense of yourself and others. Sitting with possibilities means being present in ‘good’ and ‘bad’ scenarios and taking it as it comes knowing that you just don’t know. When has it ever worked out when you tried to force something to happen? When has it ever worked out when you intentionally avoided experiencing something that simultaneously scared you and intrigued you?

You know when things work out? When you aren’t trying, but you aren’t not trying. You are just there and open to it. You’re letting things happen and pass through you. I’m still young, but I’ve collected enough experience points to recognize a pattern that I’m fairly certain is applicable to us all, and it’s this: bad times lead to processing, and processing leads to better times. Better times lead to more possibilities - challenges and changes - and the cycle repeats over and over like we’re objects in orbit, always spiralling always upward. When things are destroyed, smile (or at least don’t frown) because you are at the beginning of building something better.

All the worst times of my life were things I could not control. All of the best times of my life have been born out of those ‘worst’ things, when I focused on the tasks at hand rather than getting lost in denial, or frantically grasping for a quick fix. It’s like being thrown in the deep end of an ocean, not knowing how to swim. None of us knows how to life. If you don’t do anything, you die (rather quickly). If you’re panicking then you aren’t thinking, just splashing around, swallowing water, wasting energy, then you die (slow and painful). But a conscious calm - that’s where it’s at. Gently paddling, everyone just floats. We are always safe. Then, with focused strides, you’re goddamn Michael Phelps.

Recommended: Bruce Lipton: The Biology of Belief - Unmistakable Creative


Sitting with Pleasure & Pain

Finally, this is sitting with discomfort inside your mind and body. This is all the emotions and reactions that are swirling around inside you - your own customized operating system. Once again, sitting with these things means not running away from them, and also not rushing into them.

Sometimes, we run away from pleasure because we have been trained to think we don’t deserve it. Sometimes, we mine it like a finite resource; we chase it because we don’t trust that it can just happen effortlessly.

Sometimes, we run away from pain because it seems much easier than facing the tough encounters and/or conversations we might have to have. Sometimes, we (usually subconsciously, but sometimes intentionally) harm ourselves and seek pain in order to keep a story going that we don’t deserve better. That story is fake news.

Sitting with it means honouring all those feelings, watching them, and untangling them like the set of headphones you shoved in your pocket. It’s being patient with yourself and truly experiencing what it feels like to be overjoyed or heartbroken, or how nice it is to simply be right in the middle without anywhere to go. It’s about sinking into yourself and letting your mind collaborate with what your body is telling you. All things being equal, it’s being a consistent, steady stream of just you, baby. And that’s as close to perfect as you’re going to get.

Recommended: Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman - Meeting Our Enemies and Our Suffering - On Being

Arianne TongComment