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  • Writer's pictureAnnelisa MacBean

Staying With It

I have been deepening into what it means to “stay with” a difficult thought, feeling, or bodily sensation. It’s not the same as wallowing or being flooded, nor is it merging, enmeshment or fusion.

It’s more of a not so easy “in between” experience that doesn’t collapse into being engulfed or get too rigid and resistant in some extreme reaction of rejection. Rather than turning away from the often uncomfortable way that life and truth manifest . . . rather than abandoning awareness and succumbing to emotional activation, I am learning to navigate and hold the tension between collapse and resistance. This is actually a very active attentional process. As I become interested in what is unfolding, a sincere curiosity can surpass the desire to avoid discomfort. I feel a strong longing to relate and act toward others with care and kindness. This longing reorients me to a patience and compassion toward my own experience. I become willing to wait and listen.

I have discovered that even my most challenging symptoms, emotions, thoughts, vulnerabilities, and sensitivities are communicating sacred information! I go slow as I explore, slower than my mind often wants to . . . sometimes lingering only for a few seconds at a time, testing the territory, noticing shame and self-judgment transmute progressively, in response to tender and attuned titration.

I try to gauge my windows of tolerance, leaning up against the edges of discomfort or sensation, noticing how much focus and intention I can bring without devolving into a forced need for change. It can take a lot of experimentation and practice to discover this in between state, this delicate balance. It’s often just a few moments, then rest. Just a few more seconds . . . and then rest.

I am getting better at taking time away from intense focus on inner work – I take a walk, talk with a friend, do some yoga, play with my cats, eat, watch Netflix. Purposefully giving space and time to the process, I am not off-line, not unconscious; I am listening, like a mother listens to a baby monitor.

My mind wants to get it done, get the discomfort resolved, fix it and move on. My inner knowing understands that there is no urgency, no great hurry, no self-improvement project to complete that will get me to perfect, never-again-interrupted peace. There is no destination. Just a developing process of loving what is. Slow. Curious. Tendering what is . . . constantly balancing between resistance and surrender . . . “staying with it,” as the energy of the Divine works its way into and through this body.

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