This past weekend I was working on a new online program but slowly it began to grind down to a halt. Every idea that came to me felt like a dud. Nothing felt right, everything that occurred to me seemed flimsy, or boring or just energetically flat.
The first thing that I realized about my reaction (frustration, disappointment, anger) was that it was just that: a knee-jerk reaction to those deadening words I kept hearing in my mind, "I have to but I can't figure out how".
Although technically I did had a deadline, it wasn't written in stone. Nevertheless, it featured rather prominently in my growing impatience. Most of us think that it's the deadline itself that's causing us to feel pressure. But what if that pressure was self imposed, meaning, we do it to ourselves?
It's always interesting to notice how many of us react differently to the same circumstances. How is it that one person goes ballistic when cut off on the highway, while another person gives the "perpetrator" a warm smile and a wave?
In my mind is an indelible image that I once saw in a movie about the Dalai Lama, whose countenance stayed serene and imperturbable while a Chinese official screamed at him, only inches from his face.
That may be an extreme example because, after all, the Dalai Lama _should_ know how to keep his composure. But I think there's something to be learned from this example.
If our reactions to any and all events are projections of our own fears and concern about potential consequences, then it's bound to be the case that the events themselves don't carry an emotional charge. What carries the charge is the combination of our thoughts and feelings.
Bruce Lipton, the noted cellular biologist, has repeatedly emphasized that our biology is determined to a great extent, if not completely, by our beliefs. When we hold negative or self limiting beliefs about ourselves or the world, the resulting biochemicals our body will "color" both our perception and our reactions.
We are most aware of this fact when something most people would consider "bad" happens, such as when we receive a potential diagnosis of cancer or get wind of a threat of layoffs. For most people, they immediately start to panic, projecting a future that appears to be hopeless.
There are a few things we can do to bring us back to our senses. The first comes back to that ability we all have to _notice_ when our thoughts and feelings are closed or constricted. Just the simple act of noticing will give us a degree of separation so that we are no longer totally under their spell and we can give ourselves space to take a breath and reassess.
At one point this past weekend, I noticed the feelings and thoughts I was having about my project were taking me into a pretty dark state of mind, where there was absolutely no room for inspiration or creativity.
In that moment I was able to see that yet again my mind had projected some very disappointing consequences that would no doubt ruin my life if I didn't come up with some brilliant ideas (yes, my thinking sometimes goes to extremes).
I had a sudden insight that I was making up consequences for this momentary absence of solutions, and it became clear that there was no room on the mental runway of my being for something unexpected or revelatory to appear.
So not only were my thoughts projecting a negative outcome, but one of the underlying premises for these thoughts was that _I should be in control of when new ideas come to me._
Elizabeth Gilbert tells the story of Tom Waits, the musician, who had a melody come into his mind while he was driving. He had no pen and paper so there was no way for him to record his idea. At first, his reaction was one of frustration and anger, so he looked to the sky and said to his muse:
‘Excuse me. Can you not see that I’m driving? If you’re serious about wanting to exist, I spend eight hours a day in the studio. You’re welcome to come and visit me when I’m sitting at my piano. Otherwise, leave me alone and go bother Leonard Cohen.’
Aside from finding this a funny story because Leonard Cohen took years to write some of his songs, it's a great example of how we want our lives to unfold in a predictable and convenient way.
_But life is not linear, and the arrival of fresh ideas is not under our control._ Once I remember those two ideas - and I have to do this fairly frequently - my next step becomes clear.
And that next step is often not what I expect or assume it should be. Sometimes it requires stepping away from a situation to get a fresh perspective. Sometimes life asks us to do something that appears to be totally counterproductive, like take a walk or a nap or have a cup of tea.
Many of us, me included, has been told we should push through a stuck point, pull up our proverbial bootstraps and power our way through a blank space. And the potential threat of punishment if we don't looks large.
The less I give credence to the voices of "no/can't/shouldn't," the less power they have over me. I don't need to suppress or repress them; but I can see them for what they are - old habits that may have served a purpose in the past but are no longer useful if I want to grow or succeed.
What happened to me over the weekend? I realized that the timing wasn't up to me, so apparently the best next step was to walk away, let myself be emptied of my expectations and just do what occurred to me to do, regardless of whether or not it seemed like a productive activity. I just had to shrug and agree to it.
And then a little miracle happened: all those noisy, threatening, worrisome energies subsided so that my internal landing strip was available to the next delivery of cargo (aka new ideas). And off I went.
It's amazing what possibilities emerge when we allow ourselves even a little self awareness! The world suddenly opens up to us and we're free to follow our fresh inspiration.