Staying on the spot
Earlier today I was thinking about something that has been troubling me. It was sort of whirring in my mind in a way that lacked any real immediacy; I was keeping it at bay, letting a kind of foggy haze sit in the space between my thoughts and my awareness of the feelings that came with them.
Then I busied myself. I started sorting through the bags of food that have been sitting in my lounge since I redecorated my kitchen about 2 weeks ago. I started moving from one room to another. And again. Taking this jar from the lounge to the kitchen, this bag to the bin, putting this tin in the recycling, decanting this rice into a kilner jar and those nuts into a zip-tie bag. I was doing anything I could to distract myself, anything to stop myself from staying on the spot. But I wasn’t really paying attention to anything I was doing. I knew I wasn’t really there. My actions had this frantic and edgy energy to them that was unsettling and ungrounded. I just carried on doing. Doing, doing, doing.
Until I didn’t. I stopped. I looked down at my clothes covered in cocoa powder and paprika, sat down on my dirty carpet and sobbed. As I sat down literally, I also sat down into the feelings I was having. I went into them. I felt them, properly. And naturally, they made me feel a sense of rawness and sadness. My heart felt heavier. But soon after, something strange happened; I felt calmer. I felt a sense of peace. My actions didn’t have that weird quality of energy any more. I stopped pacing. I thought how easy it would have been not to cry, not to stay on the spot, to move left and right and in all kinds of crazy diagonal ways to stop being in the centre. To stop being where I actually was.
I thought about how I have spent my life moving away from the spot. How so many of my behaviours have been these reactions that move me in any which way so long as it keeps me away from the spot.
And I thought about how much in my life now I want to aim for the spot. I want to sit in the spot because that’s the only way not to become hardened and deluded and imprisioned in 1000’s of destructive ways of escapism from What Is Actually Going On. And seriously, I want to know What Is Actually Going On. I want to feel things. Real things. True things. Even if these things are difficult. I don’t want to escape because I have done that before and it started and ended with addiction and self-sabotage. The story of Claire Who Escapes From Her True Feelings has been told before and it’s repetitive and boring and it didn’t make me laugh very much.
Staying on the spot doesn’t make painful emotions go away. It doesn’t miraculously dissolve the feelings we have or the difficulties. It doesn’t actually change the thing at all, but it does changes us. It helps us to know ourselves and to have understanding and tolerance and patience and insight. It also helps us be there for others; if we can’t stay on the spot of our own emotions, how can we really hold another?
Staying on the spot isn’t about indulging in our difficulties or negative feelings. I think we get this mixed up a lot; the distinction between allowing ourselves to really feel what we feel, and the place where this becomes self-pitying or self-indulgent. And because we have been taught that bad feelings are not good – that pain is something to run from – we can get completely confused and paranoid about what it actually means to allow difficult feelings to come to the surface in us. We confuse feeling them with indulging in them. We confuse feeling them with weakness.
Staying on the spot is about being open. Being receptive and gentle and about not judging. It’s about giving ourselves permission to acknowledge difficulties instead of pacing haplessly around them. It’s really about saying that suffering and pain is okay. It’s okay. This doesn’t mean that it’s good or that we have to cheer lead for it, or walk around in a slogan T-shirt that says "BRING ON THE SUFFERING". It just means that it’s okay. Staying on the spot is about being brave, too. It's also about wisdom. It takes courage to be present with the things that we are really feeling, to look within. But when we couple this with wisdom, we see that it’s the only way to be genuine; because the spot is where the sweet stuff is. It’s the birthplace of a feeling life. It’s the birthplace of compassion – self, others – and it’s the birthplace of autonomy. Power isn’t given to us freely – we have to do the work for it. The difficult work of learning how to stop moving, pacing, running, from left to right, up and down, the work of learning how to stay on the spot when we think we want to move away from it.
And I truly believe that miracles happen when we learn to do this.
I did it in a tiny way today. And I’m still learning. But tiny can be huge. Tiny can be earth-shattering.
I’m proud of the fact that I was aware enough to stay on the spot.
I think maybe I’m just so tired of moving.