It’s a certainty of life: sometimes you feel stuck.
In the best of worlds our life’s path goes forward, in a straight line for those who are mightily driven, in a sort of wobbly line for those who occasionally lack focus. The important thing is to keep moving forward and progress. Standing still is not an option as a rule, but it is necessary on occasion to reset your compass and move in the right direction again.
When you get stuck it feels like you are running in circles, which is unlike standing still, even though the outcome looks similar. There is a silent activity in running in circles, it makes you feel tired without apparent reason and gets you nowhere although you believe you have been actively pursuing your path all the time. At such moments it is imperative to take a deep breath, stop running and reassess where YOU are right now and find the direction to go towards your goal.
Distinguish between being stuck and standing still. Those are two very different things: standing still allows you to assess without immediate action, being stuck indicates action that achieves nothing.
This holds true for life in general, but also for tantra, sensuality, meditation, interaction with others, love, sex, … you name it. Take meditation, for example: the whole point is to stand still and observe – a far cry from actively trying to achieve something, right? Or look at sex: frantically trying out different positions in order to find the one that pleases the other most is counterproductive, it makes the whole thing appear too much work and leaves no time to enjoy whatever may come by itself. If you don’t let go of expectations, the result will ultimately defeat the purpose.
Of course, it’s important to keep an eye on the intended outcome, but in the majority of cases you cannot force an outcome to suddenly appear (admittedly, this sometimes works in business or your personal life, but often at the detriment of your own wellbeing or any personal interactions with your peers). Finding out where your goal is and then letting things happen in a way that brings you closer is often the better strategy.
This is especially true for tantra-related activities. While ‘fake it till you make it’ can be useful to define what the outcome should be, I don’t subscribe to that particular school of thought. Ultimately, your body knows what to do and when to do it.
sometimes “wait and see” is the only valid option
Life is short, so why settle for something that is less than utterly joyful?
Do you ever get that feeling that your day is filled with chores and nothing you do is making you happy? Maybe you need to consider shifting some of the things that make you unhappy and focus on those activities that make you feel good?
I know, it sounds simplistic, but your life is really yours to improve upon wherever you can. Oftentimes we end up doing things just because we have not chosen to stop doing them, or we do them out of a sense of obligation, or we simply have not given them a second thought yet. It’s important to take an occasional step back and look at things the way they ARE rather than the way we perceive them while in the midst of it all. There are some common themes you can explore:
Do you tend to leave things until the last moment? Quite apart from the sad fact that this mindset will always lead to panic at some point just before a deadline, or financial loss because some payment was forgotten, it is also a perfect way to keep yourself from true happiness. Each time you decide to leave something for another time you force yourself to revisit the same question you are not happy to answer or react to. So why not take care of the issue right away, be done with it and no longer worry about it? Once it’s out of the way, joy is just around the corner.
Can you say ‘no’? Another big things for lots of people is that they cannot say ‘no’ to requests. This may be little more than posting a letter for someone but could also turn out to be a lifelong commitment that you entered into through a false sense of obligationI have learned the hard way that it’s better to ponder any such requests before accepting them. Quick decisions may lead to endless worry and spending time on something that is not beneficial to your own wellbeing and joy.
Do you make time for yourself? Even if your day consists of just the regular stuff – getting up, preparing the day, working, household chores, some activity with friends and the back to bed – it is imperative to make time to do something of your own choosing (going out with friends doesn’t count: it may sometimes be your choice, but often it’s just a habit). Find ways to spend quality time with yourself OR with your friends, but don’t get stuck in a pattern. Sometimes it’s better to stay in and read a book for a couple of hours than getting drunk or watch a film in the cinema.
How do you get more joy out of life? Using the three questions above, try and figure out if there are things you can take care of earlier or can avoid completely and then fill the newly found free time with things you enjoy. And then keep going…
You only have one life: make it count!
If you have ever been to a meditation class or have done your share of alone time meditations at home you will be very much aware that it can be challenging to keep your mind in the right place. Sometimes your mind is racing and it is hard to focus on either your visualisation or attempting to clear you mind of thought to start with. This appears to be the main complaint that beginners in meditation as well as seasoned practitioners come up with when asked about their challenges with regards to meditation.
However, there is a different side to that medal: what if you are able to clear your mind and go into meditation, but your sense of time plays up, it becomes tedious to a point when you simply cannot help but leave the meditation? The trouble here is that many of us are having a hard time separating serene calm and quiet from plain old boredom! It is all down to your experience of time.
In the best possible case, going into meditation will lead to a weird feeling of “being in control of not being in control”. In this moment, letting go of control over what goes on and allowing things to happen on their own is perceived as a positive experience, and this in turn changes your experience of time flowing at a different speed. In some cases that difference can become so notable as to make you feel as if you are in a bubble of normal time and everything else is slowing down. Let’s call this one a ‘place of timelessness’.
On the other hand, you may end up with internal processes churning away while you are waiting for something to happen. In the real world that could correspond to being told that your train has been cancelled or having to wait longer for an appointment. Not only will this be a grating experience, it will make time progress slower in your mind as you are left with a chunk of time that you don’t really know what to do with. Let’s call this one ‘place of annoyance’.
And then there are situations where you don’t expect anything to happen but crave for something to happen. Nothing you can think of is tempting or you find yourself in a situation where nothing can be done, like waiting for that package delivery van to finally show up, or just not having anything of consequence to do at all. This is what I call the ‘place of boredom’.
All three can occur during daily life or when attempting to meditate, but let’s focus only on the meditation moments. If you look closely, the ‘place of annoyance’ has an external element to it that makes that situation slightly different. In meditation, that could be a distracting sound or blinking light that keeps you from reaching a state of calm. Sometimes those cannot be helped and require blanking out. Don’t get me wrong: you simply compartmentalise your ability to exert control and will be perfectly able to let go on other levels. Nevertheless, it takes a bit of practice.
The ‘place of boredom’ is an entirely different animal: it comes from within and is very different in nature to the ‘place of timelessness’. With boredom, it’s not so much about your surroundings slowing down, but your personal experience is experienced as much slower than everybody else’s. The time you spend in this place is stretched, but without that sense of contentment that comes from ‘timelessness’.
If you ever find yourself in that place of boredom, it is a wise choice to pull out of there and remove the boredom through joyful activities. Meditation at this point is pointless as you are unable to let go of control in a way that promotes a state of calm. I realise that stepping back may be difficult, especially if this experience is the result of depression, grief, or similar feelings that need to be dealt with. It is important to recognise that obstacle as yet another hurdle that needs to be overcome in order to be able to experience ‘timelessness’ and true meditation.
explore this difference whenever you feel bored
It may sound unexpected to be talking about your daily routine in the context of conscious sensuality, but it is not so strange at all. After all, tantra is not only about sensual experience during sex or similar encounters with a partner, but about living your life with the inclusion of all that tantra offers on the path to enlightenment and bliss.
Since the ultimate goal is much wider in scope than just the sensual sliver that is covered in your interaction with others, why not look at ways to enhance the way you live your daily life as well? The way to do this is to find regular activities and go about them in a more conscious way. Having breakfast, taking a shower or commuting to work can be tedious, repetitive tasks that have become so ‘normal’ that you don’t really give them a second thought. However, if you just focus a little, these times can be made into something much more meaningful and healthy.
Let’s take breakfast, for example. If you are the type of person who barely sits down and rather runs around with a cup of coffee or tea in your hands while you wolf down some random food, you may want to think again! Not only is this bad for your health, it also increases stress levels and does create any level of calm at all. Why not take a moment to sit down and actually enjoy your drink and food, and try to take your mind off anything else? And YES: this involves stopping that damn multitasking thing you do in the morning. Having breakfast while sorting out your paperwork or packing your bag for the day does nothing for your inner peace!
If, on the other hand, you are a sit-down person to start with, this still leaves room for experiments. Why not try and make the whole experience into something more akin to a Japanese tea ceremony than a bench outside a takeaway diner on the motorway? Spend a moment to set the table properly (cutlery, cups, etc.) and bring to the table what you need (butter, spreads, bread or rolls, etc.), then sit down properly and make this your quiet time before the storm starts to rage again outside. If you wonder about the time it takes, maybe it’s worth considering to abolish the snooze button and getting up 10 minutes earlier for this?
For advanced students: why not place that vase of flowers or a piece of art in front of you to meditate on? I know, you want to read the newspaper or a chapter of your current novel. That is absolutely fine! As long as it calms your mind and takes it off the humdrum of daily life, it’s good. Draw a doodle if you need to, as long as it’s not part of your ‘production cycle’. Let this time be reflective, relaxing, and give your mind the freedom to roam.
These ideas can be applied to any part of your day, as long as those moments create a conscious return to your centre and leave the roar of obligatory tasks behind for a while.
Let there be unproductive times during each day
These are my own thoughts on aspects of my work I feel strongly about.