The bottom of the river

The bottom of the river

The bottom of the river

The journey is not about becoming perfect.

As Dr. Brene Brown says, perfectionism is just a shield–a desire to be so faultless that we are above judgement.  It is unrealistic and unattainable.  There will always be mess.  There will always be judgement, no matter what you do.

The journey is about realising that you are already enough.

It is about stripping away the layers of stuff, mental and physical, that you cling on to.  All of those things you hide behind and self-medicate with.

Pema Chodron has an analogy that I return to often.

Imagine you, your life, as a river.  Imagine there is junk on the riverbed, gathered over the years.  Shopping trolleys, boots, empty cans.  Anxiety, fear, jealousy, insecurity.  It is not about trying to remove all of the junk or pretending it doesn’t exist.  It is about making the water so clear that you can see all of it.  Accepting and observing those ‘negative’ emotions and treating them with as much respect as you treat the ‘positive’ emotions.  None of them defines you, but they are all a valid part of your experience.

It is only when you face the shadows that lurk beneath the water, and see them clearly for what they are, will they cease to scare, intimidate or have any power over you at all.

To put this into practice, the next time you find yourself experiencing a difficult emotion, try to give yourself just a little space–just five or ten seconds to begin with, to breathe, to do nothing but observe the sensations you are feeling.  Not the story, the sensations.

How does the anger or upset feel?  Is it hot or cold?  Where do you feel it most in your body?  Your head, stomach, shoulders?  Notice your breath.  Is it fast, shallow?  Is your heart beating fast?

Give yourself time to sit with what you are experiencing, as though you are simply noticing the physical sensations it produces in you.

Just by doing this, you have begun the journey.

You have not reached for an easy, quick, temporary fix–food, alcohol, drugs, sleep or lashing out in anger.  You have subverted an old, instinctual habit and realised that there is a different way to respond.  In those few moments of consciousness lie all of the options in the world.

You are not throwing more junk into the river, hoping to bury the rest.  You are allowing the water to clear; the sunlight to pierce the surface.

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