When Your Mind is Stuck…

When your mind is stuck, move your body.

In the pan-ultimate of pop culture philosophizing, I’m taking that slogan from an old running shoe commercial as really sound advice. And taking it a step further. There is definitely something to be said for getting out of your head and just moving, especially when you’re stuck. I’ve found great value in abandoning an habitual walking route to just meander deer trails and dead ends. There’s something about just letting go and following your gut and not caring about where you end up, that even exercised while exercising can trickle down and start manifesting in other areas of your life. Very good life training, doing something different and letting yourself get a little lost.

If you want to experience something different, you have to do something different” That fridge-magnet mantra had been popping up in my mind over and over again for months. In a time where I’d not only been stuck (and VERY frustrated), I could see clearly all the patterns in my life I keep cycling – in my health, in my romantic relationships, in work and finances, everything. I already had the capacity to step back, see: “Oops, there it is. I’ve been here before.” But even bringing that mindfulness and understand to myself and my life, I knew there was some meta-understanding – some connecting thread that I was just not getting! All these separate issues in my life were all stories on the same theme – and like a grade nine book report gone awry, I just couldn’t see the overarching theme!

I spent months trying to force an epiphany (pausing while you laugh at that). Yes forcing an epiphany, and no it didn’t go well… at all. I think you can herniate your soul pushing that hard. It doesn’t matter you know that’s what you need and all the stuff you are frustrated with will shift if you can just… bloody well get it, damnit!

Abandoning all attempts to force that frickin’ epiphany, I decided: “Well, I can see all these patterns, let’s interrupt them.” So I did. People I’m usually patient with I’d yell at. People I wanted to yell at I tried just shutting the hell up and seeing what got sorted on its own. I let go of things I thought were important to me, embraced stuff I couldn’t possibly see could get me anywhere. I asked things of people I thought would let me down, and expected less from people I used to count on. Instead of saying, “Meh, not my thing.” I’d say “Sure, why not?” I’d push myself to go to events by myself, to meet people I wouldn’t normally hang with.

Now I wasn’t just on a beserker tear-up. Interrupting my patterns meant ignoring logic to just answer that still small voice inside of me. Trusting it, even when it called me to push way out of my comfort zone, or I feared it risked hurting or upseting people I loved. There were some upsets for sure, but more than anything I found that following my gut and speaking my truth broke up patterns, set me free of encumbrances, and shifted things for other people.  Like leaving the well trod trail and bushwhacking, meandering through deer trails, I set off, not knowing where those choices would lead.

Well they lead to the motherload my friend! Early this year I had my much sought after epiphany. Then, like the lead domino on a branching set… clinkclinkclinkclink everything shifted. EVERYTHING changed. Finally seeing how all those stuck patterns in my life were connected changed everything. I didn’t even have to do anything. It’s not like my realization meant my life had a new business model I had to sit down and implement in all my departments, nope – everything just changed, all at once!

My dating life is a whole different world than it was just months ago; I’m finding for the first time I’m being courted rather than pursued.  On the health front, while I’m by no means spontaneously cured, there’s been a major shift and I’m finally moving out of this two year relapse; plus enjoying a levelling out of the vast oscillations my energy usually flips through. On the work front, opportunities are presenting themselves to develop employment in areas I’d never even thought of: “I could actually get PAID to do the things I love? Get out! Right on!” All the sudden, my life is moving in ways I’d never even imagined, ways that just fit.

And most gratifying for me (and the biggest relief!) is seeing the constant push and pull of trying to reconcile the spiritual and the mundane in my life, that deep spiritual loneliness I’ve felt as I’ve moved deeper, seemingly alienating me from everyday life and people (like the episode of the Simpsons where Homer get the crayon removed from his brain and he starts seeing life through Lisa-esque eyes), that feeling like I could never really fit in either world… gone. Just gone. Spontaneously resolved. There’s no trying to fit into either world, I simply fit in them both, realizing they’re not really separate at all. I now move through my days in a background of peace and contentment, happy but no longer overwhelmed with the intense joy I spoke of in the Fire Hose of Love piece. Balanced.

Not to say I don’t still have my shitty moments, this shift has also triggered the release of a lot of crap that I’ve got to work through, but somehow even that is different, I don’t feel quite so alone in the process, or ill equipped, or something. A new patience and ability to trust the unfolding. Even in the scary, hard, upsetting things I still go through.

There’s still a lot for me to learn in this space – like breaking through a copse of trees and finding a whole new valley to explore. I’m now set to discovering what this life is like, finding out who I am all over again. A whole lot more risk-taking in my future as I learn where my limitations are now. To trust in my own wisdom to speak with authority on the things I can (and continue to discover where my ignorances lie). Adjust to new relationships with new people, and changes in the people who’ve been in my life for years.

I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to get here, and know I’ll be out of my comfort zone for a while. Yet I carry some sort of constant comfort with me while I do all the new, and scary, and uncertain things.  My life, unstuck, unfamiliar, full of potential.

Wahoo! OhshitOhshitOhshit!

5 thoughts on “When Your Mind is Stuck…

  1. Great post Valerie! Among the many thoughts that sprung up while reading it was one inspired by your reference to reconciling “the spiritual and the mundane” in life. And that got me onto a mental tangent that I’ve been thinking about recently:

    Rather than the two sides of Mankind (You or Me or Us), or at least our active mental pursuits, being “spiritual” and “mundane”, I’ve been thinking of Us as “Technological Man” and “Agrarian Man”.

    We live in a world of Technology – at least here in Calgary, it’s a world of noise, activity, fast-paced, go-go-go lifestyle. It’s a world of traffic jams, bills, work, stress, demolition and construction on a massive scale. It’s microwaves and processed foods and anti-depressants. It’s never leaving the house without being plugged into an iPod – your senses detached from the world around you. It’s Facebook and Twitter and updates coming at you so quickly you don’t have time to process them.

    That reminds me of a study I read about recently which found that the human brain is not wired for the current constant onslaught of noise and activity being hurled at it. Our brains require a certain amount of down-time in order to internally process information and form proper memories and links. Without that proper down-time our brains are increasingly being overwhelmed.

    Well, in contrast is Agrarian Man – connected to the earth. A slower pace of life, whole natural foods… you get the picture. I was recently in Todos Santos, Mexico, a beautiful little town of about 6000 people, just an hour north from Los Cabos in the Baja. One traffic light, about half the roads are dirt, and beaches that stretch for miles and miles with hardly another soul on them. Organic produce in the market, grown locally and picked ripe, and fabulously fresh when it gets to your table in a restaurant. Friendly people, migrating whales just off the beach, magical light, and sensory contrasts everywhere – ocean and mountains, lush palm oasis and thorny dry desert…

    I think there was Wi-Fi in the hotel, but I didn’t see a TV for a week. And I didn’t miss it. Sure, I was on vacation, but the people who live there live that pace of life all the time. Sure they have to work, but life is slower. I talked to many of them.

    It’s about moving back to nature (maybe without all of the 60s hippy connotations that come along with that phrase). But I think what it’s about – and I think what your post made me ponder again – is that it’s the right balance that needs to be found. The thinking isn’t new, but it’s more relevant and accurate than back in the 60s or 70s. The modern world really has caused a disconnect between Us and the real world.

    Maybe we don’t have to be connected all the time. Maybe we can unplug ourselves sometimes and just rest, relax, ponder the sunset, and let our subconscious brain process what’s been going on in our day. Maybe being connected 24-7 is not a goal we should be aiming for.

    I’m looking forward to the day (6 years from now and counting…) when I can change my life and make that move to a quieter, slower lifestyle – as you said, leaving that well trod trail… and I will walk on the beach every day.


    1. I love where you went with this Bob, there are so many forces we try and balance in our lives, thanks for pointing out another pair. As I read the last few paragraphs of this piece, a poem by Lao Tzu popped into my head:

      Grant me the ability to be alone.
      May it be my custom to go outside each day,
      among the trees and the grasses,
      among all growing things.
      And there may I be alone
      and enter into prayer
      to talk to the one
      that I belong to.

      No matter how busy or connected we are, we all need this time out. To get grounded (literally!) and find perspective again. Thanks for the reminder.


    2. Todos Santos sounds heavenly. I’m at the age where I too am thinking about retirement and what to do for that ( probably not for another 10 years for me). I love the Lao Tzu quotation that Valerie used to comment on your writing. It seemed to fit perfectly.

      It brings to mind the question of how can we find a small piece of today to enjoy quiet. Surely there is some room for emptiness and solitude, even for the time it takes to take five deep breaths right now. I like Valerie gong chime that she has on her computer to remind her to celebrate the moment now and take a breath. I have as my homepage wall paper a photo of me leaning on a tree enjoying the moment when I visited a retirement possibility in BC last year. Every time I turn my computer on the photo reminds me to take a moment and remember what it felt like to lean into that tree and soak up the harmony of the mountains and lake.


  2. Wow! such a rich, treasure filled piece of writing, Valerie. And thanks Bob for another perspective also full of thought and things for me to think about.

    I’m all for trying out a different path, changing directions, doing something completely out of character. It means that you recognize when your pattern is paralyzing and stopping you from really moving forward. It means you understand that to be inspired to create sometimes means you have to change your point of view.
    I’m coming out of a pattern of thinking that my whole base of support is in the town that I live in. I thought that this was the place to spend the rest of my life. I was ready to settle in to the home where I raised my children. Then all of a sudden through an accident I realized that my base of support wasn’t what I thought it was. At first I was sad and angry, felt the rug pulled from under me, felt lost. But after some time sitting with the disappointment, I realized it was actually freeing. Not having an anchor to one place freed me. I began to feel deep within me that I didn’t really want to settle on the prairies. I realized that the landscape that nurtures me are the mountains and lakes. So now I have a new project – every summer holiday I will visit some location in the mountains and see where my heart leads me.

    The other thing that I wanted to comment on was that both your (Valerie’s and Bob’s) writings described polarities. It got me wondering why we tend to see things as two distinct things. It forces us into a situation where we think we have to choose one over the other – spiritual or mundane, agrarian or technological. I’ve been doing some readings by Buddhist authors. It’s interesting that they describe the world of dualities as an illusion. What if we could see the dualities as one somehow. That there isn’t really a choice between this or that but rather a challenge to bring two into one. How can we live and find the spiritual in the mundane and vice versa? How do we live and find the agrarian values and way of life in the technological way of life and vice versa? Would bringing dualities into one make a richer fuller life?

    The clue to whether a piece of writing is good is whether it leads to questions in the reader and an invitation to reflect. Both your writings have done that for me.


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