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Being Human Guide: How to Sit with It

by Confluence
Reading Time: 4 minutes

By:  Sarah Normandin – Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.

Sit with it.  That phrase shows up in the self-help vernacular a lot these days.  But what does that mean? More importantly, how do you do it? It sounds kind of impossible, especially when something is really stuck in your craw.  It’s like when someone tells you to let it go and you feel like saying, if I could let it go then it wouldn’t be a problem, would it? Sitting with it implies not taking action, not changing a situation, not working it out.  This seems particularly challenging for those of us who are used to making an effort, who engage with life by doing something about it.  Sitting with it sounds uncomfortable, victim-y even. Like maybe I just have to take this. But to me, sitting with it may mean that instead of running away from whatever’s after us, we’re hanging around.  It means we can take a good hard look at what’s going on for us that makes us want to escape and the information we find may be priceless.

Yeah, I know, I talk about acceptance a lot.  And I’m probably not going to stop, because I find that mostly every issue a person has, including myself, comes down to resisting what is happening right now.  We don’t want it, we don’t like it and it definitely wasn’t our idea. This is a painful truth sometimes. We’re sick, we’re tired, somebody hurt us, somebody didn’t like us, somebody told a lie.  And all of it is out of our hands, which is the really tough part. Because it reminds us of the thing we don’t like the most, our lack of control in life. That one really pisses us off.

Listen, like everyone else, I enjoy being on top of things.  I enjoy feeling like I can manage, like I can make it happen, like I’ve got it figured out.  This gives me a sense of security and eases my anxiety. Because if I’m in control, I can predict and then nothing terrible can really happen to me.  I’ve got life on lock-down and I’m not giving my safety up anytime soon. The problem with this is that it feels like something terrible IS always happening to me because I tend to feel terrible about things I can’t control.  Which, ahem, is what most of life is made up of–unpredictable events. And wanting to control the uncontrollable is a pretty big cluster fuck to find yourself in.

So when you do find yourself there, how do you fix it?  How do you make it better? See, we’re already doing it. We’re trying to get away from it again.  The car breaks down, the relationship is over, we didn’t get that job or our finances seem insecure.  That’s the secret. You actually can’t make it better. Sure you can try to get out ahead of it and try to make sure nothing ever bad happens to you.  Most people try to do this through money or relationships or health. If I eat kale all the time, I’ll never get sick. If I find a partner, then I’ll never be alone.  If I make a ton of money, then I’ll never go without. These are all ways that our minds try to take control of things.

But the truth is, nothing is guaranteed.  Despite the kale, we may get sick. Our partner may leave us or we may lose all the money.  Nothing is permanent, so it makes little sense to try to build these fortresses of protection.  This is obviously a terrifying thought. And, if you play it right, a truly liberating one. Because there is freedom in lack of control, there is ease in giving up, there is relaxing with just letting it be the way it is.

I’m not saying anything new here, but this concept is one we need to keep returning to.  Because the mind will dupe us when it sees the slightest way in. When it senses that we are weak, that we are vulnerable, that we really WANT something.  And this is ok too. This is exactly how it should be. We get all wound up about something and then we eventually remember that we can accept the way things are, including our desire for things to be different.  And this — my friends — is sitting with it. Observing it. Seeing it for what it is. Sometimes, I even find it hilarious. There she goes again, thinking she has some kind of special power that will give her dominion over all of life’s circumstances.  Let’s see what kind of problems she can make for herself now!

So how do we do it, how do we sit with it?  How do we endure our discomfort? First, we laugh at it, at the problem, at ourselves.  We try to see the humor in our situation, which also requires compassion. We don’t laugh in a “you idiot” way, instead, we see our constant trying, our misguided efforts to manage things we can’t manage.  We see what’s funny about it and we see why it can be so hard to escape. And second, we acknowledge that we’re probably going to do it again–in like 10 minutes. Of course, we are. And that’s totally ok, it’s expected even.  And that’s it. That’s all. Observe and repeat.  

I imagine some could be disappointed by this, because they, you, we are hoping for a magical tool that will banish our negative emotions forever.  And we can sit with that too. And as we practice being there, we learn that we can sit with most anything. That our feelings aren’t all that big and scary.  That most of the time, nothing truly terrible is really happening. It is our fear that something truly terrible COULD happen that is holding us captive. And it could, it does, it will.  But we most likely won’t be able to control those circumstances or any others. So you can sit with it, and then something else and something else, observing the tenacity of the human mind.  And you can honor it, without giving into it. And eventually, you may find a little more ease. Maybe you will, or maybe you won’t. But now you know you can sit with that, too.


More by Sarah: 

Podcast – Sarah Normandin: You’re not that special. Everyone is a mess.


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