Life moves incredibly fast--sometimes by chance, other times by force. I often find myself running full-speed ahead, filling up every second of my day, busily planning for the future, avoiding the present moment--scared perhaps to be still. What is it about stillness that's so terrifying? Within pockets of pause, uncomfortable feelings can emerge, but pause can also bring about insight, beauty, and relief.
My whole life, I've been a runner. Not a literal runner--my knees are too sensitive for that--but an emotional runner. In middle school, one of my favorite songs used to boast "all my problems are for me". I believed this notion for a very long time. I believed denial and burying were effective ways to cope with "weak" feelings, preferring always to appear strong and push forward. I never wanted anyone to see what was underneath my always-smiling, tough exterior. I thought if I ran fast and hard enough, my past would never catch up to me, but the past can't be outrun. At some point, everyone has to stop and face the pain they're avoiding.
I've had several breakdowns in my life. Breakdowns are never planned--they just sort of happen. The body and mind can't run or contain anymore so they both stop and explode. Nobody wants an explosion. Nobody opens up their schedule and welcomes a breakdown. In the aftermath, I was devastated each time and knew something had to change. I knew I had to learn how to be more accepting of myself and my "weaker" feelings. I had to learn how to be okay with sadness, hurt, regret, uncertainty, and anger and sit with these feelings compassionately and curiously through stillness.
Breathing is the most important part of being still. I often have to remind myself to pause, breathe, feel the pain, regret, or whatever it is I'm avoiding, and then breathe even deeper, sending the breath into that neglected space. I repeat this process over and over again, as many times as I need to until I move through the buried layer, exposing what's underneath. Beyond pain, there is always some sort of seed of truth or blossom of insight. I like to imagine my suppressed insides as a garden upside down. Each breath I take extends like fingers down through the dirt, digging their way toward roots of understanding, leafs and flowers of discovery. Sometimes the soil is loose. Other times the earth is packed and full of rocks, seemingly impossible to pass, but with enough practice and enough pauses, I believe the underlying surface is always reachable.
So next time you find yourself running, anxious and afraid of ever stopping, try to be still. Try to breathe and remember the inverted garden. Sift with each breath, love and accept each feeling, and see what kind of insights you find hidden beneath.