As my commuter train arrived to the Stockholm Central Station yesterday I got off the train and for a short moment did not exactly knew where I was. I thought we arrived to a different platform and I’d have to take a different way out. Turning my head around to get oriented I noticed that people were going in two directions: to the left, towards the station, the way I used to go and to the right, towards the stairs I never paid attention to before.
I was not in a hurry so I followed the people who went to the right wondering where I would end up. When I climbed the stairs to the street level I recognised the spot and understood that just taking a few steps in the opposite direction and a flight of stairs saved me at least five minutes of walking: I discovered a shortcut! Besides, I didn’t have to go through the building full of stressed people and did not have to rush myself. All because for a short moment I got disoriented and had to take in as much information as possible to make a decision about the route. I was no longer operating on autopilot. This allowed me to look at the same situation with new eyes and notice more options.
Having a routine for something, creating mental maps is a survival strategy but it can also be an obstacle, something that holds us back as we no longer feel the need to see the world but deal with our interpretations of it (some very old). Waking up to the situation at hand (even unintentionally as it happened to me in this case) gives us a unique opportunity to become active participants in our own lives.
This little happening reminded me of my precarious job situation. One of the managers at my dayjob has set her mind on getting rid of me and there is little I can (or want to do) to change that. Instead of thinking of how unfair she is or going through her flaws as a manager that operates out of fear and therefore herself uses the fear strategy dealing with the employees I made a conscious decision to stay in that place of uncertainty and see what I could find there.
I looked at the situation and asked myself
- What happened really?
- How do I feel right now?
Staying connected with my body, I noticed that there was a certain level of anxiety associated with financial insecurity but also that some of the reaction was an automated responses to the situation that in our society is perceived as negative – my strong emotional reaction was socially and culturally conditioned. I allowed myself not to feel something only because it could be considered by others as something terrible but to experience what I really felt. This is when I discovered a strong feeling of relief and an expansion. Deep inside I was glad and relieved! How could that be?
That I have been unhappy at that job was no surprise to me so what happened really? I am about to lose something I did not really care about but gave a lot of time and energy to. Was I satisfied with how I was selling my time, energy and creativity? Was that money buying me the life I wanted for myself? I knew what the answer was! After all, I started Creative Response about a year ago because I was suffocating without the opportunity for creative self-expression at my dayjob and wanted to be helping people by being who I am, not surpressing it.
- What opportunities does the situation allow for?
This last question energised me incredibly. There was not much going with CR lately as I got in the wait-and-see phase where I was trying to figure out in which direction I would like to go. So why not use this opportunity to start a new project that will both benefit people and that would allow me to creatively express myself? As it happens, I was sitting on a good idea that I felt passionate about so why not start with it right away? Not that I have a lot to lose much right now!
Not going with the emotions, just experiencing them and staying in the exploratory phase for some time allowed me to see the situation in a different light. I talked to the manager in a matter-of-fact way. In the end nothing changed in the circumstances and… everything changed. Instead of choosing a disempowering role of a victim of a vicious boss I allowed myself to get disoriented and listen to how I really felt about it and see where it came from. I knew the answers once I stepped outside the mental box I convinced myself I was locked in.
I laugh when I hear that the fish in the water is
You don’t grasp the fact that what is most alive of all
is inside your own house;
and so you walk from one holy city to the next with a
* * *
Kabir will tell you the truth: go wherever you like, to
Calcutta or Tibet;
if you can’t f ind where your soul is hidden,
for you the world will never be real!
* * *
– Rumi (translated by Robert Bly)