September 13, 2012 § 40 Comments
I sometimes feel like a fraud in this work. Peace, strength, presence. Who am I to speak of such things?
These past few days have been like that.
I’m going through a period of what I call feeing “unsteady.” Like walking across an icy sidewalk in dress shoes. Having to consciously hold on to my balance.
The thing about feeling unsteady is not so much the risk of falling. Nor is the pain really in the fall itself. The great cost of the feeling is that so long as I am feeling unsteady, I cannot be at peace.
I say to myself- you’re okay, just breath. And I pretend that the calm this induces is peace.
There are long stretches where I’m not consciously anxious or bereft, where I’m holding myself together. And I think that in this effort I have found peace.
But all that time where I am watching where I step, where I project calm and composure, where from the outside all looks well, I am not well, really. All that conscious effort blocks any hope of real peace.
And so as these unsteady days roll on, I sometimes wonder what I am doing writing about peace and strength. Someone who lives the lessons with such inconsistency.
I have no pat answer to this. But I do believe that anyone who seeks self-awareness and to live an authentic life will struggle. And I know that among my great teachers have been those who struggle, who battle their demons with awareness and honesty.
So I’ll just have to feel unsteady until it passes. Then I’ll regain peace, the true peace that is natural and effortless, not falsely manufactured, just lived.
Struggle, peace, struggle, peace My life from here forward, I imagine. But a real life, not a fraudulent one.
You share so beautifully, Tom, that vulnerability that we all feel when we suddenly wonder if we have what it takes to do what we do – and to make a difference. There is that space where we stop to think, and then we falter. We compare ourselves with others. We question our right to do what we do … and even, perhaps, our purpose.
No one is perfect. No one has all the answers.
It is our imperfections that make us beautiful – that make us human.
I recently wrote a post about creating imperfect characters for fiction stories and was amazed at how many people felt that what I wrote also pertained to real life. I hadn’t thought about that when I wrote the piece (http://nhwn.wordpress.com/2012/09/05/the-secret-to-creating-perfect-characters/ ) but upon re-reading, I saw they had a point.
I have heard it said that “balance is a verb” – meaning that it isn’t an end destination or a final state. It is an ever-changing act that keeps us evolving at every turn. Your “unsteadiness” is the same thing – just the fact that you feel that doubt and ask those questions is proof that you are evolving. You can see the differences and you know there is imperfection. You are striving to find that balance, but learning to live in the moment of teetering and tottering. Personally, I think that’s where all the best things happen – when we’re just about to topple over, epiphany strikes and we get another chance to stay upright.
… and even if we fall, there’s plenty to learn (and teach from) in that experience as well.
good to hear i’m not the only one tom, thanks for sharing. at times like these i think of the ocean. sometimes you’re in the path of it’s fury and there is nothing you can do but ride it out. things always change. always. dave
To cease to struggle is to stagnate. To stagnate is to regress. For me a sign of struggle is the sign of being so acutely alive. Alive to change, to stretch that bit more. To struggle is to be deeply self-aware that one is not yet quite there. I don’t know much but it is from the moments of wrestling with ourselves that something new is born.
I admire the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh very much and here he presents a rather different approach to struggle which gives some interesting insights. http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books2/Thich_Nhat_Hanh_Resting_in_the_River.htm
I am sure this is familiar territory to you but it spoke quite deeply to me. Now I just need to practise it living everyday as a wife, mother and the totally imperfect being that I am! 😀
Thank you for such honesty. I am still learning to come to that point of self-awareness and translating that whole mulch of my inner world into words. (and sorry for this long roundabout rambling). Sharon
Not roundabout rambling. Not at all.
I just read “Resting in the River.” So much wisdom. Simply expressed- as all wisdom should be.
I admire also your writing. Your most recent post is exquisite.
It is good to be connected as we each try to live as we desire to live and share our struggle and thoughts in our writing.
Hello again Tom,
I felt I had to return here as I had been trying to get my head around the two apparently divergent thoughts on struggle that I presented to you earlier.
The first as you wrote about I believe has to do with the struggle for growth. Just as a fish out of water is out of sorts and it thrashes wildly on deck knowing that this isn’t the best environ for survival. And as long as it is twitching, it is alive to the fact that there is something more beyond its present situation. That kind of struggle I think is the healthy kind that shows self-awareness at its highest. The inability to settle for anything less.
The second struggle which Master Thich writes about touches on a totally different type of struggle. This is the habit of struggle which gets in the way of coming to a place of rest. This latter struggle has nothing to do with growth but is a response to certain conditioned stimulus and perhaps unconsciously learnt behaviour.
I struggle with both. 😀
And that was my eureka moment that I thought I’d come by and share with you my dear sir. I’m not sure if my fish analogy appeals to a highly trained mind accustomed to a lifetime of statutes, case studies and legal documents. 😀 But it was the best I could muster after two decades out of law school. Thank you most kindly Tom for your time. I just thought I needed to make this clarification – even if it’s just for myself.
Wishing you a blessed day and may the struggle for truth and excellence never cease. Sharon
The fish analogy is very helpful. And the idea of two different kinds of “struggle” is something that resonates with my experience. Sometimes I feel as though my struggle is simply something I need to accept, something actually healthy and fine. But sometimes I feel the struggle is coming from my resistance- or from a place where I’ve lost myself. I can’t really explain this in words.
Each of your thoughtful replies has set me thinking- and reading. I’m blessed by your thoughtfulness.
I get that. It is part of who we are and how we are forged as we grow. It sure isn’t easy, is it?
I love this post. Many of us have shared your experience of being unsteady at some point in our lives. It may be helpful to remember that often we feel unsteady when we are breaking through to higher ground. I wish you peace as this new ground reveals itself to you.
inconsistancy – its part of the path.
I’m kind of used to feeling unsteady, or even totally dizzy! There are times when it overwhelms me but I usually regain my balance eventually. Your writing is inspirational, but inspiration can be a challenge. Some inspirational writers lose their audience because they seem so perfect and untouched by the everyday realities of the world. Your words however mean more because you are human and you are honest about the difficulties you experience yourself. In that way the wisdom and peace you speak of seem more real and reachable to the rest of us.
That’s so good to hear.
Many other writers seem to offer only relentlessly upbeat and strong messages, without any confession of personal struggle. Even my early posts here were pretty abstract. But I began to put myself into my writing more and once I did that, I had to be honest, and the honest truth is that I struggle- a lot.
Perhaps this is also why I feel some real connections with the people who come and read and speak to me- like you. I feel a reciprocal honesty and openness that makes the actual distance and the absence of face-to-face contact seem not so important.
Put another way, when we speak with each other, it is a real exchange- not superficial, polite chatter.
So thanks, thanks very much.
I think it is those of us who look within, who struggle the most at times because we are aware of what CAN be. But, you and I both know, in the light of this knowledge comes a great power. If we were to never have started this journey of self discovery, while maybe ignorant to the true depths of living presently and whole, we would be missing out on those few but painstakingly eloquent moments when truth and peace find us. Beautiful.
A beautiful, beautiful response, Heather.
What a beautiful and moving post, Tom. I, too, agree that those who seek self-awareness and try to live an authentic life struggle and when we do, we have your writings to turn to — reminding us that in the midst of chaos, we can breathe, center ourselves and choose again. Choose peace. You do healing work, please keep it up! We all learn so much. Sincerely, Elizabeth
The striking thing to me is that when I feel the weakest, and express those feelings here, I sense the deepest response from you and others. It’s good and important to send strong messages of peace and joy, I know. But more than anything, it is most important that we be honest- with ourselves and each other. And sharing our struggles helps us and those with whom we share.
I learn as much as I teach here- probably more.
Tom your writing here is so appreciated (and familiar!). As I make my way through my own days of “unsteadiness”, your term is perfect. As I try to draw myself back to the moment and just fall back down again, knowing that my head can’t bring me home. Of course we struggle, I guess. What path or journey is not without its days of rough weather and obstacles. The commitment perhaps is in the relentless return… the practise. Thanks so much for your post.
“My head can’t bring me home.” So perfectly put.
We just have to weather these storms. Soon we’ll feel again that natural, true peace.
You express yourself so well!
Thanks for the kind word- and for taking the time to read my work.
Tom, thank you for sharing this post, like you I am a bit unsteady these last few days, reading your post helps. It is a constant struggle to find that inner peace. When we find Peace it would be wonderful if we could bottle some, for when we falter. I hope that you soon regain the strength and peace you know you can find. Many blessings to you I send, in a bubble of light. Be strength find peace, be real, and be light. “With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)
I do find these connections to help. I continue to be amazed at the many kind people who come and read and leave a thoughtful and supportive message- like the one you left for me here. It’s an anchor, a source of strength, for me.
The unsteadiness has stayed on a while this time. But as it comes, it will go.
Thank you, Anne.
Thanks Tom. Therein lies the paradox, inherent in all growth.
Thanks for the message.
Thank you for another honest and almost raw post, Tom. As you so eloquently state;
“And I know that among my great teachers have been those who struggle, who battle their demons with awareness and honesty.”
Life is not easy. It is a struggle, and being honest about our vulnerability to that struggle is what helps us get to the next step. You are in very good company, indeed. Remember, your honesty helps me find have the courage to find my own truth within..and embrace what comes from it.
Be well and take good care of yourself!
I appreciate so much your constant support and kind thoughts.
I know that you too are struggling. But I hear in your voice the courage and the desire to find that truth. Your strong spirit inspires me.
Since you read my blog I’m sure you know how totally I relate to this post. Reading your words is like a breath of fresh air. For all who are on this journey to wholeness, truth is our ally. We need to be real about where we are, what we’re experiencing, how life feels at the moment, and tell the truth about it.
As we share our moments, whether they are high or low, we encourage others to be in their truth and to share it. Pretending life is other than what it is at each moment serves no one. The most beautiful rose bushes have thorns.
Thanks for a beautifully written and inspiring post. Namaste. Brenda
You are so dead on right about the power of sharing our joys and our struggles honestly with each other. Steady or unsteady, if I am open and honest, I help myself in the sharing and perhaps show others they are not alone. Honesty- with ourselves and others- is so important in all this.
Thanks, Brenda, for your beautifully composed and thoughtful response.
I can completely relate to what you write above. The spiritual journey has peaks and valleys. Your ability to write about these moments in inspiring and comforting. Thank you!
“Inspiring and comforting” would also be the perfect expression of your wonderful writing, Jennifer.
Thanks for your support in our spiritual journey.
You captured those feelings beautifully.
I’m always happy to see you when you drop by- here and on Twitter. You are so kind, witty, and warm. Glad for our connection.
Sorry for the late reply–I’ve been bonded to Twitter and am letting everything lapse! Thank you for your kind words. I enjoy your blog immensely, and post it often on my FB page.
Test? Reminder? A slight straying from the path? Or perhaps a strenghening exercise? Still… all part of the whole.
A “strengthening exercise,” yes. When things seem especially difficult, I often say to myself- well, how lucky, an opportunity to find and hold the peace I need.
Also, “all part of the whole.” For sure.
unsteady is a good word tom, but it is not fraudulent, it just is … had a patch myself a week ago due to unforseen developments at home ..feeling helpless being so far away … a bit of anger and frustration …but keeping on sailing eventually brings me back into the calm ..the unsettled weather does not last long now 🙂
I really like your passage- “keeping on sailing brings me back into the calm.” Perfect metaphor.
Thanks for your constant and kind support.
“Always do what you are afraid to do.” Ralph Waldo Emerson. You’re doing the hard work that bears fruit, Tom, that’s clear. Keep takin’ those deep breaths and know that many are sending strength your way….
I do feel the good thoughts and messages of strength- means so much to me-and of course I send the same thoughts back to you.
It’s hard work- but what else can we do once we’ve experienced the peace of being strong, open, and present?
Thanks for your kind message.
So appropriate for me today, Thomas! Just this morning I was feeling very angry and unsettled driving to work in traffic. I’ve been very happy with changes in my life lately and really seeing how wonderful it can be, and yet these moments occur and I feel weak or lost, if only for a minute or two.
Thank you for sharing this today, sometimes I need every reminder I can get that despite those moments of questioning, perhaps because of them, we must stop and re-focus, re-center ourselves, because we have it within ourselves to do so.
Can’t believe you raised the traffic example. The morning before I wrote this I was driving and actually listening to my “Zen Mind” audiotape, speaking the words out loud as I have basically memorized the book. Someone cut me off. I immediately lost it- while listening to ZEN!
A struggle. Knowing I’m not alone helps a lot.