Do you feel like you’re going nowhere?

If someone asked you where are you heading, what would your reply be? Might it be going nowhere?

That’s not intended as a frivolous question, though many right now might feel tempted to reply with variations around “get lost!”. It could be something around, “don’t ask me questions I can’t answer”. Because such is the state of the world right now that there don’t seem to be answers and many people feel incredibly uncertain and anxious about the future, and even focusing on the immediate can be really hard work and tiring.

What’s your state of the world?

In the UK, there is a decision pending about Brexit, but there’s no sense that things will get better and if anything could get a whole lot worse. In other countries, there’s a lot of unrest, even in places a sense of near-revolt, or continued concern about President Trump or whoever, or a general dissatisfaction with one’s lot, or a wondering if you will get by. Then we hear of the dire state of the climate and how humanity’s future could be in doubt if we don’t change course. We read of stock market crashes, the rising price of fuel, the risks of a trade war, or disasters of one kind of another. The mind, once aroused around fear, will quickly focus on more things and we start to catastrophise, like something dreadful might happen, or going through “what if” scenarios. Just to check, ask yourself: have you over the last week been predominantly optimistic or pessimistic?

One way such uncertainty can show up is in how we feel, like feeling tired, exhausted, low energy, low morale, or struggling to get motivated. It’s like pushing water uphill and not having a sense of achieving anything, going nowhere again. Some report waking up at night feeling very anxious, but with no particular reason.

Disempowerment: not being in control

People don’t feel like they can get on with their lives. It can manifest as a sense of disempowerment, or, to borrow a phrase much used at present, “not being in control”. Anger can spill out every now and again, like the Gilets Jaunes protests in France. People need to express it somehow because otherwise the powerlessness gets channelled internally.

I used to work with this state a lot in organisations going through major restructuring which could seriously impact people’s jobs, especially when awaiting announcements. It was the “not knowing” that really did it for them. They’d feel like they were going nowhere. It was hard if not impossible to plan ahead, to get a sense of direction. People would experience a loss of purpose, even of competence and self-esteem. They didn’t feel valued.

I used to call it a “limbo” state, being in limbo.

It also happens when people are awaiting a health diagnosis. They know something is wrong, but they don’t know what it is or, crucially, what is to be done about it. Will it be serious – or not? Will they be OK – or not?

It’s the not knowing, the state in between, a void, which we try unsuccessfully to avoid. Going nowhere

Afterwards, it’s different. Once people know, they can plan, prepare and get on with their life. Now they at least know where they stand. It might not be that pleasant, but at least they can get on with things.

What can you do?

So it’s important to remember that this is a passing phase. It does not last. Life goes on. Remember the famous John Lennon quote,Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Or the Buddhist understanding that all is impermanent, all in process, and that nothing stays the same. So too, we move on. If we allow it.

So, if you are faced with uncertainty in some form, while it isn’t necessarily nice, you can do something. After all you are a responsible being, if you so choose. So, you can act as one.

One is to look after yourself. This is crucial, since stress levels can rocket. So breathe and meditate, take exercise, eat healthily, every day. Remember your values and what and who you love, including crucially yourself! Love endures despite all things.

Two, have options. There is always a choice, even when we feel disempowered. Find things to make choices over, things you can control. Be prepared, at least to cover possible scenarios. Once you’ve thought it through, put it away somewhere and don’t mull over it.

Three, manage your mind, deliberately, intentionally. After all, we are what we think, and life turns up accordingly. So, by managing our minds, we can keep or regain the focus we want. We can manage and let go of anxiety. This is true taking control. This means, as this blog explains a lot, pausing, stepping back from your stream of thoughts, becoming fully aware, in the present moment, letting thoughts go, being in the Now. And stay there a bit, letting anxiety shift from thinking to feeling to dissolving, so that all you are aware of is Now.

Such present moment awareness allows you to shift from going nowhere  to being now here.

Where is your sanctuary?

Do you have a place of sanctuary to which you can periodically retreat, get away from the world at large and feel safe and at one? What for you is a place of sanctuary? For some it’s perhaps a religious place and many may think of a church, monastery, or other spiritual place. In the Middle Ages, sanctuary was also where one went for safe keeping against the vengeance of some one, say in a Cathedral or other religious institution. One example in England is Beverley Minster. For others, it might be a special place, such as in your house or garden, or a place you go to to get away from it all, a place you is there for you. For me, it’s a quiet place suitable for peace, reflection and contemplation, for going within, to read, to meditate, to write or to connect with nature.

People often have special places to which they need to go to rest, recover and restore themselves from the stresses of life and living.

Our inner sanctuary

In another sense, the place of sanctuary is also within us. One might find one’s special place is a great place to notice one’s still point within, where one feels at one, peaceful and contented. Feeling joy at experiencing the environment and nature is another gateway to access one’s inner joy. There are many gateways. It might be the delight in a small child’s face, as she totters past you with a beam all over her face. It might be music, it might be poetry, it might be laughter, it might be memory, it might be inspiring words, it might be an intimate moment with a lover, it might be prayer or meditation. There are many moments when we can pause, take time out, breathe deeply and allow ourselves to connect with ourselves, with our inner vibration, with the vibration around us, with our own bliss-full inner essence, with the vibration of others – and remember who we are.

What is so important is to do it, to connect. It can need an effort, and maybe to take ourselves out of our ego state we may feel reluctant to come away from our absorption with the temporal, but by so doing we open ourselves up to be able to harvest the fruits of what is so easy and effortlessly available – another of life’s paradoxes.