Subtle openings ~ A Way Out of Stuckness + Audio Practice

Stuckness happens. It just does.

Sometimes it’s because we don’t want to feel what’s there, so we shut it down. Sometimes it’s because even though we’re frustrated with the way things are, to take a step into the unknown feels too frightening, so we don’t. And sometimes…it’s because of a natural disaster, as was my case, when Mount Agung, Bali’s omnipotent volcano, was on the verge of eruption and kept me physically “stuck” in Australia.

How I lived this stuckness didn’t stop there, though. Oh no. Somehow, not only was I physically unable to make my next move, but the fact that there was no end in sight to the Bali airport closure, left me feeling completely lost and directionless. I had been so ready to touch ground and start to diligently write every day, explore movie with the elements, walk every morning, get back on track with my pre-travel food habits, go surfing with my brother, scoot around town on my scooter, drink smoothies, eat fruit and brilliantly and fluidly sail through the end of the year into the next one. I had plans.

But, NO…! Gunung Agung had different ones, and they completely snuffed my fire.

Suffice to say, Volcano 1, Marcela 0.

I was stuck. Forlornly walking around the hip streets of Melbourne lost and unmotivated. Entirely out of sync with the energy of life that was happening around me. And I HATE feeling this way. With a passion. But even that passion was buried underneath the heavy, sludge-like feeling in my chest that was pushing down the fiery nervousness in my belly.

The dilemma of stuckness

When we’re stuck, we don’t necessarily want to breathe, move or dance our way out. We don’t want to feel the deeper feelings that might lie underneath the stuckness. We don’t always immediately adapt to unexpected circumstances. We lose our clarity and curiosity, because our minds get stuck, too.

It’s definitely a dilemma.

We can wish for a complete and dramatic shift out of stuckness. We can wish for that thing that’s going to launch us into a new and better place with energy erupting, moving, firing, flowing, creating. We can wish to be beyond where we are. But more often than not, the shifts are not tectonic. They are subtle, and if we are only looking for those things that burst us wide open and free us, we may miss these subtle openings. The ones that could offer us a gentle way out of these burdensome and isolating places we get stuck in.

Finding an opening through the body

Stubborn as I can be when I feel stuck, I do know that I’ll always find an opening through my body.

So fortunately, in a brief moment of resoluteness, I dragged myself away from the Netflixing, Facebooking, Twittering pool of shame that I was sloshing around in, the one that said I “should” be doing, enjoying allowing, etc., and I pulled myself up by my yoga pants and heavily plodded out the door to the studio just down the road. I slogged through the Vinyasa, trying to find my breath. I stayed for the Yin, hoping something, anything, might start to open and move. But after 2 classes, the change was imperceptible to me, until I walked outside, where a lone saxophone player was coaxing soulful music out into the night.

I sat on a bench to take it all in. And then, without thought or demand, I took a breath. A full, deep, generous breath. The breath I’d been yearning for these past few days. And as I followed this breath with another one, I felt a warm, subtle flow begin to move throughout my body. A flow that also held sadness and yearning.

And this was all I needed. A simple opening to show me that my entire world hadn’t been reduced to this stuckness. Of course my mind knew this all along, but these feelings or states of being can have a never-ending quality to them. And sometimes, no amount of cajoling, arguing, admonishing, sympathizing, rationalizing, justifying and complaining can move us to that new place we yearn for.

But our bodies can, when we pay attention and allow them to.

Following the opening

Once I became aware of this opening, I simply followed it with my attention and breath.

  • Where did this warm flow spread to in my body?
  • Could I breathe to support this?
  • What else could I open up and let go?
  • What parts of myself was I now more aware of?
  • Could I use this expanded awareness to feel what was still distant, numb or heavy?

I took my time. I brought my curiosity (which I had found again). I deepened my awareness of what was happening. I found the natural movement and rhythm of my body, and they were different to what I had been ready to burst on the scene with in Bali. Slower, less knowing, without an ambitious, definitive plan.

As I walked up the street, I let my awareness grow. I felt the hot, summer air caress my skin. I saw the burning red sky, as the sun set behind the cityscape. I breathed in the energy emanating from the flirtatious young couples walking by. Life expanded.

Nourishing the subtleties

I hadn’t forced, shamed or admonished my way out. I hadn’t “looked on the bright side” or swallowed the “everything happens for a reason” line of thought. I had simply felt an opening in my body and followed the subtleties of movement and sensation from that opening. They became part of me again.

So much happens in these subtle moments. The practice lies in paying attention, taking time to notice, and giving into the natural movements of your being, even if they’re uncomfortable, to move you out of the stuckness.

Your circumstances may still be the same. The challenges still there. The natural disaster still ongoing, but as you follow an opening and nourish it, you enlarge your experience. You feel more, sense more, are more, and life will open up around you and pull you into its rhythm.

Syncing with life’s rhythm

As I more deeply embodied the subtleties of sensation, I found this rhythm; a rhythm that was in sync with the life around me. And the following morning, when I unexpectedly hopped into a car to make my way down toward the Southern tip of Australia, the stuckness had entirely melted away and was but a distant memory, as I hiked toward the beach and witnessed a kangaroo boldly hop across my path.

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