WorkingNation is proud to have Mick Kubiak as our featured writer for January. Kubiak is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in parent counseling and life coaching. She is based in Los Angeles where she is a mother and meditation teacher. You can read her previous articles here.
This is the time of year for our most extreme attempts at self-analysis, self-improvement, and pressuring ourselves to take action and get results.
As the ubiquitous Nike slogan commands, we list our resolutions and resolve to “Just do it.” We live in a culture that promotes the experience of wanting (with plans and strategies on how to get) what we don’t have right now. We are taught that the answer is to set goals, work really hard to achieve them, and then to set more goals, and work really hard to achieve those, ad infinitum. If this orientation to life is working for you, by all means, carry on, warrior! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
But, if you find that this approach to life leaves you feeling depleted, depressed, anxious and upset, I’m here to tell you that there is another way of being, another way of “getting things done,” which could be described more accurately as allowing things to happen. It’s a different approach altogether from the manic, take life by the horns ethos that dominates our cultural narrative, and one that can still lead you to a satisfying and fulfilling life experience. It does this by asking you to consider the possibility that your life is already, right now, by nature, exactly as it should be.
You may say, No, it’s not. I don’t have a job. Or, I don’t like my job. Or, I don’t own my house. I’ll be happier when I solve this problem or make this thing happen. But Lao Tzu, the wise sage responsible for the ancient text Tao Te Ching, would not agree. Lao Tzu would watch you running around like a chicken with your head cut off, trying to make things happen, and he would say, “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
This way of seeing the world perceives you as a part of nature, a living being who is meant to be here, and meant to not only survive but also thrive–naturally. It is natural for you and your life to unfold, like a tree, or a butterfly, or a flower. Trees and butterflies and flowers don’t need to come up with goals and make lists and decide what the future is supposed to look like before it even has a chance to happen on its own.
It’s also true that they don’t have the prefrontal cortex required to do those things. We do, so the metaphor is by no means perfect, but of course, metaphors never are. I still find them extremely useful on the level of feeling and visualizing things in a way that the rational mind can’t.
I got to a point in my own life where strategizing, exerting control over external reality, working really hard to make things happen, and the belief that those were things I had to do in order to survive and succeed, started to feel like it was killing me
This realization coincided with health issues that forced me into a constructive retreat from those behaviors. At first, I resisted this. I even hated it and feared it, but because I had no other choice, I began to surrender, and the more I surrendered, the more I experienced support.
I had always thought I would surrender once I had the support I thought I needed: more money, a more stable relationship, a home that I owned. Ironically, it was the other way around. It was through surrendering that I discovered the support that was already there. It was the real-life experience of an acting class trust fall, and the thing that caught me was the Tao.
I hesitate to go any further into a discussion of exactly what the Tao is, as I remember years ago coming across the following quote: “If you ask someone what the Tao is, and they answer you, neither one of you knows.” It cannot be comprehended by the rational mind. It can only be experienced on the level of feeling.
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What I learned was that I had everything turned around. I had been running my life on the plan to work really hard to create a life for myself that would then allow me to surrender. Instead, I was forced to surrender before I was ready, and I experienced myself being caught and kept afloat by something not visible to the naked eye and not comprehensible to the rational mind. It was as if I had spent my whole life trying to weave a safety net that would catch me if I fell, not realizing that there was already a net just a few feet below the one I was building.
Most of the doing in this way of being is undoing. You may have heard the meditator’s turnaround of the phrase “Don’t just sit there; do something!” which is “Don’t just do something; sit there!”
My new slogan is “Don’t just sit there; undo something!” I find that most of the work is questioning thoughts and beliefs that I have unconsciously held to be true. These thoughts and beliefs keep me disconnected from the source of support and energy and direction that I experience when I am able to surrender, trust, allow and listen, as opposed to worrying, trying to control things and forcing my ideas onto reality.
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In my next article, I will write about the most effective ways I’ve found to relate to my thinking so that I am freer and more open to connecting with this underlying source of support and wisdom. When I question the thoughts that keep me from experiencing my connection to this source, I open up to the felt experience of being aligned with something much more powerful and intelligent than my small, egoic self and my relationship to life becomes creative and relational. Rather than feeling like a lone individual rallying my strength to conquer the world, I feel like a part of the world, working with it, not against it or in opposition to it, unfolding my path alongside a multitude of other beings.
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