I’ve been away on a silent retreat and am amazed at the effect withdrawing from the world has on my body, mind, soul and well-being. I am relaxed. I feel rested. My mind has slowed down from the dizzying pace life often maintains. I am blessed with the palpable sense that, as one of my favorite meditation chants says, “I am closer than I’ve ever been to being Who I Really Am.”
And yet, I have been wildly ambivalent about giving myself this simple, yet precious gift of silence and stillness. Why do I deprive myself of the very things I know will feed my soul? I can take action on so many fronts–keeping plates spinning in my home and family life, in my business, on the Board where I serve and in the sports that I enjoy playing. And yet, when it comes to my sustenance and nurturing, I am too often met with the peril of ambivalence.
In this two-part series, I will outline what I have come to see about the perils of ambivalence and how it costs us dearly. I will be curious to hear if you can relate to these and perhaps remove them from your life as well.
The first peril of living in ambivalence instead of action is the false belief that we don’t know “HOW” to do something, and, therefore, you simply do nothing.
Not knowing how–as if there is some perfectly prescribed method to do everything under the sun–is more often a dressed up way of saying, “I’m not sure about this.” You mask your fear, uncertainty and need for predictability through the guise of not knowing. When you are finally compelled to act, you feel the blessed relief and excitement of living a life that counts.
Ironically, it is the energy of your actions that will guide you. There is magic in the faith it takes to do something–anything–even if it is “the wrong thing.” Which of course it will not be–it will just be ONE thing on the way to THE thing that you want to experience. Look to see where you are hiding behind the “how” when it is truly the fear of the “what” that has you stopped.
The second peril is similar to the first. It is the guise of “I can’t,” which, when truly expressed is a dressed up way of saying, “I won’t.”
I won’t decide because need more certainty or am afraid to fail. So, rather than giving up the need for control or admitting the fear–you revert to the “victim’s stance” of “I can’t do that.” Of course, that is not true. You are free and have the power of choice. Look to see where saying, “I can’t” is truly an expression of your fear of the outcome of moving forward on that which you say you want or your fear that it will be harder than you anticipate or that you may not like the outcome. It is true that pursuing your true calling will demand more of you than you can imagine or expect–and it is meeting those unexpected demands that you get to know Who You Really Are.
The third peril of ambivalence is that it masks the truth that remaining in ambivalence is truly a “no” to what you want to pursue.
Ambivalence allows you the comfort of living in “I might” or “Someday” while denying the truth that NOT DECIDING IS A DECISION! Not deciding about getting married means you are not going to get married. Not deciding to move to a new city means you are not moving. The difference is that when you live in ambivalence, it can FEEL LIKE you are moving toward your goal, but the hard truth is that you are not moving; you are “mentalizing.” I don’t know if that is a word, but I like the way it fits here–it means you are engaging in mental activity about your life rather than truly LIVING IN YOUR LIFE.
I know these three perils all too well–and it is these that kept me from giving myself this gift of time in the silence to read, rest, meditate, vision and pray. Once I got over my concern about leaving my family for a bit, gave up that I couldn’t figure out HOW to get way, stopped living in that I “should” get away and got into action, I was able to enjoy these glorious benefits of a deeper and richer inner life.
Look to see where you are in bondage–TO yourself and BY yourself–through the perils of ambivalence. And then get in action–even the smallest action creates an energy that will propel your life toward your vision.
Photo: Flickr/ Luis Sarabia