(This post originally appeared in my personal blog, Your Life’s Calling, on May 10.)
Today I am trying to stay in my body… to keep my somewhat manic energy… (which for me includes the feeling of being ungrounded, but energized in a way that produces the stimulating feeling of excitement, vitality, limitless possibility) … from taking over. It requires vigilance, and a constant refocusing of my attention to my body… my arms, legs, and breath.
The mania is attractive, even seductive, based as it is in the pleasure principle. But without ground, my energy is simply discharged into the atmosphere. It shows up as erratic pursuits at cross-purposes from one another… lots of excitable beginnings and flights in one direction and then another, and a general tendency to be captured by every passing whim. I coached a client once with this same tendency and we named it the Labrador puppy effect: the habit of being highly distracted by every passing shadow and floating bit of flotsam. I know the pattern well.
I witnessed myself during meditation today dreaming up an entire book outline…. In a few short moments, I had satisfied my desire to actually accomplish the writing of the book: the experience in my mind had me rapt. I kept returning to the endless stream of thoughts about what the book chapters could be titled, and even though I would return my attention to breath and belly throughout, and re-ground myself in the present moment, my habit of mind had me returning to the pleasure of the fantasy.
It was exciting and stimulating… dynamic and unbounded.
Unbounded is generally something I “strive for”: the feeling of being freed from the shackles of what I believe keeps me down. But in this case, with no ground, the mania is a disturbance of the mind… the other side of which, as I know, is depression. I know from experience that the mania will ultimately become its opposite and leave me depleted and waning, deflated and collapsed. This is a pattern for me, so I was watching it like a hawk today, without really being able to stop it completely. It’s been a practice all day… returning from this scattered place.
My work is to find more ground for what I really am up to with my writing. This involves seeing things realistically, and staying with the writing itself even when it isn’t going anywhere. It includes the counter-intuitive move of building a structure for what it is that I am committed to creating. It involves following a story line, rather than inventing twenty new ones that are also interesting to me. Some synthesis is at the bottom of all of this, if I can stay quiet instead of reacting to every impulsive flight of fantasy, remain patient with myself as the manic energy returns and takes me, for a moment, and a dip into Facebook, or the refrigerator.
There is a freedom that comes from such structure… the following through with my promise to sit at my desk and write for the prescribed time, whether anything emerges or not.My practice reminds me of a wonderful book called Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life, by Winifred Gallagher. In her chapter entitled, “Focus Interruptus” she makes this point:
Compared to a more naturally focused but less motivated person, the individual who really cares for a subject ‘will return to it incessantly from his incessant wanderings, and first and last do more with it, and get more results from it.’
Well, one thing I know for sure is that I care deeply about my topic, my work, my purpose, my offer, my contribution to leadership and to those who dare to be disturbed, those who desperately want to live life in color, and those who seek to bring consciousness to the workplace for the sake of work that works for everyone.
That, for now, is my ground. I think I’ll sit with that.