People have a tendency to get caught up in The Pressure Cooker.
It looks like this:
The situation gets worse and worse until you feel that you can’t go on. You know something must change. The pressure builds up to unbearable levels.
You hit rock bottom. You reach out for help and you get much needed guidance. You begin to take action.
Your action produces some small, useful steps forward. You can see, feel and measure the positive changes.
Now, you have a bit less stress on you. You feel more comfortable. You start to feel happier.
So, you stop showing up. Now, there’s no accountability.
You stop taking action.
The pressure builds back up.
Only this time, you’re less likely to show back up at all, because you are embarrassed. Why? Because you feel like you somehow should have fixed it already.
This demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding about what type of machine you are. You are a human being, constantly in a state of flux. There is no such thing as stasis for a human type critter.
People are not simple, light switches, either ON or OFF. You can’t just flip a person to ‘ON’ and bam, you’re done. People don’t work like that. People are like musical instruments and instruments need to be regularly tuned.
Tune it once and very soon it will be out of tune again. Unless you retune it, when you play it, it will sound bad, dissonant, chaotic.
We don’t look at food this way. We accept the fact that we need to eat regularly.
We know that if we want to be physically clean, we must shower and put on clean clothes, every day.
Yet, we live in a culture that punishes us for expressing our very real and very necessary spiritual selves.
It’s falsely reinforced to us (every day in the media and through advertising and tv) that if we are healthy, then we don’t get out of whack emotionally. And if we do, then we should be able to straighten it out quickly and stay fixed.
That’s a really dangerous perspective for human beings to have, because we just aren’t geared that way.
We have emotional, spiritual, mental gas tanks. These must be filled up very regularly. If you don’t feed your mind, train your body, enrich your spirit, connect with your friends, your partner, with the Divine, then expect to be unhappy.
The idea being fed to you by the culture of today is that you shouldn’t need to fill up. You should already be strong, all the time.
Why is the idea fed to us? Because obviously nobody is always strong. But if you buy that idea, you will try to do it anyway, because you are a good, little camper and you want to be strong, so mommy and daddy and everyone else will be proud of you.
This will of course, burn you out. Once you are mentally and spiritually weak, then it’s very easy to sell you crap that you don’t need. It’s easy to convince you that you need that gizmo and the junk food and the cable channel with the non-stop, garbage programming and endless commercials for gizmos and junk food.
Many people do take care of their bodies. They go to the gym several times a week, maybe every day. If you ask them “Why don’t you just stop? Aren’t you healthy enough?”, they will look at you like you’re nuts. They know that if they stop, it will be only a matter of time before they are totally out of shape.
Ask a musician “Why do you keep practicing? Aren’t you good enough, already?” and they too will look at you like you’re an idiot. They know that they will get rusty if they stop. They also know that even if they could somehow maintain the level of ability they have… they still want to get even better!
So, when it comes to our attitudes, our emotional outlook, our spiritual lives, why is it that we allow ourselves to believe that we are already good enough, that we are done with that job, or that we don’t have time?
Seriously? You don’t have time to stop for a few minutes or an hour and tune the thing that controls everything else?
What, you ask, is the thing that controls everything else? Your mind. Your spirit. Your attitude. Your center. That’s what. If that part isn’t right, then nothing good will proceed from it. Get that part in tune and you can make gorgeous, sonorous music with it.
But you’ll have to get past the lazy, microwave generation idea that you’re going to just knock this out, real quick and move on to bigger and better things.
There are no bigger and better things.
There’s only you.
Most people self-sabotage by cutting themselves off from the source of what helps the most. The exercise is uncomfortable. “Oh well, I just won’t go to the gym”, never mind the fact that you won’t feel half as good today as you did yesterday. Or, that you could just take a short walk, instead of doing nothing at all.
The emotional work is uncomfortable, so “I guess I can rationalize that I don’t really have the money for coaching”. Never mind the fact that your excellent new attitude is going to wear off soon. Then you’ll be right back to hating your job and despising your spouse and feeling generally unfulfilled. Never mind the fact that you are paying twice that amount for things that are actually diminishing your quality of life.
You can tell yourself “It’s not so bad, anymore. Look at all the progress I’ve made”. But I’m calling bullshit, right here and now.
When the moment of clarity hits you, in a week or in a month, or in a year, you’ll remember that there is no single “attitude adjustment” that is going to “fix” you, anymore than a single meal will hold you for the month.
You need to eat every day. And you need to prepare your mind, your heart and your spirit for the onslaught of life… every day.
But without someone to check in with, say once a week, or at least once a month, someone who will help you tune your instrument, you’re probably not going to do the daily stuff, all by your lonesome. Maybe you will, I don’t know. Go ahead and try it all by yourself. One out of every hundred people will be super focussed and positive and driven, all by themselves.
If you are one of those people, you know it already. But chances are, if you’re reading this, then you have some areas that you know need to improve. You’re not sure how to get around the fear and “do the stuff, in spite of the thing”.
You can work on yourself for a month and then stop. You’ll slide back. Even with a year of self-work, you’ll be a changed person, for a while. Then, you’ll fall back.
Commit to working on yourself for the rest of your life. Now, that will be something to behold. You may want to try this thought on for size:
“If I got this far, how much farther could I go, if I kept at it?”
But if you can’t be bothered to dig down into yourself and work on what’s there, don’t be surprised when you get results that for some reason, just keep spiraling back to that same old, uncomfortable place.
Every single person I work with will sooner or later hit a dangerous point in the process that I use. That point is the pressure cooker. When it hits, it becomes totally clear in the person’s mind that the only logical thing to do is to stop. They got past one or two hurdles and clearly, the best we can experience, is a slight improvement, right?
One of my patrons recently summoned up her inner strength and pushed past that point. Several days later, she shared with me a very powerful insight. She said “I asked myself why I was feeling so resistant to commit to the work we’re doing and I had to admit, it was really just resistance to committing to myself”.
Amen, sister. Can I get a witness?
Many of us have come to accept that our bodies are the Temple of the Divine (regardless of who you worship or work with in your own, spiritual practice). Yet, our minds and emotions are Temples, too. Perhaps they are even more important, since they yield more than just nervous impulses. They are the gardens of action that produce the fruit that feeds or starves the rest of the world.