I am standing inside a muddy pond. I am surrounded by all sorts of debris—rotten leaves, branches, plastic bags, pet bottles. This is my mental world, when I am right in the middle of negative emotions.
I try to let the debris go away by swinging my arms. It doesn’t work. I might cause a slight disruption in the surrounding current, but for whatever reason the debris comes back to me as if I am pulling them back. The more I try to let them go by violently wiggling my arms, the more debris I attract.
Frustrated, I decide to move to a new spot where it seems to be clear of debris. I wade toward the spot, settle down, and tell myself everything is alright. Little did I know that my old debris came along with me and settled in this new place too. And because the new place wasn’t exactly without its own debris, I am surrounded by even more debris than before. I start to think when will be the right time to move to the next location.
The above scenario used to be my emotional coping mechanism for a long time. I used a tremendous amount of energy to let whatever emotional issues go away, change something small, get a brief relief, and repeat the same issue. It was an eternal losing battle.
I only started to win it, little by little, after I declared defeat and surrendered. Out of despair (and tiredness), I just stopped thinking too much about the debris, and started to swim along with them. I got tired of finding a new mental spot or teaching or state that might have been the promised tranquility land (but wasn’t). I gave up in the end: Let’s just float a while and think through. I could even use some garbage as my buoy.
And then, after finally starting to “enjoy” swimming, I realized my debris was falling behind one by one. What I needed was not a violent turbulence or a clean, safe spot. I only had to move constantly with my own comfortable speed. I was waiting for someone to cause a flow to clear me up. How stupid of me—just by swimming along my natural rhythm I could create my own flow.
I still found out that some debris did not go away no matter what. I looked at them and I saw they were attached to strings. And the strings are attached to…me. Yes, it wasn’t the debris that was following me. I was the one pulling the debris around. I just could not see the existence of the strings previously because I was either too busy mudding the water by wiggling my arms or aiming for a new place. All I had to do was to wait until the water cleared up and observe.
I keep swimming because it feels nice, but at the same time I slowly untie the strings that connect myself to the debris. It takes time and patience, but I know it is worth it, so I just keep doing it.
On the horizon I see greater ocean. When I untie most of the emotional strings, I might be able to swim free-style in that vast space. Maybe, one day when I start swimming gracefully, dolphins might accompany me. I might give a back rub to a whale. Say hello to a sea horse in standing posture.