A few nights ago, we didn’t feel like cooking, so we grabbed some Chinese carry-out. After enjoying a good meal, we forgot about the fortune cookies. The following morning I saw them sitting on the kitchen table so we had them with morning coffee. My fortune made me laugh, as the word choice seemed slightly awkward even though the meaning was clear. My fortune read: “Time to break out of that corner, unstuck that rut.” Unstuck that rut... The phrase has grown on me the past few days. It has triggered all sorts of fun random associations about being stuck, such as Warren Zevon singing “I was walking pretty well then I fell into a hole. I should climb out quick, but I hate doing what I’m told”.
From time to time, all of us experience feeling stuck, trapped, hemmed-in, and limited by circumstances. In my experience, when I feel stuck, I usually start out by feeling a little bit of self-pity, and I spend some time singing the blues to myself. Then, the daydreaming will kick in and I will imagine a perfect world where the external world conforms to my vision. Oddly, for me, that usually adds to my feeling stuck as the dream of perfection feels so far removed from reality. This reminds me of Chogyam Trungpa’s notion that hope and fear are two sides of the same coin. When I feel stuck, I am afraid I will never get out, so I hope for this other perfect world and round and round I go in my mind. It is a state of paralysis that hinders action.
During these times, if you’re like me, all sorts of questions arise, such as “Am I really free?” “Is there such a thing as fate?” “Can I really change this circumstance?” I have never answered such questions with any sort of finality. I believe the truth of human experience lies between that which we cannot control and that which we can. It is not an either/or situation. We don’t have to resign ourselves to our fears, being victims of circumstance, nor do we have to delude ourselves that the world should conform to our desires. There is a sweet spot in-between where we exercise freedom of choice while letting go of wishful thinking and attachment to outcomes. As Chogyam Trungpa wrote*, “In order to overcome fear, it is also necessary to overcome hope.” From that space of fearlessness/hopelessness, we are in a powerful position to take action, to unstuck that rut.
Thinking about unstucking that rut can only take us so far. Should we do the internal work of adjusting our attitudes and preparing ourselves for action? Absolutely, but let’s not wait forever to take action. Sometimes by letting go of thinking about it and just doing it, incredible changes occur. Here are some examples of actions that can help unstuck some common ruts:
*Apply for another job. Regardless of outcome, it can remind you that you have choices regarding employment.
*Try a new form of exercise you have never experienced before, such as swimming or yoga or a fitness class. Find something fun. Exercise doesn’t have to be so serious.
*Take up a hobby you always wanted to do for the sheer joy of it. You have the rest of your life to learn it, no matter how hard it is. Don’t let the culture of experts dissuade you. Perfection is not the objective.
*Stop a habit that doesn’t serve you anymore. Some go cold-turkey, others moderate. Help is available if you look for it.
*Volunteer. This could be with a school, church, nonprofit organization, or even beyond organizations by simply looking for opportunities to help friends in need. Focusing on others is a great way to get unstuck.
As winter thaws and spring arrives, let’s get unstuck. Tell us what actions you are ready to take. Unstuck that rut!
*Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chogyam Trungpa