a few months ago

When you think you’re failing


Humans are capable of a tremendous range of experience.

But when I say “experience”, what am I really talking about?

It’s a lot of sensation, isn’t it? And the sensations can have a huge range of qualities and intensities and so forth.

Calm, energetic, big, small, contracted, expansive, stable, unstable, etc.

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If you just feel into your experience, isn’t it true that what we’re talking about is just a lot of sensation, and that sensation has a vast potential for variation?

Hopefully we can agree on that.

We experience sensation. And at any given moment, sensation has some different make up – the qualities, intensities, etc.

I’ve been struck by how interesting it is that most of my life, most of my energy and focus has been consumed by trying to manage my experience so that the sensation remains within an extremely tiny range of qualities and intensities.

Calm and stable? Yes, please. Contracted, but not too much! Just enough to feel safe.

If the experience gets out of control, out of that tiny range of what is acceptable, out of habit, I’ve doubled down on my efforts to control.

Which is curious, isn’t it?

I’m willing to bet that you can relate. Because I believe this is the human condition.

We squander our lives trying desperately and futilely to manage our experience – to keep it dialed in to the range of what we deem acceptable.



From my perspective, this is very useful to recognize. Because otherwise, what happens is, I’m going to keep going round and round for a long time, doing this painful dance of trying to keep my experience constrained to the acceptable range.

It is a painful dance because on the one hand, it is exhausting and isolating and horrible to work so hard all the time to constrain experience. Plus, it is depressing because I cannot be fully successful. So I am frequently suffering anxiety because I can’t hold things together well enough. I don’t have enough power, enough control.

By on the other hand, whenever I relinquish control, while I may experience some relief, sooner or later, I freak out! Because, of course, my experience is unconstrained. I may suddenly find that I am experiencing a sense of big, open, energetic, buzziness, whereas, what I have deemed acceptable is small, contracted, calm, silence.

So that freaks me out. I try to re-gain control. And once again, I am stuck with the exhaustion, isolation, depression, etc. of trying to control.

Round and round.

The merry-go-round of misery.

But that’s why this is so useful to see. Because what happens is, I let go, I notice how I hold on, and I let go…then there is this freeing up of experience, which suddenly may include all kinds of sensation that isn’t “acceptable”.

Yet if I expect this and am willing to continue to allow it, I may get to rest from the painful dance. Just for now. I’m not saying forever. I’m just saying that if I expect that letting go will very likely yield discomfort and fear – sensation outside of my acceptable range – and if I am willing to continue to let go anyway…thenĀ right now, in this moment of letting go, in the moment of discomfort and fear, there is something new possible.

That something new is to rest.

If I’ve oriented myself all my life based on my idea about what sensation is acceptable, then when I let go, it may seem like I am failing. Failing because my experience is outside of what is acceptable.

But if I continue to let go any way…in this moment I am free of the artificial constraints.


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