Jackson Brown record cover Stay

“Stay” by Jackson Browne, a 70’s hit

The lyrics in my title comes from a song Jackson Browne launched in the 70’s, the decade I was born.   And it is one of the core practices of mindfulness and mindful eating called “surfing the wave” or in ME-CL “surfing the crave”. Despite endlessly singing this song in my youth, it has taken me many  years to understand the real meaning of “staying” and “surfing”. And also, to gather the necessary tools to stay, that is to remain present to what is arising, in a safe and self-caring manner.

Recently, I went through a very difficult personal situation that lasted for an extended period of time and from which I could not escape. External circumstances obliged me to be present and get through it.

Trapped and Tired

Initially, I felt like a mouse trapped in a cage, my mind running from one corner to the other trying to find a way out of the situation. But there was no “hole” in the cage to escape through. In other words, there was no food, beer or Netflix available to help me run away. I could clearly see the situation and see myself desperately trying to figure out what to “do” to avoid it. Tiredness made me surrender and then, in a lucid moment, I remember saying to myself, “OK, is time to use all you have learned these past years of practice”.

A road sign Emotional Avoidance Detour instead stay

The cost of avoiding the difficult can get personally very high

And voilá, a whole new picture started developing in front of me. A wider perspective unfolded. Because the circumstances obliged me to stay and be present, I could no longer avoid looking into my pattern of running away from difficult situations since I was  a child.

As the difficult  circumstances lasted for few days, I managed to go deeper and see when in my childhood this pattern was created and understand why it was created. Furthermore, I could see and feel how difficult it would have been for me to reach this insight in my everyday environment as it felt too painful and disheartening to stay. And too lonely as well.

I tried to access compassion in different ways, but all I could reach was the theory. I could not feel it the way I thought I should feel it. No hand on the heart or self-supporting words would help. I remember saying to myself “the stuff doesn’t work for me when I most need it”. Now I understand that the real compassionate act was to stay and be with it. Sometimes when we touch an emotional pain, it is not just the pain of the moment; it traces back to unhealed wounds.

“Now I understand that the real compassionate act was to stay and be with it.”

I also noticed the evolution of this pattern over time. As a child I would run away, when a teenager and young adult would attack, and since practicing mindfulness I tend to freeze, not sure what to do.

Awareness brings Freedom

Understanding all of this was very liberating and rewarding. Understanding why we do things in a certain way, like our conditioned patterns from childhood, helps us to break free from guilt and shame. And to heal.

whhirlpool of water paralyzed

There is always light at the end of the tunnel

No food, drink or TV program would have ever given me the freedom I felt at the other end of the tunnel when I “stayed”.

As Jan often says: “Awareness brings choice and choice brings freedom”

What are your “go to’s” when trying to avoid a difficult situation? What tools do you feel you are developing with your practice of mindfulness and mindful eating to “stay a little bit longer”?

Cuca Azinovic (Spain)

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