The Power of Stopping
We have a choice about how we use this time of immobilization and quarantine, which is in many ways like a winter right in the middle of springtime. In Chinese medicine, Winter is about the evocation and transformation of fear, but it is also about deep revitalization. Over the winter, a while ago, I wrote a piece about “The Power of Stopping” which feels even more apropos now, so I will share it with you:
How does revitalization happen? What is vitality? Where and how is the power of life force gathered and maintained? How do we do that for ourselves? How do we assist others in revitalizing and living from deep, powerful vitality?
It’s not just about putting down the phone. That is part of the picture. It is true that silence has its use in the revitalization process, but silence alone won’t do it. You could spend a lot of time in silence and just feel anxiety. So the silence definitely isn’t the answer. We’ve all seen that not work. There is something to it, but what is it?
Silence and stillness can lead to the deep power of our life essence vitality when they allow us to STOP. Really stop. Stop, and allow ourselves to do the questioning that only happens when we stop. To do the re-collecting and gathering and questioning, on a foundational level, that we can only do when we really stop.
What Does “Stop” Mean?
There are those among us who… do we ever stop? What would it feel like to halt all momentum? I’m not talking about pause. Pause is different. When you put the CD player on pause you can’t take the CD out. Stop is not the same as pause.
What if we weren’t headed anywhere right now? Try right now dropping into the inner space you’d be in if you knew for sure that I wasn’t going to say anything for an hour. Like facing a blank page:
Now even if you do continue reading, your task is to remain in the place of unoccupied stillness that you’d be in, if you knew that there wasn’t going to be anything else coming. It’s a rare occurrence. Most people would not sit in the silence; most would not simply rest their minds in the presence of the blank page. They’d move on, pick up the phone, looking for a source of stimulus.
We live in a very momentum-driven culture. What do you mean, “Stop”? How about I’ll just pause instead? “Okay, we might have to put that on hold. We’ll put it on hold.” I’m hearing that all around me these days… fine, it’s on hold. There it is, on hold. But that’s really different than full halt.
What do you have, after an era has ended, before the next beginning? You have a chance to stop, real stop. Can you stop being an acupuncturist? Maybe you’ll start again. But what would change in your relationship to acupuncture if you weren’t just peddling the acupuncturist bicycle, keeping it going, all the time?
What if, just for the space of a silent half-hour, you stopped being married to whomever you’re married to? You may decide half an hour later, yes, this is authentic to me and I’ll go back to it. But for now, as I sit here, can I stop being married, or stop being mom? I mean quit it, really quit being mom? Quit pedaling the bicycle of all that it means to be my father’s daughter? What else can I quit, right now?
Not easy—terrifying. Think of all the different things that you’ve been engaged in; there’s an incredible momentum in your life of being the acupuncturist, being the daughter of this, the father of that. Can you stop? Stop. Stop.
Lonny S. Jarrett once sent me the link to a fairly obnoxious little video of Bob Newhart. This woman goes into the psychiatrist’s office. She’s talking about all her neuroses and he says, “I have one thing to tell you. STOP IT!” She says, “But I can’t stop. My childhood was this and…” And he says, “NO. STOP. JUST STOP. STOP IT.” The entire healing philosophy is just STOP IT. STOP NOW. STOP.
Now, there are five elements, and there are many different kinds of healing processes. Earth is really good for those slow transformative healing processes. Wood is really good for those healings that are about course correction and growth. Of primary importance for the Water element healing process is that sometimes, in order for anything to change, you have to get off the bicycle. Stop the wheels. Get out of the car. Lift up the hood, with the engine OFF, and just look at the marriage, just look at your acupuncture practice, just look at the economy, the environment, the state of your own soul.
Sometimes life hands us the opportunity to have a Water element healing, by making us stop. Are we going to take the gift? Or are we going to rush to find some way to patch it back together, ignoring the message of the times?
Just sit there, maybe for a while, yes maybe for long a while. Ask the questions that you don’t dare ask when you’re on the bicycle and have to keep pedaling. What’ll I find out about my marriage? What’ll I find out about my profession? What’ll I find out about…?
Well, we don’t know. Perhaps that is why we are not stopping—and don’t want others to stop, either, because it will lead us to the same questions.
How do we develop the skill of accepting, embracing and supporting others in going into the deep questioning? As scary as it is for us to get off the bicycle, we must also face our fears in order to be able to encourage others to stop, too.
Ultimately, don’t we want this deep inquiry from our partners, from our closest friends, from all with whom we engage in bonds of deep trust? Whether it is a pledge of marriage, a pledge of friendship, a business deal or a creative endeavor, don’t we want for others to make promises and pledges to us based only on what they find when they’ve gone down to the bone in themselves?
From a Place of Stop There’s Nothing That Can’t Be Called Into Question
It’s not nihilism. When done with tremendous love, this kind of questioning revitalizes a commitment by bringing it back to its true root—by making it clear what is dead wood ready to be pruned and what is LIVE down in ming men (our Life Gate Fire or root of life in our depths), ready to bring forth new branches. It’s not an unloving thing to question—although we fear it is—if our loyalty is more to ‘things as they are right now’ than to the longevity that only comes with that stark honesty of winter.
You can see how this might have something to do with vitality and revitalization, because of how much wasteful energy is spent on things about which, if we were to truly stop, we would say, “This is bullshit.” It’s not for nothing that the clock meridian paired to the Kidney is the Colon. It’s a tremendous clarification of where energy-waste is taking place in my life.
When we’ve actually stopped and sat with this marriage, this profession, this way of life, and looked it in the eye, we may come to a sense of, “You know what? This is not true to me.” Or we may come to a sense of, “Yes, yes, yes, this is my marriage, difficult as it is sometimes; yes. Yes, I am the mother of my son, strange as that may be. Yes. As for acupuncture: Yes, this is what I want to do, with all that it implies.” When we are able to say yes to something from that bottom line, it is a fierce and vital yes. Yes. Yes, this is mine. This is my walk. Yes. This is mine to do. That feeling of “this is mine to do” is where revitalization happens. Yes, this is my life, my heart path, my destiny nature.
There’s a deep vitality that comes only from having gone all the way down, in that silence and stillness and ability to stop, in order to find the vital “yes” to my own nature and the life that springs forth from it.
I’ll call it love, but it’s that deep “light in the dark” love. It’s love of life, but it’s not necessarily love of what you happen to be going through right now. That may be crap. But especially if what you happen to be going through right now is crap, the ability to live with vitality comes from knowing that yes, this is my life. Yes. Yes.
Having found this yes, it moves through our entire system, through all the layers of our being… it doesn’t live just in our depths; it becomes part of how we process, part of how we adapt. There are other processes; there are other layers. The Vital Yes makes its way all the way to the surface, where winter becomes spring, and a whole new world comes forth.
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