Avoiding the feeling of helplessness
We have not tired of witnessing this phenomenon yet; the tidal pool filling up and emptying out every day. The winding river down the side of our yard is part of this wonder. At low tide it is empty except for the small stream of fresh water that flows down into the pool, and then at high tide it floods its banks as the ocean pushes inland and up the river bed. It is a morning routine to wander down to the pool for Thandi to get her morning walk. Sometimes we are there at sunrise, and the hush of the morning that is filled with bird songs is always a treat…not so much when it’s been raining for days on end.
I was offered an opportunity to discover something about myself on the banks of this river. The tide was low and Thandi was standing in the river bed drinking from the trickle of water. She LOVES doing this. I don’t know why. She needs to slop through the mud every day to get that drink, that very long drink. I have surrendered to this pleasure of hers, sometimes thinking that perhaps there is some particular mineral she is ingesting that supports her body. She has always seemed to know what’s best for her.
As she drank, I noticed a squirrel dash across the opposite bank. It was not running the way they usually run, that bouncy movement, rather it was close to the ground with a straight body. It ran over the edge of the bank and disappeared from sight, but then another movement caught my eye. It was a mink (I checked this out online later to confirm), running in exactly the same direction, with the same body posture, and it also vanished from sight at the same place the squirrel had. A second after it disappeared, both squirrel and mink dashed up the opposite bank of the river and the mink caught and killed the squirrel. I was frozen in place as I witnessed this event, and my heart was pounding as I watched the mink run back in the direction it had come from. I was worrying that perhaps it was a fisher cat and that perhaps it might consider attacking Thandi. With my adrenaline pumping, I readied myself to charge into the muddy river bed to protect her, not knowing whether I actually could or not, but it wasn’t necessary. Thandi missed the entire event and eventually made her way out and up onto the bank with me. I walked her back to the house on shaky legs and plopped into a chair on the deck to process the experience.
I kept thinking, “life is harsh”, and it had certainly felt like a harsh way to begin the day. Despite being a nature lover, I really don’t like witnessing this aspect of life. Even after my heart rate had returned to normal and the day unfolded, I was still struck by the experience, so I contemplated it further. I noticed that in the moment of the event I had decided that life is harsh, but in reality, life is just life. This is actually a totally normal part of life. But there was something deeper than this, deeper than the thoughts about the event, it was the feeling that accompanied it. It was uncomfortable, definitely something I wanted to avoid feeling. It was the feeling of helplessness.
We would so much like to control life. If we could then we would be able to avoid uncomfortable feelings. If we could control life we would never get sick. But the reality is we can’t control it anymore than I could have controlled the mink chasing after and killing that little squirrel.
I reminded myself to experience life as it is, to truly allow myself to experience this feeling-sensation of helplessness, to open to it. What arose out of that was an experience that is akin to compassion. It’s like my heart split open a bit, but not in a wounded sort of way, just an embracing, aching sort of way. There was definitely love.
I wonder how often I have avoided allowing myself to feel helpless, and how much energy I have expended in my efforts to push it away or circumvent a situation in an effort to spare myself the hurt of it, or to give my ego mind a false sense of control and safety. When we avoid a feeling our lives get smaller. It’s the only way to stay ‘safe’, setting closer and high safe guards. But living in a small safe bubble also excludes the multiple and diverse opportunities for a rich and full authentic life.
We have to be willing to be vulnerable to life as it is, to the feelings it offers that allow us to know the fullness of what is. This vulnerability is our authentic power. Helplessness, when allowed to be felt, is an access to our authentic power. Imagine that.