Got borders and boundaries? As hard as I’ve worked to instill these necessary behavioral guardrails, every so often I will be made aware that my practice of “waiting in the cupboard” has resurfaced. If this is one of your challenges as well, simply picture the blue can and remember: you’re NOBODY’S spam. Sometimes we just need a reminder. This post re-run is mine.
Like the late Rodney Dangerfield, Spam does not get any respect. As far as you may be concerned, it lives its life there in a can in your cupboard, just waiting for the day when you’re craving some sort of meat in your sandwich only to find nary a speck in your household. So you open your cupboard and spy its shiny blue container, welcoming you with open arms. “I won’t let you down. I’ve just been waiting to come alive by allowing you to fry me up, slather me with mustard and throw me down between two slices of bread, where you will then consume the very essence of my being, wash me down with a glass of milk and not acknowledge me again until you get another craving that leads you back to my shiny blue container.” And you see, Spam is cool with that. That’s the thing about Spam- it’s just too damn easy. But that’s okay because it’s Spam.
People, on the other hand, regardless of how they may appear to you, are not. They are complex individuals, ideally changing gradually and metamorphosing into more unabbreviated versions of themselves over time. Unlike Spam, you can not leave them to sit indefinitely in their shiny can expecting them to be there waiting for you to seek them out during your next moment of desolation, when a craving for something with substance, something to take the edge off your inner emptiness leads you back to the familiar comfort they so freely offer. Spam will do that. People should not. Not because they can’t be counted on, not because they’re not loyal, and certainly not because they are unfeeling or lacking in love, but simply because they require more for themselves. Sometimes it just takes them a while to own it.
So you’ve read Part 1 and in your effort to lose weight, stop drinking, eat healthfully, stop smoking, etc… (fill in your own blank of ANYTHING you want to change) have decided that you’re ready to sit in the Space of Want. But how do you start? What will you need? You start with an open-minded willingness to become uncomfortable, understanding that enduring discomfort is necessary for growth and change and will not destroy you. You need to want something. That’s the easy one; we want a variety of things, pretty much continuously. Pinpointing what you want most by delaying or eliminating momentary gratification is the one that will sting. But you can handle it. Each sting you sit through makes the next more tolerable.
The only thing that I can tell you here that you’re not already certain of is your ability to do without anything non-essential to your livelihood. So I’ll say it up front: you have this ability. It’s inherent. Don’t call it willpower and tell yourself that you have none. Call it an ability that’s essentially a weak muscle that needs to be strengthened and work on strengthening it. The only way to do that is to use it. And that is what you’re doing when you’re sitting in the SOW. You are training yourself to work a muscle that has been neglected. Consider it a workout and be diligent in training by doing the work. This means pushing past what’s comfortable in order to begin a process of breakdown and repair in order to bring about strength and growth. In this case, strength and growth appears in the form of your ever increasing ability to withstand denial of what you want now for what you want most.
As with every workout, your abilities will increase over time. Start small by allowing yourself to feel discomfort. Use routine situations as opportunities to train. By this I mean don’t put that sweater on the instant you get chilly. Turn the water to cold during the last minute of your shower. Skip a meal here and there and allow yourself to experience hunger. Get uncomfortable so that you will understand that you are bigger than the discomfort! As this becomes easier, add the “weight” of working on the more difficult habits/behaviors you want to eradicate. This will put you in a position to more readily adapt to not having what you want the very second you want it, thus enabling you to dig deeper and uncover what you want most.
We are each individuals, which is why there is never one precise “cookie cutter” method for anything in life that will work for everyone. I’d be wary of those who try to convince you otherwise. That is why it is essential that you sift through what you read here or anywhere else and dig deep within in order to seek, then utilize, that which speaks to you in a way that sheds light where you were having difficulty finding any. In my own experience with every soul training exercise I’m working on, this has meant slowing down. The most difficult part of sitting in the SOW for me was sitting through what I wanted to rush past or escape completely through methods, substances, or people outside of myself that would “take the edge off”. It still crosses my mind to do the same thing and in that moment I’ll believe I WANT to do that thing-that-I used-to-do-to-make-it-all-“better”. But the muscle has been strengthened and the mind has been trained to slow down. Which gives me time to choose. And that time increases my odds of choosing wisely.