If you’ve been feeling a little “off” or out of sorts lately, I hope I can bring some solace to you by letting you know you are definitely not alone!
Without a doubt, this has been a challenging and complex year or more.
I’ve been meeting with dozens of people over these past eighteen months to provide mentoring and coaching to those who are feeling a deep sense of displacement or a sort of fogginess. Some have lost jobs, moved out of state, been stuck inside a tiny apartment for a year in lockdown or been working from home while trying to manage children and their homelife with little escape from the confines of their own homes. Some have even lost family or friends to COVID.
There’s no denying that we’ve all been through an extremely stressful time. Its aftermath, even though it’s looking far more positive than last year, is still a challenge of living in uncertainty most days. Many of us right now are feeling as though we’re a bit stuck. We are coming off the pandemic still feeling a bit “blah.”
There’s a phrase coined by Emory Psychology professor Corey Keys called “languishing” which I think just about sums it up. It’s a feeling of not really being depressed, not burned out, just feeling a bit aimless and a bit joyless. It’s a bit like just not feeling totally healthy but at the same time,we’re not able to put your finger on just what’s “off.” There’s nothing really wrong per se, it’s really more like a feeling of an absence of well-being.
Psychologist Adam Grant recently wrote an article in the NY Times about this term “languishing.” He mentioned that “part of the danger is that when you’re languishing, you might not notice the dulling of delight or the dwindling of drive. You don’t catch yourself slipping slowly into solitude; you’re indifferent to your indifference. When you can’t see your own suffering, you don’t seek help or even do much to help yourself.”
It’s not burnout with nothing left to give. It’s not stress or even depression. But it’s certainly not flourishing either when you feel like you have mastery and as though you are contributing to others in your life and doing well.
It’s that spot in the middle which some describe as ”pandemic fog.”
It’s not the presence of anything but an absence of something.
You might notice that your drive to do things or enthusiasm has been waning. Maybe you simply have a feeling of “meh” as my nineteen-year-old son likes to say.
If this sounds a bit like how you feel these days, first, know that you are not alone. Many of us are feeling out of sorts, directionless, knowing that we want to be doing something a bit differently than we had been prior to the pandemic but not quite sure how to make a shift. Perhaps we’re even afraid to make any big changes. Let’s face it, it’s been a complex eighteen months and we’re not out of the woods just yet. We’re all trying to navigate this new “normal,” whatever that means. Or at least, we’re trying to figure out what that looks like for each of us. If you would like to connect for a complimentary 30-minute coaching session to explore your next steps moving forward, I’d be happy to chat with you. In the meantime,
I have three simple suggestions:
First, try not to create a big storyline around it; i.e. maintaining a negative internal dialog and constantly complaining that you’re bored, that you’re feeling stuck, that you “don’t feel like it.” It’s only when we are aware of and can look at our feelings that we can possibly hope to change them.
Secondly, don’t push away the feelings you’re having. When we do either of these things, when we fall prey to our internal dialog and begin to believe nothing will change, we begin to feel uncomfortable and it further escalates our mental agitation (or in some cases, anguish), blocking our capacity for awareness.
Thirdly, reflect on what it is that typically brings you back around when you’re not feeling your best. Is it a walk, time in meditation, a long chat with a friend?
Consider that your feeling of being trapped, stuck, immobilized or “languishing” is a self-fabricated story.
What do you mean? I really DO feel this way!
Just consider that we are constantly changing at every moment. Our hair is growing as we read these words, cells are turning over, we’re digesting our breakfast. We are always in a state of change even when we’re unable to actually see the changes in real time. If you don’t believe me, pull out that picture of yourself taken when you were in high school. Do you look the same today?
The good news is that even while fifty to seventy billion cells in our bodies die every day, in turn, this allows for billions of new cells to begin to exist.
We are not powerless to change. In fact, we have an innate capacity to liberate ourselves from the numbing descriptions we use to tell the stories of our lives.
If we wake up to this reality, we have a chance to actively direct what comes next as opposed to passively accepting the false conclusions of what we feel is inevitably going to happen.
In your meditation practice, as you notice yourself being hooked once again by the ceaseless internal dialog, see if you can catch yourself before you allow that story to become more and more embellished. See if you can redirect your storyline.
It’s then that the feelings of “languishing” will begin to dissipate.
Try what is called “Thought Meditation.” This is the practice of simply observing your thoughts as they arise. Just notice them and allow them to dissipate.
This is quite different from what we typically do as human beings. Ordinarily, we may not even be aware of our thoughts when they arise. We almost instantaneously and automatically get hooked by a thought. From that instant, we may not realize that our minds are off and running. This “monkey mind” as it’s termed in meditation circles, is innate to every one of us. But if you can keep in mind that it's also merely a habit we’ve become accustomed to, you might be able to reframe it into understanding that instead, it's just a habit that can indeed be changed over time.
Thought practice is only one way to begin training your mind to simply notice the thought without allowing yourself to follow the storylines they inevitably want to tell you. Simply watch the thoughts rise and fall.
This simple act of noticing becomes an awareness you may not have experienced before. This is the practice of awareness.
It may sound simple but it is not always easy. Satsang House Meditation and Spiritual Center is a beautiful sanctuary where you can join other like-minded people who are interested in developing what I like to call this “noticing muscle.” You can join us for weekly in-person meditation events, online meditation classes and ultimately, in person retreats and workshops.
Even if you’re in that spacey place of feeling a bit “foggy,” the practice of mindfulness and meditation, particularly with a group of people who share that same feeling, might be a great start to moving you out of stagnation and into community.
We’d love to see you at Satsang House sometime soon. Events are optional donation-based, all are welcome to attend.