I recently read Amanda Palmer’s beautiful book, The Art of Asking. Towards the beginning she shares a story, told to her by her friend and mentor, Anthony – a parable that blooms as the pages turn:
A farmer is sitting on his porch in a chair, hanging out. A friend walks up to the porch to say hello, and hears an awful yelping, squealing sound coming from inside the house. “What’s that terrifyin’ sound?” asks the friend. “It’s my dog,” says the farmer. “He’s sittin’ on a nail.” “Why doesn’t he just sit up and get off it?” asks the friend. The farmer deliberates on this and replies:
“Doesn’t hurt enough yet.”
We’ve all had The Big Thing(s) in our lives that we can clearly see aren’t working or make no rational sense, but we justcan’tseemtostop (or start) doing them. We eat the ice cream even though we know it’ll give us a belly ache, we put off flossing until tomorrow…again, we stay up way too late…again, we’re over-scheduled and over-caffeinated, we’re under-slept and under-hydrated. We know what we should do, but chronically, we don’t.
Sometimes we make excuses for ourselves, justifying that it’s temporary, that it won’t kill us to do it once more, that it won’t hurt to wait until tomorrow. After all, we’re busy!!!
Sometimes we puff ourselves up and declare, “It’s a new day!”, secretly knowing that this “new day” is yet another Groundhog Day.
But when it’s one of The Things for you – the chronic this-is-ridiculous-why-can’t-I-do-this? things – deep down, you know you can’t keep going on like this. The problem is, if stopping (or starting) was easy, then it would’ve been, well…easy. But for whatever reason, This Thing that may seem so simple, somehow feels like trying lift a 100 lb. weight with your pinky finger. Until it hurts…
Sometimes, diabetes, divorce, job loss, or bankruptcy will make it hurt enough. Or, you can get off the nail sooner.
It finally hurt enough for me to get off the nail.
The theme of creating space kept showing up in my life, but I was struggling to know how. It felt like there was some sort of “block” to creating this feeling of spaciousness, and I felt confused as to what that even meant. Was it about better scheduling? Meditation? Those were habits I could definitely improve on, and wanted to, but it felt even deeper than that. I had the nagging feeling that something internal needed to shift, but I was doing a shitty job of making the change myself. After a few days of navel-gazing, I texted my dear friend and mentor: “Sisterlove, I feel called to have a session with you.” She replied, and we inked it.
As we dove into where I felt stuck, I felt a willingness to truly see the landscape, and a readiness to move mountains. We looked inward, inward, down, down, down until we found the molten lava at the core of it: That I was filling space – with music, conversation, work, play, reading writing, you name it – instead of being in the space, so there was no room left for me.
Sure, I make time for my friends, I eat 3 meals a day, and I spend time doing things I love. I could most definitely improve, but this was less about filling space with better stuff, and more about creating space for my soul to rest in. Empty space, all for me.
As I sat with the pain of what filling space has robbed me of – precious moments of silence, bone-deep clarity, soulful presence – it finally hurt enough. And I realized that for most of us, the reason why better habits remain at an arm’s length is because we’re too busy filling space to feel the nail.
When we soften into space, allowing it and resting in it, anything repressed (pain, joy, dreams, desires) will emerge. And its emergence – even if it’s painful – will show up to show us the way. It’s an invitation to grace. Grace means, among other things: ease and suppleness of movement, and divine assistance.
Grace is the end of resistance.
Grace is flow.
How to get off the nail:
EXPLORE TO THE CORE
Beneath your desire for a better habit is an even deeper desire to feel something different. What are you truly craving? For example, you may want to drink less coffee because you’re craving the feeling of deep inner peace. You may want to exercise 3 times a week because you crave feeling strong and supple. How do you desire to feel at your core?
LET IT HURT ENOUGH
Grab your tissue box and really explore the cost of this lack in your life. How does it feel to not have the peace or strength you so crave? How is it impacting your life, in every area of your life? What will it cost you to not have this feeling in the long-run?
Next time you’re about to mindlessly grab your fourth coffee, cancel your workout, eat the belly-aching ice cream, bite your nails, or fill the space, stop. Breathe. Instead of doing the mental jockeying of guilt, blame, shame, validation or justification, quiet your mind. Shhhh…
In this moment of space, what is your soul calling you to do? For me, the first step was a long, slow walk by myself with no music – just space. Feel into the future. Rediscover your enthusiasm. Ask your soul where to place your next step.
—> In the comments below, share what’s emerging for you in this space as you get off the nail.