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  • Writer's pictureRahim Nanos

How to Take Action When You Feel Stagnant

Hello everyone, welcome to The Modern Spiritualist. I am glad you’re here.

I want to start off by saying that we are subject all kinds of forces in life, such as gravity or even the wind blowing. Some are visible, some invisible. Some forces manifest in our external environment, and others could be called internal impulses.

Stagnation is a force. And not only that, but it’s often a complex force that is made up of multiple other forces. This is one of the reasons why stagnation can be so powerful. It can completely derail your life, slow down your life, or greatly inhibit the capacity for growth or transformation.

It can also show up in different ways, big or small. Stagnation can be as deep of an issue as severe chronic depression. It could also be just a pesky procrastination habit that causes anxiety. It may show up in a way that affects all aspects of life, such as depression. But it could also just show up in one area of your life. For instance, maybe you are doing great at work, but no matter what you do, you can’t seem to keep a good romantic relationship.

Stagnation, put simply, is a pattern of stuck energy that impairs your life in some way. What the energy is, or how the energy gets stuck, is unique to the individual.

If you feel like you are stagnating on a big or small scale, here are some ways to help you address that stagnation and transform it into forward momentum.

Do It In a Teacup

‘Do It In a Teacup’ is a saying that I picked up from my teacher. I’ve found it to be one of the most helpful daily skills in breaking stagnation.

It essentially means this: it is always better to do what you can do, no matter how small, than nothing at all.

Capitalist conditioning runs deep, and it ensnares us by teaching that if you can’t do something completely 100% perfect, that it’s not worth doing at all. This trains us to believe that what we do is never good enough, no matter how much we achieve.

This is true no matter where you are in life. You could be a top business CEO that works 60 hours a week because you’ve been taught that any less is a failure. That person may hold a belief that if they aren’t working, they don’t matter. This keeps high performing people in the system’s rat race without questioning it.

On the flipside, if you suffer from severe depression, there could be many days where just showering, getting dressed, and cleaning up is a high achievement. But the capitalist conditioning story might tell you that what you worked so hard for that day means nothing. This is likewise disheartening and problematic.

Let’s step away from this conditioning for a moment.

Perfection doesn’t exist, and human beings only have so much energy in a day. One day, you may have plenty of energy. The next day, maybe not so much. Our level of how much we can handle in a day changes, but we are conditioned to work like machines, rather than organic beings with fluctuations and variances from day to day.

Because of this, the motto, ‘do it in a teacup’ allows us to step out of that ‘not good enough’ narrative and find something more constructive to operate from.

Let’s take an example and apply the ‘do it in a teacup method.’

Let’s say you want to start writing every day, and you set a goal to write three pages every day.

Up until now, your writing habit has been non-existent or stagnant for a long time, and you’re looking for a way to break the barrier and start writing again.

However, when the time comes to write three pages, you just can’t do it. The thought of sitting down and writing three pages in that moment is too overwhelming. The typical thing to do in this scenario would be to avoid it, to make some excuse, not do it, and then shame yourself later.

However, applying the ‘do it in a teacup’ method, in that moment of overwhelm, you can instead catch yourself before you turn away from your goal. Utilizing compassion, you might say to yourself, “I understand that writing three pages feels really overwhelming right now. How about just one page?”

Maybe even after considering one page, it still feels too overwhelming. From there, you can break it down into an even smaller step - just one paragraph.

Suddenly the writing task doesn’t feel nearly as daunting. One paragraph feels like nothing, and you are now able to flow into the activity and do it, letting this be enough.

Eventually, you’ll discover after practicing doing one paragraph, it becomes easier to move up to one page. A few weeks or months later, you successfully end up with being able to do three pages. This is the teacup method at work!

Here are some other examples of applying the teacup method:

  • If you can’t do 30 push ups, do 5.

  • If you can’t wash ten dishes, wash one thoroughly.

  • If you can’t make a sandwich, eat some meat and cheese.

  • If you can’t walk around the block, walk down the street.

Healthy habits sometimes most successfully start with the smallest of first steps.

Honor Contradictory Parts of Self

As I said before, we are all subject to various forces in life. Many of these forces are internal, and a lot of internal struggle can be found in contradictory parts of the self.

This is the weird and yet totally common human thing that nobody seems to talk about. Humans are complex. As individuals with complex brains and personalities, we’re not completely congruent with ourselves at all moments.

For instance, you might be somebody who genuinely likes your job, but that does not necessarily mean that you’re totally jazzed about going to work every day. There will be some days where you hate going to work, and that’s natural.

You might simultaneously love diet coke, and also feel that it is bad for your health. Wanting to cut back on diet coke may be a genuine desire of yours because you want to be healthier. And that doesn’t mean that some days you won’t have diet coke anyway, because you love it.

This is where the stagnation piece comes in. If our self-contradictions about something are very, very loud, it can cause a kind of immobility.

A desire to both write and not write may be equally valid and loud.

You may love the idea of writing, or you might even know that when you start writing you don’t want to stop. And yet, you still might get stuck never writing because of this internal contradiction. Whether it is because of fear, boredom, a desire to do something else instead, or a plethora of other things, that desire not to do what you love is a part of you too, and it’s also valid.

In these instances, it’s really important to honor all of your contradictory parts of self.

Moving forward with the writing example, let’s say that you really want to write, and can’t get yourself to start.

Check in with yourself, and ask “If I didn’t write right now, what would I be doing instead?”

Let’s say that you realize you really want to take a walk. Or eat chips. Or watch tv. You can choose now to sit down and write one paragraph, and then give yourself the walk, tv, and chips.

Indulge BOTH parts of yourself. It doesn’t have to be either/or, and it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. And remember, you can still do it in a teacup!

Managing Expectations Versus Reality

This is another place where conditioned capitalist narratives can really be a problem. In advertisement, on television, and on social media, people appear to be living these perfect and grandiose lives. There’s this image of the american dream with the perfect family, the huge house, an abundance of money, objects, and activities. Plus, a downpouring of extreme happiness at all times.

Let’s cut the crap and instead sink into the earth for a moment.

Take a look at the nature around you. I think about the fact that in places with 4 seasons, most plants only spend a little less than half the time above ground. It makes me think about the rich home life they must have under the soil. It isn’t showy. It’s just life, and it’s still success.

Flowers bloom for a small season, everybody can see them bloom, and they look beautiful. But when spring ends, that plant still has plenty of work to do through the summer and into winter. Life still goes on even when we can’t see it.

Growth for us is that way too. People can’t necessarily see the moment when you graduate from writing 1 page to 3 pages. But you can see it, you can celebrate it, and you can let it be enough.

Getting real means facing the facts of what growth really means. And growth is tiny, incremental changes over time with consistent attention and care.

My snake plant is only a little bit bigger than she was last year. I’m not in the interest of shaming her for it. Don’t shame yourself, either. It’s never going to look like it does on tv or social media.

Nobody’s life looks like that, and it never will. Eventually, we need to stop yearning after false narratives and sink into what is available to us in the present moment. Life, joy, and success are all around us. But it’s all right here, in the present moment. It’s not over there. And when we put it “over there,” it becomes something inaccessible to us because we’ve placed ourselves at a distance from it.

But if we stand in the middle of what it means to truly grow and thrive, we arrive at what we can do in the present moment.

This pulls us out of the stagnation that can create a brick wall between us and the true joy that exists in growth. Visions of grandiosity and perfection create overwhelm simply because they are unrealistic. To live in the present moment is to celebrate every single little success on the continuous and circular path that is growth.

Breaking out of stagnation is difficult, but always possible. With a mindset shift away from capitalist conditioning, and into the present moment, we are able to see life around us for what it is. As we begin to see that, we can feel into our true role in that. As we sink into that role, the energy starts to move. As the energy starts to move, we can use practical skills like “doing it in a teacup,” or honoring the wants and needs of all contradictory parts of ourselves.

And remember, it can’t happen overnight. Growth and momentum are something that we must consistently show up for one day at a time. Every small step in the right direction is cause for celebration!

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