I was talking to a woman who's recently been through a lot of physical health issues, and because the doctors aren't able to help her, she's doing a lot of her own research and has landed squarely in the alternative medicine space. If you've spent your whole life as a skeptic of the whole "alternative" vibe, you're going to feel a little disoriented when you're forced into it. She's determined to get better, but she doesn't have any of the big flashing lights she's used to with Western medicine like "this person's a quack", or "this will lead you down a path where only wierdos hang out." The point is that she's trying a whole bunch of different things, and just going with her gut, which I think is great. She's definitely being led by some of what she's reading into doing some inner exploration (we've talked about mindfulness a few times, and other painful circumstances are leading her to examine her life direction in another context). During one conversation, she threw her hands up in the air, and said, "I just want someone to tell me what to do!" Had I been present enough, I would have said, "you're doing it right. Keep going." I've been in the territory she has, and I know she'll get to where she's trying to go.
When I was at Part II this October, the 2nd installment of Enneagram teacher training, I was doing a breathing exercise that lasted 2.5 hours. It was all new to me, I had never heard of this kind of inner work before, and I was just going with the flow to see what came up. Everyone was supposed to have different experiences, so it's not like you could look over at your neighbor and guage what you were doing against them and calibrate your experience. The idea was that our body was supposed to know what we needed. So my experience was that I cried non-stop for the entire 2.5 hours. Loudly. Like a blubbering child, with screaming, drool and snot and fists pounding. Thank goodness they were playing loud music, so anyone who was making noise could be drowned out a bit. But after a couple hours I started to feel guilty, like I was interfering with the experience of my neighbors by being so loud, and really. Who needs to cry that much? I felt like the facilitators might think I'm being self-indulgent or that I'm being overly dramatic. So I kept crying (because I really was compelled to), but it was with a heavy guilt hanging around my neck. Finally, the main facilitator came up to me and held my hand and asked me how I was doing, then she said these words that completely cleared the air. "You're doing it right." How did she know I was all twisted up about that??! I've thought about that sentence so often since October, and I'm so appreciative of her going out of her way to say that.
Sometimes, though, the phrase can be frustrating. Last year I was feeling directionless in my personal work, like I was getting nowhere with my practice. So I asked my boyfriend- who lives in the U.S.- to describe my experience to a wise, trusted friend down there next time they got together, and to get back to me with what our friend said. My boyfriend reported back that "I was on the right track." Which was infuriating because I didn't see any benefit to what I was doing. I wanted MORE!! But just knowing that our friend knew the territory I was in, and told me to keep going was enough to help me eventually bust through the fog.
When the slings and arrows of life lead you into self-inquiry territory, it can be scary for a first-timer. If this is you, you need to know, by virtue of your open-mindedness to experiment, curiosity and digging for answers, you're doing it right.