The Sticky Stuff
by Clark Zimmerman, L.Ac.
The other morning I took a hike with my dogs in the mountains. The sun had not yet crested the mountain next to the trail, so the trail was still in the morning shadows. As I walked through a narrow spot on the trail, I ran face-first into a spiderweb that was between two trees. It was quite a surprise to have the sticky web covering my face, as I hadn’t noticed it at all in the shadows of the morning. Luckily, I didn’t feel a spider moving across my face. I gently removed the web and continued on my walk, but it got me thinking about how spiderwebs can appear to be so different depending on the presence or absence of light. Whether in the light or in the shadows, one thing is certain: webs are sticky.
I have always been fascinated with spiders. They are master weavers who seem to spend so much time creating and maintaining their webs. I feel a certain sort of guilt when I am cleaning and I have to remove a web from the corner of a room, as I think of all of the hard work that went into its creation. Webs are works of art, but when they stick to you, they become a nuisance. It is amazing how they can remain hidden in the absence of direct light, but in the presence of sunlight, they take on a life of their own. They become dramatically radiant in the light. Sometimes in the early morning, they are covered with dew that glistens like jewels when the sun catches them just right. But the stickiness of a web is remarkable. It reminds me of how sticky it can be to live as a human being.
We all have parts of ourselves that can be quite sticky: our judgments, our emotions, our desires, can all grab our attention and dominate a moment. Some of the time we are aware of the things that get in the way of us being present. Other times they can remain hidden from us. It is like we are walking through the forest in the early morning and suddenly, seemingly without warning, our face is covered with a web. Awareness is an amazing tool that is like inviting the sunlight into the moment. When we practice awareness, we suddenly become noticeably conscious of the sticky webs that lie in our path. What before was hiding in the shadows of our lives, can become quite obvious in the light of awareness. Our hidden personality patterns, our habits, our addictions all start to show themselves as glowing works of art in our lives. We might not think about such difficult things as works of art, but these things are what show us where we are stuck in our evolution as human being. They point to the areas where we can improve and become more open and free. They are crafted by years of experience.
When we shine the light of awareness onto the path that we walk on, these places where we can get stuck become something to be fascinated by. They become something to be curious about. We may ask ourselves: “How was this made?” “What are the threads composed of?” Once we begin to see the places where we get stuck in the light of awareness, these things can become great sources of growth. They can catalyze huge change in the things that have been holding us back for much of our lives.
Awareness practices come in many forms. Some of the more common ones include meditation, self-inquiry, and therapy. There are many forms of meditation that promote awareness. When we meditate, we sit with the intention to simply watch all of our experience. We watch our thoughts, feeling, emotions and the sensations in our body without the intention to control or judge them. In watching these things, they begin to soften and show more of the underlying stories that feed them. There is also the tool of self-inquiry, which is consciously playing with a pattern with curiosity as the driving principle. When we sit with a riddle that seems to complicate our lives with the intention of understanding it, rather than judging it, we shine a ray of sunlight into the sticky places in life. We can more clearly witness our patterns and the impact that they have on our thoughts and beliefs and on our relationships with others. We can see the beauty of those parts of ourselves that have been hidden and use them to become a more whole person, a better version of ourselves. Another helpful tool to increase awareness is therapy or group work. Therapy allows someone else to reflect light into our blind spots in an effort to illuminate the hidden stories that can dominate our lives.
Whatever tool or tools we choose to work with, it is incredibly valuable to find ways to bring more awareness into our lives. With more awareness, we can see a bigger, clearer view of the path that we call life. We can see the beauty in the sticky parts, without getting so stuck.