you and me

The Labyrinth: A Series of Art. {Part Fifteen: Stagnation}

{Photo credit: Kristi Stout}

I have a fantasy-adventure, illustrated fiction book I wrote some years ago, called The Quest of Heart.

There is a scene in it where the heroine Satori gets lost from her path and finds herself in the realm of Stagnation, where a monster lurks with many sticky mouths. It goes by the name of Suffocation, and it sneaks up on its prey only to pounce and capture it in one of its many mouths, asphyxiating the victim.

Satori harrowingly gets caught in one such mouth. Victimized, she experiences the feeling of being suffocated in darkness.

The more she feels sorry for herself, the harder the constriction, the darker she feels until finally she finds a deep internal power from Halfheart — the name of her heart, a fuzzy creature that perches on her like a pet bird and speaks to her in a still, small voice — which gives her the strength and power to push open the constricting monster’s jaws enough to rescue herself from annihilation by Suffocation and its stagnant realm.

Halfheart (her heart) in that traumatic moment (and along the rest of Satori’s quest) always has a small voice that gives Satori superhuman courage and superhuman strength.

Our hearts do indeed hold this superhuman power, waiting to bestow it upon us when we too become captured in the maws of Suffocation, who dwells in the realm of Stagnation. Nothing lives in what’s stagnant, unmoving, and un-flowing, except perhaps a pest or a bacteria.

That is to say, our purest potential goes unrealized, it eventually decays and dies, and it’s so easy to become comfortable and stagnant (just as the Joneses).

While a groove is important to find, and helps maintain a sense of purpose and direction, getting stuck in that groove is where stagnation occurs, as we become too afraid of stepping off the track and finding the path that sounds more enlivening if the one we are on is less than inspiring or even unfavorable. Meanwhile, the groove is getting so deep that we’ve dug ourselves into a dark pit we cannot rise out of.

And voila, you’ve entered the realm of Stagnation. You start to proverbially suffocate. This is what happens when we do not take a hard look at life from time to time assessing our personal truth, and instead choose to settle or do what we were taught or is based out of fear, versus what feels right and true to our heart.

Stagnation happens when we submit to the whims of what’s easiest, all the while forgetting to nurture ourselves.

What we become then is an atrophied version of what was once our truest potential, which has now shriveled up and suffocated what we actually are on the inside, what astrology may reference as your moon sign, which is the archetype of your inner emotional world, our dark side (not dark as in evil, but dark as in the part of us that doesn’t get much light shed upon it).

We are remarkable creatures, capable of remarkable things, filled with remarkable power, most of which never gets fully utilized in a lifetime. We have come into an epoch where the way we have been doing it collectively is getting stale and unsustainable from a larger perspective. All in all, there is energy whispering of an old and decaying way.

So many methods mostly in realm of institutionalized are stagnant, burnt out, and slowly becoming obsolete (I think collectively many of us are feeling this at a deep level), this feeling of wanting more out of life, not fitting into the norm, etc.

You don’t have to look very far in headlines these days to find evidence of it — things not really changing, and in some cases, just getting worse. When things don’t change, adapt, or evolve, they get left behind, they shrivel and they die, or they become a cesspool of pestilence, which gets reflected in headlines on a larger scale and also in our personal lives on a smaller one.

A healthy life is constantly in e-motion. Energy motion flowing in a current.

A healthy life, being constantly in motion, should not be confused with its evil twin — the stressful go-go-go life — because even though stress is also action and motion, and may even be considered energy in motion, the constant barrage of stress is also a form of stagnation, as it’s an inability to stop doing what is hurting you, an inability to step out of a rut and perhaps what is most comfortable (as odd as that sounds).

I believe a lot of us are comfortable in our stress (and our pain) because it can be a scapegoat for not having to better ourselves. It can be an excuse to not do the genuine hard work, which is like what a sprout does as it breaks out of a hard-cased seed. Or what a caterpillar does once it emerges as a butterfly.

That kind of hard work is nature energy in motion (e-motion) — action by natural law, by cosmic law. The hard work we relate to as a societal norm is not natural whatsoever.

Suffocating our natures by filling our schedules to the max and constantly having places to be, or Joneses to keep up with, is a perfect distraction, and doesn’t hold us accountable to the things that actually suit our natures better. Have you taken a hard look at this in earnest? Just because it’s what you were taught or what everybody else does doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for you.

And oftentimes what suits our better nature is actually harder than the stress we put ourselves under so we can avoid it, but harder in a healthy way, like a sprout pushing out of a seed casing.

Sometimes being still and resting in darkness can be more courageous than being constantly on the go (a form of stagnation), because it requires you to see with different eyes. And if you can achieve seeing this way, that makes you superhuman in my book.

{Photo credit: Kristi Stout}

“Ordinary living takes courage, and to rise above the ordinary into the extraordinary takes even more courage. One of the keys to courage is to consider the fear and find a way to let the energy of the fear itself power the action. That is true courage.” ~ Jessica Macbeth

I love this quotation because it’s true. It’s scary to be out of our comfort zone, but if we can transmute that fear into fuel, it generates the courage to rise out of the dark rut we have dug for ourselves and enter into a healing and healthy realm of pure potentiality that is a creative life-force unlike any other, bestowing upon us vitality and sustainability.

It utilizes your utmost potential, pretty much making you superhuman, proverbially speaking, and e-motionally (which is: energy in motion) so, and even though emotions are not material things, they are very much real. Sometimes our emotions can be physically crippling, and are the only things standing in the way of our greatest, truest happiness and pure potential.

However, one must be willing to lean deeper into darkness, and into the space of having no plan and no control, which will make you anxious at first — a lot like entering a completely dark and vast space, and being required to build a fortress with no help and no directions, not even light to see what you are doing and how to accomplish it, but relying solely on your hands to feel out the tools and perhaps your ears to listen to the space that surrounds you and how much of it there is or isn’t.

But the cool and trippy thing about it is, as you begin to build it (whatever it is), ever so subtly your surroundings start getting a little lighter. It’s slow at first, and you get angry and frustrated and doubtful, maybe even fearful a lot in the beginning, because how can you do anything in this condition that is out of your control?

You feel powerless and helpless, but what’s remarkable is, the more you trust in yourself to do it, a co-creative effort meets you from somewhere, and arrives to help you.

You began this insurmountable task, sitting there in the darkness, a victim, frustrated and angry, not knowing where or how. But with seemingly no help to achieve this seemingly impossible task, you realize you have everything you need, and it’s all you.

Eventually, slowly, you start to trust your senses more. You start to exercise your stagnant sense of touch, and you get to learn how acute it actually is. You start to trust in that, and even love it. And then you start to recognize that you are capable, even in the darkness, of doing this.

As you arrive at these small yet highly important epiphanies, suddenly a little more light gets shed in your direction and on how many awesome tools actually surround you, until finally you have completed building something all on your own, something which began in total and complete darkness but is now standing beautiful in a warm and bright light, asking you to bask in the glory of your own power, which is not a power over, but a power in.

And you look at it all and say: This is good. And I did this. And look at the light that came for me as I created it (paradox).

And this suddenly makes every other task and challenge seem elementary. “What was I ever afraid of?” you find yourself asking. “Look how powerful I actually am.”

Really, the only thing any of us are afraid of is our own power and how much work it is to be in power. But it’s a work that doesn’t drain you, rather it sustains you and also makes you stronger. First you have to step out of  the comfort that is stagnation and be willing to begin in total internal darkness, which is not for the faint of heart.

{Photo credit: Kristi Stout}

This is an ongoing series by Kristi Stout. Tune in weekly for the next chapter in ‘The Labyrinth’.
If her art resonates with you, and you’d like prints, contact her through her website or Facebook.

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Kristi Stout

Kristi Stout

Kristi L. Stout is an artist, mother, and lover. She considers herself a Renaissance woman, in service of Love in its many forms. It is her belief that inside each of us is our own sacred, Wild nature -- a hidden instinct that is not forgotten as much as it is dormant, like leafless trees in winter. It is the part of us that is connected to all things. A knowing without knowing. The part deep inside that understands darkness is necessary for the moon to simmer silver, and recognizes that even if you’re lost in the middle of nowhere you can always find a sacred somewhere -- like an internal compass pointing true north to your heart center. Her passion project, work in progress, is She Is Wild. You can find more of Kristi’s work here or connect with her on Facebook.