Disappearing Ground: Navigating Uncertainty in Entrepreneurship
Updated: Jan 21, 2021
Sticking with uncertainty is how we learn to relax in the midst of chaos, how we learn to be cool when the ground beneath us suddenly disappears - Pema Chödrön
When I became an entrepreneur, in a big leap of faith, at the age of 32, I knew that it would be a difficult road to travel, yet, what I didn’t quite understand at the beginning of the journey, was how much time I would spend traversing disappearing ground. At one moment, feeling the solid terrain beneath my feet and the next, finding my foot dangling in the air with nothing to catch my falling step.
In the first few years, this would terrify me, and I would jolt up, eyes wide, desperately seeking the ground. And, of course, this only led to feelings of helplessness, doubt and fear as my foot struck out blindly in the air, with nothing emerging to support it. At these times, I would obsess about the logistics of my business; scrutinize my financials, fill my notebooks with sketches of new structures, revenue streams, and strategies, and repeatedly awaken around 2 am to review it all again in my hypervigilant, unsettled mind. It was exhausting, overwhelming, depressing and only resulted in feeling stuck, hopeless and afraid that I would never find the ground again.
But over time, I began to notice an interesting pattern. On the days that I meditated in the morning or had been sitting with my clients, as I guided them into their bodies, for most of the day, I noticed that I was less afraid of the expansive air beneath my feet. In fact, I was intrigued by it and more curious about what lay there, in the unknown. Nothing about my business had changed, but I felt more trusting, more calm, more grounded. So, being the inquisitive person I am, I decided to dive a little deeper into this experience so I could begin to understand the difference.
Why was it, that one day, I was terrified and practically crawling into the fetal position? And, the next, despite low-grade uncertainty and doubt, I was able to be more curious and trusting of myself and the future of my business.
And with that curious inquiry, an interesting pattern emerged. On the days that I sat in my meditation practice or sat with my clients, which for me, as a somatic psychotherapist, consists of dropping fully into my body to be fully present with my clients, I noticed that I was more calm and optimistic. I stayed expansive in my perspective, still able to see the challenges of my business, yet rather than regarding my discomfort with fear, I had an expanded ability to relate to the discomfort. I was able to use the information as a tool to understand where I was possibly holding back or shutting down. What had first appeared to be an issue with my revenue stream, would then appear as a problem I was having asking my team for help.
After a few months of this deep exploration and intentional noticing, what did I discover?
My ability to be fully awake in my mind and my body - to be present - was equipping me with an ability to be more curious, more self-aware, more compassionate and more capable.
And, being more present, is all good and well. Sounds simple enough, right? But, as we all know, presence isn’t always easy to embrace.
In fact, many of us turn away, constantly, from being present with what we feel and how we feel. For a majority of us, there has been pain in the body or in the mind and we have learned to stay clear of it, by distracting ourselves with work, food, relationships, technology and myriad of different behaviors.
Yet, by returning to the body, by remembering the body, we can heal the pain of the past and learn another way to sit, in the present moment, with ourselves. By sticking with it, by staying present in our body, we learn to relax in the midst of chaos.
At whatever level of presence or self-awareness you are currently experiencing, I encourage you to start there. And, embracing a beginner’s mind, I encourage you to consider incorporating the following practices into your daily or weekly routine.
It can be very easy to get caught up in everything we have to get done, on any given day. Yet, staying in constant motion interferes with our ability to tune in and notice what we are feeling. Think about the way that water, when still, appears to be a mirror, reflecting back the sky. We want to invite this same stillness into our being so that we can more clearly see and observe our inner self. Setting an alarm on our phones or using a mindfulness app such as #SelfCare by TRU LUV to help us take a moment to press the pause button.
Notice with Curiosity
When we look inside, with curiosity, rather than judgement, we are able to see more possibility and we are often more compassionate with ourselves. One might ask, “I wonder why I am feeling so tired?” or “I am curious about the way my stomach tightens when I talk about this part of a work project…”. These are examples of turning towards our experiences with an open mind to see what might be lurking underneath our reactions, thoughts or behaviors.
Observe Emotions and Sensations
Developing the habit of slowing down and tuning in with curiosity also sets us up well to engage in self-observation. The ability to shift our attention from the external world and tune into our internal experiences can really help us observe the emotions and sensations that might, otherwise, have gone unnoticed. Once you begin to observe your sensations, you might notice the tension in your jaw, for example, leading you to notice that you are feeling frustrated and then with this awareness, you can release the jaw, letting go of the tension and, therefore, lowering your frustration level. When we “name it to tame it”, we are bringing attention to what we feel and are more likely to shift and, decrease the intensity of that emotion and, eventually, shift the experience in the body.
Accept Where You Are
And, lastly, after we have paused, looked inward with curiosity and observed our internal experience, we can then practice self-acceptance.
"I am here, in this moment."
"I am awake in this moment and I can fully accept myself, as I am."
This is a practice that is aided by deep belly breathing. Taking a big inhale, filling the belly with air and then long exhale, breathing out, releasing the breath. Repeat 2-3 times. And saying out loud or to yourself, "I am here".
And, once you have accepted your experience, with no judgement, in the here and now, you can move towards reconnecting with yourself. Your most present and resilient self.
I share these foundational practices for cultivating presence, at this time, because we need it more than ever. To move forward toward a more integrated, inclusive and sustainable society, we need to return to ourselves. To be present and connected with our own truth, wisdom, hope and resilience so that we may continue to be there for our teams, organizations, loved ones and community.
If you are struggling right now, just know that what you are feeling is understandable and you can access additional support to help you navigate this uncertain time. You do not need to lead alone. Book an complimentary consultation to learn more about how I can support you with individual and/or support group offerings.