Endlessly waiting as life goes by

Peter Munthe-Kaas
6 min readApr 28, 2023

I heard a piece of poetry at a Circling and Surrendered Leadership weekend I recently led. A participant described his experience as “endlessly waiting as life goes by” and that struck a deep resonance in me. The idea that something needs to happen before I can get my needs met and the belief it is somehow out of my control seems to play a big part in my life and is something I often see around me. Particularly in Circling spaces as the practice seems to show us the ways in which we are not free.

These experiences of not having space to be me or feeling like someone else should be different for me to be there are important, as they point to the edges of my self-leadership. These are the places where I am turning away from sensing and feeling myself because of the beliefs I hold of how I should be.

I just want to be allowed to be me!
A while ago I did a coaching session with a participant in the Copenhagen Circling leadership training.

At one point in our conversation there was a clear shift as my client became still and connected to the feeling of “I just want to be allowed to be here/I just want to be allowed to be me”. It felt like he was in contact with a very deep place and I felt like inquiring into it by asking “who is supposed to give you that permission”. Then we both laughed about the obviousness of the answer and how difficult it still seems to be. For me the question has for a long time been “am I really allowed to live like this?” and it comes up every time I embrace a new need in myself.

The past colors the now. It seems true for me that we are leading our lives from within, based on the lives we have had. We bring our past experiences with us into the present, including the best and most intelligent responses we had to those experiences — and thus we are creating the world around us in the image of what is inside us. As far as I understand, this is what is meant by Karma — what I am carrying with me is creating the world I am experiencing.

I have heard the word “character” (I would usually use “Identity”) described as “a system of constraints that regulate your development” and for me this makes perfect sense. Becoming aware of these constraints and letting them go seems to be at the core of the practices that I enjoy the most such as Tai Chi, Circling, Bodywork and Dancing. Of course, most of the time I am not even aware that I experience and act in the world in a certain way and thus unable to change. However, it is also true that I do sometimes become aware of a difference (a crack, a controversy, an opening or whatever I might choose to call it) and thus get the option to see yet another belief that is keeping me locked in an unwanted and unfree pattern of thought and action.

The theme of self-leadership has been very alive for me and around me lately. Particularly at Circling events. I have had many experiences of myself or others getting stuck in the feeling that they are not free and that it is somehow the responsibility of someone else to change the situation. Something might be wrong with the way a space is being held, with the group or with some specific participant, who makes it impossible “to be here in the way I want to”.

The core feeling seems to be: not liking the experience, without feeling empowered to change it.

When the permission to be ourselves is placed outside of ourselves we navigate after what we think will give us love and acceptance. At some level this is a reasonable strategy and a normal part of socialization, learning to fit in with the norms around us. But for many of us it also seems to lead to a shutting down of our life force and a feeling that we are not allowed to ask for what we really long for.

It also seems to lead to a lot of waiting for what we most deeply desire. If we are unwilling to show up fully with our needs, longings and boundaries, we end up in situations where we wait for others to make it possible for us to live. And that can make us resentful of the people around us, as it feels like they are the ones not giving us what we need or doing something to us that we don’t like.

In Circling spaces, if often see these expressions showing up:

I can’t be me, because I am wrong
Most people seem to have a belief that some part of their experience is not acceptable and will lead to them being left if they bring it forth. I often find that participants come with an expectation of having to be compassionate and spacious at all times and that by holding that belief they are turning away from their very real experiences of frustration, annoyance and other experiences that are not thought to be socially acceptable. This often leads to disengagement and the experience that something is wrong or that there is a lack of space

I can’t be me, because you are you
This often comes up when someone is being intensely angry/noisy/loud/embodied/sensual and someone else feels uncomfortable and that they can’t be in the space the way they want to. And when the discomfort is shared the angry/noisy party feels wrong and like they are not allowed to be with their aliveness.

I can’t be me, because someone is suffering
It seems to me that many people are somewhat conditioned to give more importance to expressions of suffering than to other expressions. We shut down our own aliveness and go into a mode of having to solve/fix the suffering. Seeing someone in a painful struggle can thus easily make us want to follow the pain to a level where the pain can start leading the circle.

I can’t be me, because I am not able to create what I need for myself
In Circling spaces this is often expressed as “the group or the leader is doing something wrong”, since the participant is not having their needs met.

Sometimes these expressions can lead to various kinds of fixing, where something needs to be changed, so the situation can become more comfortable. However it can also lead to beautiful transformations when someone brings the truth of their experience, which often holds a great deal of importance for them.

There seems to be a potential move from the perspective that there is a problem that needs to be solved for connection to happen (“i cant be here”) to seeing the sense of something not being as it should be as something that can be explored in itself: exploring not being deep, not being at peace or the sensations of being disconnected rather than trying to fix it outside of oneself. In other words, it is possible to be with the fact that it is difficult to be with what is instead of making it wrong?

In my power: Soft, vulnerable, shy, listening, responsive
A recurring image in my life the last 5 years or so has been connected to resistance to “stepping into light”. My usual thought process about this is that there is a deep rooted fear in me of claiming space and staying there. It is not as if I don’t take up space, because I do. It is about allowing myself to want it and saying it out loud and being seen in that. Some of the resistance seems to be about responsibility. If I really have power to change things around me I am far more responsible for my actions — and need to face parts of myself that I don’t want to be in touch with.

Self-leadership for me is about moving towards freedom. Realizing that my freedom is just a breath away if I dare to stand by my truthful experience in the moment.

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Peter Munthe-Kaas

I am a Copenhagen based researcher of urban development, workshop facilitator and body therapist. In all my work I focus on sensitivity and relating.