Fight or Flight

January 17, 2013 § 8 Comments

When things get hard, painful and downright dreary, what do you do? Do you dig in, hunker down and meet the challenges head on? Do you curse the difficulty, and look for a way out, procrastinating on the work to be done? Do you drop everything and flee? Do you curl up into a ball and cry?

Today’s practice was the classic example of A Hard Slog, featuring a tight right hamstring, bruised butt (don’t ask), a sore lower back, a runny nose and low energy. All these came together in a scattered dristi which, as the practice progressed, threw up familiar mantras like:

“Gosh I’m so tired. So so so tired.”

“Look at <fellow shalamate practicing with full focus and ease>! How does he/she do that? Sigh, I’m never going to get there.”

“Maybe I should just do half-Primary today.”

“Why am I doing this????”

“Oh god, NAVASANA!!!” (and, a short while later) “Oh god, BACKBENDING!!!!”

And I haven’t even got to the faffing intervals between postures, the gaps where I either yawn, blow my nose or adjust the towel on my mat. Procrastinators’ Anonymous, here I come.

The overall narrative today was that I was having a “bad practice day”, as defined by these physical markers. In my mind, this was a practice for the dogs, to be cast aside and forgotten in the hopes that the next practice will be “better”, meaning, no physical pain, focused dristi, smooth and seamless transitions.

Miraculously, amidst all the negative storytelling going on, I managed to gain some distance to see that this is the practice, warts and all. That it wasn’t any “worse” than other practices and that there are no “better” practices to aspire to. Some days will present the edge more clearly than others, and today was definitely one of those days. A day where I had to confront the full weight of effort and intention, and to work with it, despite my inclination to flee. I realized that when confronted with challenges, the first thought that pops up is to find a way to shorten my experience of the pain/difficulty/challenge. To minimize pain. To flee. At the moment where I have to really dig in and do the work, all I want to do is run to a place of comfort and ease. And it’s not just on the mat – it’s in many other parts of my life too.

It is tempting to play psychologist and ask “Why am I this way? From where in my childhood does this instinct come from?”, but the answers don’t actually matter do they? What matters is what is done with this insight – to change this behavior the answer’s really simple: keep hanging on and digging in. The very opposite of what I’m inclined to do.



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