Expansion, contraction, expansion, contraction. It would be nice if this was an easy, regular pattern for change and growth in our lives. Dependable like breathing, predictable intervals, clear pay-offs. But it’s not. Sometimes some parts of us are expanding, while other parts are contracting. Sometimes our expansion hits limitations or boundaries and we have to contract a little. Sometimes we resist one kind of expansion in favor of another kind.
I’ve had a season of dramatic expansion. Parts of it have been painful, all of it has been illuminating. As I sit in the pause in between expansions, I realize I’ve been resisting, avoiding even, a few core issues.
The first one is yoga. For many years I had a serious yoga practice. I practiced 30-60 minutes of yoga and meditation in the morning. I had thoughts of getting certified to teach it. Then I had my son, moved to Wales, and had a second child. One of the things I was excited about when I moved back to the States was renewing my yoga practice.
Shortly after arriving I found a class and a teacher I quite liked. I even joined in her home studio practice. That was ever so brief. I realized how exhausted I was from the move and I needed to not to do, only rest. Then summer came and it was a whirlwind of travel and emotional overstretching, so come fall I needed to rest some more. I haven’t been to yoga in months. But yesterday I realized: a yoga practice, a quiet place free of the children once a week, would have been a Good Thing in all of this. There are all sorts of perfectly valid reasons I give myself for not getting back to my yoga practice, either in or outside of the home. But the fact is: I’m avoiding it.
Sure, it’s frustrating rolling out the mat at dawn. My joints creak and pop. Inevitably a child wakes up and needs a morning snuggle and then of course wants to sit on the mat or play under my downward facing dog or hop on my back when I’m in plank. That’s annoying, pretty cute, and my present reality. It’s going to be years before I can get back to a place of uninterrupted home practice. But I’m not accepting that. I’m internally pouting about it. It’s a form of self-sabotage and perfectionism. There’s never going to be a perfect time. If I don’t get back to some form of practice my joints are only going to get creakier, my will weaker.
Yoga is so important to my well-being. It creates more space in my physical, emotional and spiritual Self. I feel more connected to my Hindu practice, too. I feel more present in all my Parts; each positive, healthy act of Will encourages and strengthens other positive, healthy acts. Why do I continually avoid my mat?
I’m also avoiding writing. Last year my editor over at Patheos suggested I write a memoir. I was flattered, but mostly confused and daunted at the prospect. A few other people have since asked me when I’m planning on writing a book. I laugh it off. What could I possibly have to say? For the longest time I thought my PhD dissertation would be my contribution to the discourse of feminist religious thought. Now, that is less and less likely. I’m critical of the memoir form, both as a reader, but also as a potential writer of one. So many memoirs feel self-indulgent. I particularly look askance at ones written by people in their 20s and 30s – how much life experience could they really have?
Of course, I’m in my 30s. The thought of writing my spiritual memoir raises all sorts of doubting voices: what do you know? Who really cares? No one wants to read a book by a know-it-all. And so on and so forth. Instead of engaging with those voices and finding what might be true and helpful in there, I’ve just avoided the topic altogether.
After a particularly honest (read: brutal) heart-to-heart with Adam the other night over what my Work in the world might be, I’ve decided to revisit the idea of the memoir. Whether or not it will be my Contribution to the world of ideas, the act of doing it will be plenty potent. I know full well from my experience that whether or not this Thing is THE Thing doesn’t matter; it might be, it might not. What I do know is that it will open doors to The Work.
My resistance to even engaging with the idea of it is a pretty big sign that this is an area of teaching, growth, and struggle. What might I uncover?
Both yoga and writing are part of my spiritual practice, my daily routine (if I’m not doing yoga, I’m thinking about how I should), and ways I get in touch with myself. I’m not beating myself up about resisting – the very act of my resistance is a source of information. The first step is not to bully myself into doing the writing or getting on the mat, but to observe and be curious: what is this resistance about? What is it pointing out to me? How can I take what is valuable there and use it to refuel those practices?
That’s where I’m at these days.
What about you? What aspects of your life are you avoiding? What’s the payoff? Are you getting anything out of the avoidance?