How to turn “walls” into speed bumps
Yoga has emerged to be one of the most crucial all-around pain management technologies in my life. The ability to move, breathe, move some more til it hurts a lot and then learn to breathe through that is the perfect metaphor for life. It’s the disciplinary practice of yoking my mind and body using my breath. It keeps me sane.
So when my practice gets interrupted because life has other plans, you can imagine how challenging it can get. Yesterday I got a significant portion of my big toenail unceremoniously ripped out by a qualified doctor. Today my toe is liddup AF. Not good for my yoga prospects. Or my pain/brain load.
MY MIND TELLS ME THAT I’VE “HIT A WALL”. THAT FORWARD MOTION IS IMPOSSIBLE. I CAN FEEL MYSELF GOING NEGATIVE AGAIN. AGAIN. At the same time, I hear a little voice say “What if that wasn’t a wall at all? Slow down and proceed with caution.”
Those are pretty opposite ideas to have bouncing around in my head so I have to choose one and follow it wherever it leads. One generally leads to pain relief, one leads to a negative feedback loop that increases pain and dependence on something outside of myself to fix my pain.
Technically as long as I can still breathe I can still do yoga. That’s what the teachers tell me. So it’s a lie that I can’t do yoga. It’s a lie that there’s a wall. And it’s a huge lie that now I’m stuck and can’t continue with my routine.
This negative skewing brain ditch (my term for neural network) is an old one that I dug for myself for years. It was turned into an 8-lane highway by a solid year in bed on ALL the pills and still wants to bully its way into the driver’s seat today.
I HAVE TO DO THE WORK TO ACTUALLY DIG A NEW DITCH. MY NEW WAY OF SEEING THINGS IS ENTIRELY UP TO ME TO CREATE BUT I’M THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN DO THE WORK.
That’s the good news and the bad news because I trend towards being the laziest person on the planet. So if the work of recovery and healing is mine alone to do then I’m the only thing in my way. Duh. Times my whole life.
Here’s how I’m training myself today to think differently and dig some new brain ditches:
- I am learning to observe without judgement all the worst and most stubbornly objectionable aspects of my character and nature without having an emotion about it. I need to look at flaws to fix them. Having an emotion about it burns energy I need to heal.
I’m not noble and I learned this the hard way, but IF I’m going to improve I have to make room for new stuff by getting rid of the old. If I let how I feel about my past failures overwhelm me, I probably won’t own and then let go of that behavior. I’m dead in the water before I even start. NO NEW DITCHES THERE!
To see a “wall” as a speed bump I have to first acknowledge that I tend to turn minors into majors. No one wants to be seen as a drama queen but if the shoe fits then getting whiny only prolongs my use of the old ditch. Remember--the goal is to dig a new ditch not decorate the old one.
- I’m learning that big things start really small sometimes. And sometimes they start really slowly. And there’s nothing wrong with small or slow except when I get judgy about it.
Excavating a new ditch sometimes starts with a teaspoon of change at a time. Sometimes new ways of thinking are uncovered as subtly as an archeologist with a paintbrush working for days on a single shard of pottery.
When (not if) I get impatient or frustrated at my failure to progress at the pace that I think will land me where I want or “need” to be…I usually lash out at the world around me and blame others for my own circumstance…that same circumstance that is almost entirely of my own making and imagining.
When I’m feeling more “spiritual” I simply turn that lash inward so no one can see my sad jaggedy old crusty brain ditch at work.
AS I TAKE THE TIME TO LEARN TO ENJOY THE PROCESS AND FOCUS ON THE SMALL AND THE SLOW, I’M ACTUALLY DIGGING NEW DITCHES. SOMETIMES LIFE HANDS ME A FRONT LOADER. SOMETIMES A TEASPOON AND A TOOTHBRUSH.
Having unrealistic expectations or demands based on my imagined forward progress halts any actual progress. Practice makes progress…not perfection. Practice is also slow, unsteady and janky looking AF.
WANTING IT NOT TO BE THAT WAY BURNS ENERGY I NEED TO HEAL.
- I’m learning that just because I think it’s so doesn’t make it true. My brain is a powerful tool that needs to exercise discipline in the use of its creative power or I will always be a victim or a casualty.
As a person whose primary work in life involves being creative, I have found that my imagination is a vibrant, powerful tool in everyday life. It is also a jerk face and a violent rapscallion scallywag combo-meal of untrue ideas about myself and the world around me. And it follows me everywhere I go.
IF I can stop long enough to slide a sheet of paper between my imagining that a thing is true, and accepting that thought as actual reality, I seriously save myself a LOT of pain and misery.
MY CREATIVE URGE IS ONLY AS GOOD AS THE DIRECTION IN WHICH IT’S POINTING ME. That means that even if it’s vivid and ‘real’ and makes sense to me as ‘my truth’---It could still be complete dog pile and I need to learn when it’s time to let my imagination run wild and when it’s time to sit it in the corner with some glitter and glue.
I’ve misspent years under the delusion that just because I think it, it’s true, or “genius” or whatever adjective I needed to use to justify my position.
It’s a form of survival mechanism and in a very narrow place and time, this combination of imagination, ego and certainty in myself has had profoundly powerful and positive results. Generally though, the results have been sub optimal. Sub sub optimal. And exhausting.
DIGGING NEW POSITIVE BRAIN DITCHES ALLOWS ME TO TURN WALLS INTO SPEED BUMPS AND MAINTAIN FORWARD PROGRESS INSTEAD OF SLIDING BACK INTO OLD IDEAS THAT NO LONGER SERVE ME.
Knowing this means that I CAN do yoga today—which is what I’m about to go do—janky big toe and all. Right beside you all the way!