A writer sometimes wonders where to begin, especially after so much time has elapsed. (I haven’t written anything for months.)
Einstein would agree that since time isn’t linear, the chronological beginning isn’t always the best place to start a story. After all, who’s to say if the commencement of events was truly the beginning, or if the bonafide beginning was actually the ending of some other beginning’s end? (Please follow me down the rabbit hole.)
So I will start from the simplest place possible.
I haven’t written for a while. I hadn’t felt moved to write, hadn’t been moved to words and hadn’t been moved to move anything very much at all, not even myself, let alone the obstacles that lay ahead of me.
So I didn’t.
I didn’t want to talk, either. I was tired of talking. I was sick of talking to doctors, I was sick of explaining my compromised health situation to my former employer, friends, family, the short term disability office and people who asked “what happened” to me or “what’s wrong” with me when they saw the scar on my neck. At the time, it seemed talking only took me from one debate to the next with my doctors as we mapped out the next steps. (One of my favorite conversations was with a male doctor who told me that ovarian cysts don’t hurt “like that”. Oh, really? What book did you read that in? How many have you had?!)
Since I didn’t want to talk, I definitely didn’t want to write. And I didn’t want to talk about why I wasn’t writing, either. I had nothing to say about anything.
I attributed it to writer’s block. I blamed writer’s block and cursed the day that birthed the bastard. I struggled to find inspiration. I struggled to find things that resonated with my soul. I had occasional bursts of conscious thought that shot across my mind in a meteorite like fashion, but when it came to grounding myself to Earth to put it in a post, I was light years away and my star was burnt out.
After long and arduous journey, when I returned home, I realized I had learned something infinitely valuable.
There’s no such thing as writer’s block. I couldn’t defeat my opponent because I did not know the identity of my enemy – myself. I was focused on combat instead of working with my opponent. I can only destroy my enemy when I make him my friend.
I had to get back into my body. My body was not the enemy. I was living in my body much the way a war veteran experiencing PTSD may – by trying to live out of it. My psyche had waged war, launching dissociative defense mechanisms to protect me from having to deal with uncomfortable experiences, the frustration I was going through as I was being told to ignore pain, ignore this, ignore that. The doctors were slowly teaching me how to succumb to learned helplessness and I was sinking, though I didn’t realize it. Instead, I concentrated on solely my spirit, with little focus on the somatic. I slowly settled into stagnation; it suited me.
And it served me, for however long I was seduced by the stagnation. With the stagnation came silence. I wasn’t just not talking; I was learning silence. Very slowly with the silence came a stillness. And with the stillness came a desire to move.
Despite my best intentions, I still couldn’t come up with a flow, a rhythm, my usual way with words. Several times I started and several times I stopped.
But as you see, I started more than I stopped. I succeeded more than I struggled.
And this time I have succeeded. This is why I say the beginning isn’t always the best place to start.
Prior to the successful start that is this post, I hadn’t yet made that connection between serving my soma and serving my spirit. I didn’t make that connection until this past weekend, when I attended a yoga teacher training from an organization called Street Yoga, a non-profit organization that spreads mindfulness & healing to youth in need through the use of yoga. I had been signed up to take the training in July 2011, but I was unable to attend, as this was during the initial onslaught of my symptoms. I had been granted a partial scholarship and I was determined not to miss this training opportunity while it was here in New York City again – especially since, as a social worker, I know how valuable of a tool yoga can be for healing and I wanted to serve better serve my clients. So although I didn’t feel physically up to it, instead of resisting, I got up and showed up. And I moved. I moved a lot, and in different ways from my familiar sporadic yoga practice. I came home with a new definition of what yoga is and what it looks like.
Yoga isn’t just asanas (poses) practiced on a mat. Yoga is the union of breath with movement. A yoga mat is similar to a box in some respects; it’s a well defined space. I wanted to use yoga to be of service, so I needed to step out of the box and step off my mat.
During one of my stopped starts (notice I’m not calling it a failed attempt) that happened after a lovely reader named Hayley wrote me this beautiful note, I had come to the realization that we aren’t given gifts to keep them to ourselves, but instead to present them as presence, to be of service to others. Yet I still couldn’t come up with what I wanted to say…
Things started and they trailed off into nothingness, uncharted territory, waiting to be traveled, explored and begging to be completed, like the previous thought.
One of the fundamentals of teaching a class with Street Yoga is “always bring it back to the yoga”. This weekend I did that, despite my resistance. And it was then that I realized it is true; resistance is futile. Yoga asanas teach you to go the path of least resistance – surrender. You surrender and you sink deeper into poses. You do not fight your breath, but breathe deeper and follow it to see where it leads you. Discomfort in a pose isn’t your enemy, but your friend. It teaches you the difference between pain and discomfort, a difference that you will only learn by being fully present and observing. It teaches you not to ignore pain, that pain is providing valuable information about your body. Pain is your friend! And you always have the option of modifying the pose to avoid pain as opposed to leaving the pose completely.
You do not have to run from pain, frustration and other uncomfortable feelings. Pain does not mean that you cannot complete the pose; it means you may need to modify it. Do not make pain your enemy unless you will make pain your friend.
Much like the Heracles of hip hop, Jay Z, said: “Can’t run from the pain, run towards it.”
If your body, your frustration, your writer’s block or whatever else it is that is plaguing you is your enemy right now, do not curse it. Observe it, identify your opponent, shake hands and be friends. You can obliterate your enemy and blast him to smithereens, sans bloodshed and violence… with peace. Curse the day that birthed the bastard and then buy him a drink.
Trust your struggle.
YOU are your most worthy opponent.