“When you find you are straining, whether in a yoga pose or in life, you’re probably trying too hard. Your ego is in it, and you are driven by an ambition that ultimately creates imbalance and suffering. This is the point when you should ask yourself: Where am I holding on? Am I holding on to tension, or to my ideal of what I am ‘supposed to’ be doing? Where can I let go more?”
~Baron Baptiste, in Journey Into Power, pg. 43
I’ve been dealing with some pretty serious anxiety recently – and couldn’t figure out how to work out of it, until it finally occurred to me that maybe re-tracing some of my steps, looking again at the path that had gotten me to my present place, might be illuminating.
So that’s what I’ve been doing over the course of my last several posts.
And it really, really has been helpful. So helpful. So useful. Sometimes emotions can get so tangled, it just impedes you from seeing anything clearly at all. And that’s where I was at. I felt it, but I didn’t know how to fix it. Luckily writing (and particularly blogging) help a great deal with the untangling process.
So I’ve written about some of the insights I’ve had in the writing of this series as they’ve come up. (This might be the most significant.)
And the quote above speaks to much of the rest. So that’s what I want to talk about here.
I’ve actually started wondering if re-reading Journey Into Power might have been something I needed to do – like, a hidden impetus for writing (coming from my subconscious or something.) Going through that book again has certainly helped me to re-frame some of the things I’ve been thinking about/dealing with in the last months – and I wouldn’t have picked it up if it weren’t for writing this post series. I wouldn’t have even thought about it. It was for the writing of this post that I hunted it down. And then after that, just because it was there, sitting on my desk, I started leafing through it – and finally re-reading it in its entirety last week.
The above passage, for one, resonated so strongly. I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
So, to bring things to the present day:
When I stopped second-guessing and finally went ahead and let myself do what I wanted to do, I dove into photography.
And this has brought me so much satisfaction – and really joy. It was definitely the right thing to do for myself. I feel like I’m more than I was before…if that makes sense. Like I’ve stripped off layers (photography has stripped them off) and become a different version of myself – more honed…more clarified. The more I’ve explored photography, the deeper this feeling has rooted.
But paradoxically, it’s brought anxiety too.
It’s because, as my skills have increased, and as I’ve felt more and more strongly that I’ve actually found the right path for myself (in photography/visual art and visual storytelling), I’ve begun to fret more and more about how best to walk that path.
“How best to….”
That’s a bad perspective to take – trying to live to that. I do know that – when I stop and think intellectually. It’s a poisonous perspective to take, actually – because making decisions based on what seems “best” puts layers of over-thinking between you and your intuition. And that separates you from your authentic self….and before you know it, you’re walking a path that is totally wrong for you.
And I’ve been there so many times! I have a real problem with this. I’m very prone to doing it – to falling into following what seems “best” or what it seems I’m “supposed to” do next. I struggled so much through my younger years – 100% because of this.
I’ve learned so much in the last few years…but yet I (obviously) can still fall into old modes of thinking! And I don’t always catch myself in the act.
I have to improve in this.
That’s one of my big tasks in life, I think – to master this.
What I need to do (really, really need to do) is take this advice to heart:
“Each time you think you don’t know ‘how’ is a clue that you aren’t willing to trust your intuitions – use this question as a tip-off that it’s time to tune in and trust the light of your inner knowing.”
~Baron Baptiste, in Journey Into Power, pg. 35
If I can train myself to remember this, it would be of huge benefit to me, I think.
I’ve realized in the last couple of weeks – with the help of the blogging I’ve been doing, and re-reading the Baptiste book – that I’d gotten myself so worked up with worry and uncertainty in the last months that I pretty much stopped moving forward at all. I felt this more and more – this lack of movement – and it was very disturbing to me. That feeling of being stopped, of not knowing where to channel my forward-moving energy, contributed greatly to the growth of my anxiety.
But what I wasn’t grasping until the last few weeks is that I was actually holding myself back. I was impeding my own progress.
Because I didn’t see a clear path unfurling before me, I started freaking out and worrying and over-thinking. And in that, I completely forgot one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in the last few years: and that’s that a clear path is an illusion! It’s a trap – like a siren call. I don’t even believe in a clear path. Everybody has to make their own path. When the way is too clear (because somebody else forged it, perhaps), that’s the quickest way to start operating on auto-pilot. And when you’re on auto-pilot, you miss stuff – like, for example, remembering to look critically at whether or not you’re happy or growing/expanding. You lose your sharpness, your clarity, your edge.
I don’t want to coast. I want to be awake and aware and savor each step.
I’m really annoyed at myself that I fell back into old (and bad) ways of operating in the last months. It’s not fun and it wastes time….pure and simple.
For example, I haven’t even taken my camera out much lately. And that’s because (I see now) I started to look at photography more as a commodity – at the expense of the soul-satisfying side of it.
I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with pondering ways to support yourself doing something you love. I think it’d be foolish to ignore those kinds of opportunities, as a matter of fact! But I was getting imbalanced. My sense of wonder, all that joy and zest and creative flow, were all getting lost in these onerous “maybe I should…” kind of thoughts. (“Should” is a dangerous word!) The less creative and joyful I’ve felt, the more difficult it’s been to advance as a photographer. Which is completely counterproductive!
Baron Baptiste relates this sort of happening to yoga:
“Postures can be achieved through struggle, but the struggle itself limits both your immediate opening and how far you ultimately grow in yoga. Struggle creates tension in your muscles, which constricts you, and in your mind, which limits you. If you relax and stop resisting and reacting, you’ll just know what you need to do in the pose.”
~Baron Baptiste, in Journey Into Power, pg. 43
I know this. I know this. I’ve learned this through some really hard trial and error over the last few years. But yet somehow I got off track anyway.
I think it began as early as September, when my daughter started Kindergarten. I felt like I ought to be making great strides forward or something, now that I had several hours a day I could count on to be mine alone. It all spiraled from there.
At least I’ve caught myself now.
The trick is to not go to that place again…or at least to catch myself more quickly. (Much more quickly!)
That’s my challenge.
I think the way to effect this lies in presence.
I think it has to…doesn’t it? If I’m in touch with myself and what’s happening around me, really in touch, then I’ll catch when there are things coming at me that are causing me to detach. (Like those awful “should” feelings that run counter to my intuition.) And then I can analyze and discard and negate them before they unwittingly add up and start causing me real trouble.
Yes…that’s my challenge.
Yesterday, thinking of all of this stuff, I pulled out my camera on the way to get my kids from the bus stop (the one on my phone, so not the best quality image-making device…but it was there!)
I hadn’t actually done that in a while – taken pictures just as an act of absorbing my surroundings. Which is sad! And something I should have noticed in myself before.
But anyway, I noticed it yesterday and took steps to fix it (“steps” being pulling out the camera I had on hand and using it!)
I walked slowly, noticing the sunshine and the warm breeze (it was in the upper seventies in Virginia yesterday), and as I did, I snapped pictures of things I noticed.
And it felt so nice. It was so (for lack of a better word) edifying.
I got a few nice shots, too – which was just icing on the cake!
I took some of my kids after school, too – which is another thing I hadn’t done in a while. And that also felt strangely good. Like, nourishing.
It was something about the act of embodying the moments I was in. It felt very…rich.
And I realized I’ve been denying myself the pure pleasure of taking photographs. Like I had to earn it (the taking out of my camera) by making some money first or something?? I don’t know. I wasn’t consciously thinking that. But I definitely had lost the feeling that I could (or certainly should) be immersing in art for art’s sake.
Which is awful! Whatever I do, I’m going to work really, really hard to make sure I don’t fall into that again. It’s almost like bullying myself – taking something away from myself that I deeply love, in punishment for not reaching some place I haven’t even consciously decided to strive for (like, making a certain amount of money or something.)
I read something recently (via Twitter….but I forget where) where the question was being posed: Would you be friends with somebody who talked to you the way you talk to yourself? Would you even like that person?
That’s something really important to think about when you start feeling beaten down or dejected, I think. How much of that are you putting on yourself? And what can you do to negate it? It’s not always possible to silence that little voice (it can be incessant) – but maybe you can do something nice for yourself, to run counter to it? Just let it say what it wants to say while you, say, put makeup and a nice outfit on and go immerse yourself in taking pictures in the sunshine? Or light candles and take a nice bubble bath? Whatever…just something kind to offset all of that terrible self-criticism.
I think I perhaps need to do a better job at the self-care. I think that might help – and might also support the whole being-in-touch-with-myself thing, too. If you don’t feel good or happy inside and you just ignore that in yourself, how can you expect to cultivate presence? I don’t think you can.
Part of living fully in your moments has to do with self-awareness. It’s about the way you’re breathing, the way you’re occupying space…and also about the way things make you feel. You can’t stuff yourself into a box and expect to live richly. It doesn’t work like that.
One thing I think maybe I should seriously consider doing for myself is starting a serious yoga practice. I toy occasionally with doing that, but I’ve never fully committed to it.
But I think the time might have finally come to do it – and that’s because of everything Baron Baptiste says in his book. It’s his argument that all of these powerful mental principles are supported by a yoga practice (and vice versa) – that the physical and the mental are intertwined:
“Awakening in one realm feeds the other…”
~Baron Baptiste, in Journey Into Power, pg. 32
Photography helps me enormously when it comes to remembering to live in the moment, to center, to breathe, etc. To live with authenticity and thoughtfulness. But clearly (as the last several months prove) photography isn’t enough in and of itself to keep me in this place – and it (the photography) can actually suffer when I get too far off track in this area. I don’t want that!
I like yoga anyway. I enjoy it. If it can be another tool toward this goal of presence (which the older I get, the more I realize might be my most important goal in life), I really have no reason not to embrace it.