I love Martial Arts because the parallels between everyday life and training are undeniable. It can be used as a simplistic way to get fit if you like, but in undertaking the commitment, the shallow notion of star jumps started to dissipate and the spiritual truths etched themselves into my practise. There is no end to this work. Even as a black belt, the masters don’t have all of the answers. Their wisdom is knowing that they know nothing. They are always looking to evolve.
Anyway, in my MMA training, we have five different methods of defence. These are listed in order of priority during a sparring session.
This week, I want to pull apart technique number 5. Avoid. The arguably less courageous technique in a fight, but when applied correctly, a great way to prevent some bloke knocking your teeth out.
We LOVE to use avoidance in everyday life.
As a creative, it’s so easy to pull out of commitments to build revolutionary new work. How many times I’ve said to mates, ‘We should meet up and do it!’ only to flake like pastry, is embarrassing. For around five years, I’ve told myself I will write a book. It’s a calling that whispers to me pretty much every day. Even my poor therapist holds me accountable to an admission months ago.
‘When are you going to do it Jen?’
‘Oh, well I’m thinking about it.’
‘I’ll wait until winter, because I work better in colder temperatures.’
‘My labia is still recovering from cycling so-’
‘I’m not a writer.’
‘My waters say it’s not time.’
I’ll give you another one. A painful conversation at Christmas dinner, as a family member reveals their toxic belief systems and ignorance. Therein lies a golden opportunity to educate. But you avoid it because you don’t want to upset the dinner table banter and be called a killjoy again. It’s bad enough being the vegan who can’t have the roasties. Shame radiates from you for weeks.
What about silence in a meeting that is begging for you to fill it? You’ve got something on the end of your tongue; an idea so profound it could change the rehearsal room forever. But you avoid speaking it into existence. You’ve accidentally put the person opposite you onto a supreme intelligence pedestal and talk yourself out of it. They would think you were stupid. Next thing you know John Bland comes up with a half arsed idea and everyone agrees. You sigh to yourself.
Or perhaps my absolute favourite; shopping for beans in the supermarket and spotting someone you haven’t seen for ages who is more negative than the minus sign. So you spend the next ten minutes, deliberately moving an aisle behind their route to avoid dreaded conversation.
Of course some situations we avoid for our own sanity and self-preservation. We manoeuvre through life best we can to preserve our identity. Yet I would counter attack with this.
Sitting with our discomfort is the gateway to transformation.
BAM. TAKE THAT.
Let’s set up a scenario for scientific evidence.
There is a pain in your chest every time you think of someone from your past. They were in your life years ago but the memory of them has left tarry residue that oozes out when you are most vulnerable. You’ve been conditioned to believe that distraction will eradicate the suffering. So instead of sitting and feeling all of the pain and letting it go, you decide to distract yourself with something else. Drink. Drugs. Sex. Other people. A crush. Instagram (I’m going to write a whole post about this soon). Yet when all of these things stop working, the pain comes back stronger than ever. Hotter and sharper, it leaves imprints over your collar bones and you struggle to breathe.
Here is where the opportunity lies you beautiful human. To sit with your eyes closed and feel it. To focus on breath and allow yourself to see what has been hidden for so long. To cocoon yourself in the feeling knowing you can endure it, until you realise it isn’t you. To cry burning hot tears of awkwardmessness. And slowly watch it dissipate.
Now it’s not easy work. That’s why most of us don’t want to meditate or go inward. Because stuff that we have avoided for years suddenly rears its ugly head and a vodka feels easier to swallow (or a whole loaf of sourdough- you decide). But at this time, when we are forced to be isolated, perhaps we have a real chance to dig in. We can access this pain and finally transcend it. To reach a new understanding.
Stop avoiding it friend.
Stop avoiding the truth of who you are.
Stop avoiding those little choices that will raise you to a new level.
I’m going to make a promise to myself, to my bestie and to all of you to commit to writing a page everyday of this isolation. I’ve written it here now, so you can hold me accountable. If I don’t do it, I vow that I will appear on a live Instagram dancing. And I can’t think of anything more sweat inducing apart from having a bath with rats, so that in itself is drive enough to commit to this cause.
What have you been avoiding? It’s okay. Admit it.
If it's pain, then sit with it. And I promise you, you will grow wings, you glorious butterfly.