I just completed the 6th day of the Couch to 5K program. It’s been years since I have built running into my life. A bulging disc and an awful winter with pneumonia took me to a place of feeling that running was not accessible to me. Of course, this opened the door to depression and weight gain. They say, “When one door closes…”
This winter, I was diagnosed with arthritis and a torn disc. My doctor and I laughed that there was no reason not to run anymore. Preventing the injury was no longer an excuse! It was 6 months later and I still had not given my running shoes a try. I have good days and bad in terms of pain. I know that the more I exercise, the more likely I will have better days.
What really shook me to jump back into this habit was a difficult day after my daughter’s injury. It was that moment when the pain was managed and the initial adrenaline wore off that she was integrating what was now different about her life this summer. “I can’t climb trees! I can’t do backbends! I can’t do anything!” I was choking with my own emotions, both in response to compassion for her and a dose of maternal regret about the things we can’t fix for our kids, but there was something else going on. I was facing my own process of closing doors to possibilities… to seeing obstacles in greater focus than possibilities.
With the strong motivation to inspire my daughter I impulsively announced that we were going to train for a 5 k. “Your legs still work!” Her tears subsided as mine flowed and we “high -fived.” She, half-heartedly. I’m a little bit dragging her into this. But I think there is something in that ‘drag’ that we both have to pay attention to, that we can learn from. We can feel a hesitation, where there is an inner dialogue perhaps but also just a ‘sit here, don’t move, don’t rock the boat’ physical experience. What we learn to do with that is up to us.
At our family cottage one of my most pleasant experiences is to do some yoga on the dock and then to slip into the clear water for a swim. On this trip, I paid attention to the moment before I would initiate these activities that I know are soul nourishing. I would feel the tug of resistance. The mosquitoes were bad. The water would be cold. Every day, I familiarized myself with that sensation of resistance. I was really committed to not working during my trip so that eliminated a large number of rational ‘reasons’ that may have existed in that soup of resistance. Still, there was that voice that says “just stay put”. When I sat with it, it became more familiar, and less intimidating. It was a sensation but not one that I couldn’t move through. Because I was on vacation, because the experience of yoga /swim was a very pleasurable motivation, I was aware that the resistance sensation was small and subtle. It was practice for the stronger sensation that is waiting in the wings post vacation.
We all have practices that bring us greater joy, health, connection. An intention to bring them into our lives is often met with a sense of obstacle. We all know that ‘resolutions’ get stuck somewhere between the wanting, between the starting, and the rest of the day. This month I am slowing down enough to notice the energies, thoughts, sensations that exist in the wanting, the starting, the doing. I’m noticing the pause before I shake things up and I am tuning into that sensation that will feed my new habits…. that rise in the feel-good stuff that my brain and body need.
I’m making a commitment to ‘greet the pause’. To take a moment to say hello to the clinging, stagnant resistance and then to say, “Please excuse me. I’m coming through!” I want to shake up my life, to bring positive energy and change to the aspects that are not flourishing. “Resistance” is not so rude that she can’t step aside if I just acknowledge her first.
For more thoughts on creating new habits, check out Kelly McGonigal’s The Willpower Instinct.