Dance isn’t just about who can do the sickest freestyle or execute choreography perfectly. It’s about finding patience with yourself when you’re down and out while developing the strength to persist. On the dance floor is where we liberate ourselves. — Liz LeGrande, Dancer, as quoted in Alive magazine
I have been all up in my shit this week.
Marathon morning workouts in which I diligently pushed through my physical therapy exercises. It feels futile some days, like I have lost all ability to control the muscles in my body.
I literally punched myself in the stomach in an effort to engage my core.
It did not work.
During meditation practice, I could not breathe. Everything felt stuck.
For a fleeting moment, I wished to have my old body back. The one that felt strong and capable. I wanted it even if it was all an illusion.
I wanted the appearance of strength even if it was a lie.
I was welcomed back “home” (i.e., the room where I’m staying) by a familiar sound from New York: jackhammers blasting through concrete.
The vibration was outside my window and inside my body at the same time, stirring up the well of emotions that was simmering just below the surface.
(If you think sound doesn’t impact you, and vibration is “woo-woo,” stand near a jackhammer and then let’s talk.)
Frustration. Anger. Fear. Shame.
Mostly at myself. For hating on my body. For the self-aversion and self-punishment and lack of patience with the process.
My sympathetic nervous system was lighting up like a Christmas tree.
Suddenly, there was a brief reprieve in the vibration. I seized a moment of stillness.
I opened the magazine to this page and saw these words.
How Am I Treating My Body?
I wish I was in my 20s and this all came with greater ease. I wish I had a lifetime of body confidence and self-love to draw on here as I work to change decades of ingrained movement habits.
If I want my body to respond to the demands I put on it, I have to start treating it in a nice way.
I realized that this is part of my task here. To love my body and accept where it is as it changes through this process.
Carlos, my physical therapist, reminded me yesterday that I’m re-wiring my nervous system and brain circuits. That this is a lot for any body to process.
So I remind myself: Cut yourself some slack. Hold your own space. Patience. Surrender.
The Inner Work
Of course, it’s not just about the body.
The physical changes won’t come without the inner work.
I am aware of how I’m taking in and holding on to all of these negative energies. The vibes that come from other people and sensations that come from within.
They are poison and I’m allowing them to infect me.
I know what I’m feeling is not really caused by any of that. Because that’s all stuff outside of me and what’s going on inside is how I’m choosing to respond to it — or react to it.
I don’t need to be frustrated or angry — or fearful, which is what’s underneath the frustration and anger.
It’s a choice. A choice I’m making at this moment.
This is my M.O. It’s the choice I’ve always made:
Get frustrated and angry as a mask for fear. And then use that anger and frustration as fuel to push through for my next great accomplishment.
Prove myself. Overcome the odds. Push through.
Arriving through adversity. Fear into fuel. The Hero’s Journey.
Fight-or-Flight Isn’t a Sustainable GTD Strategy
The fight-or-flight response is the trigger for the physical patterns that I’m trying to change. As long as I stick to the strategy of finding my fuel in anger and frustration, I’ll be stuck in the pattern.
This strategy won’t work for the change I’m trying to make now.
I can’t train my body to release its fight-or-flight response while I’m putting it in fight-or-flight mode. I have to train my system not to enter fight-or-flight in the first place.
This seems so obvious, and it is. On a cognitive level. The pre-frontal cortex understands. Too bad that’s not what coordinates physical movement.
All the physical exercises in the world won’t help if I’m doing them from a place of stress.
Beating myself up is simply not the way. The more I push my nervous system, the more I engage with its resistance, the more it resists back.
How much longer am I going to beat up on my body? How much longer will I beat up on my soul?
I have reached the limits of the fear-as-fuel strategy.
Change won’t happen through force.
Pushing back against the resistance won’t produce the results I desire.
The Path of Trust and Surrender
I have to find a different strategy to get things done. The strategy must be based on acceptance, love, surrender, and trust.
Once and for all, it’s time to give up the self-criticism, the self-judgment, the self-induced pressure, the identity of pushing myself harder than anyone else could ever think to push me. None of that is serving me.
Underlying every habit change is a deeper habit change. This is that deeper level.
Learning to love myself and accept where I am right now. Even in the struggle.
Especially in the struggle.
I’ve been getting better at the love and trust and surrender, but there’s clearly more work to do.
Because this is hard work.
Creating from trust and surrender is hard even if I were in a place of no people to interact with and no pressures. And I’m not in a place of no people and no pressures. That place doesn’t exist.
It’s about finding patience with yourself when you’re down and out while developing the strength to persist. — Liz LeGrande
Persistence, yes. Of course. Always.
And, also: Patience. Self-love. Self-compassion. Surrender. Trust.
This is the work. This is always the work.