Freedom From Confinement vs Freedom Within Confinement
For the past week, the combination of Passover and Coronavirus Quarantine has given me lots of time to consider the concepts of freedom and confinement.
Although we often speak about Passover in shorthand as the celebration of when God freed the Jews from slavery, it’s more accurate to describe the event as God leading the Jews out of Egypt. The Hebrew word for Egypy, Mitzrayim, means “the narrow place” — the place of limitations, restrictions, or confinement.
So Passover is really about celebrating freedom from restrictions, a release from a place of confinement.
Ironically, today New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an extension of the New York on PAUSE stay-at-home restrictions. So while Passover may be coming to a close, our current period of confinement continues.
But what if the real lesson for us to learn here wasn’t about attaining freedom from confinement, but rather about finding freedom within confinement?
Freedom Within the Practice
This idea was planted in me by Abbie Galvin, the founder of The Studio, a Katonah Yoga studio in New York where I have been practicing since late last year. Over the weekend, I participated in a Home Practice training (virtual, of course) that Abbie taught. She encouraged us to adopt a set sequence for our home practice, and to stick with that sequence for several months, maybe even a year.
For many people, my self included, this seems confining. Shouldn’t we be working on other poses? Don’t we need variety to ensure a well-rounded practice?
Abbie’s point was that a home practice is a vehicle for going inside ourselves; a place to discover our inner workings. The restrictions take us out of our first nature, our habits.
By repeating the same practice daily we will gain insights into how it changes, and how it changes us, through the seasons.
Repetition leads to revelation, and that awareness creates freedom.
Limitations Can Give Us Freedom
One student posted in the chat that she had been doing the same practice for several months and found freedom in the fact that there was nothing to decide. Just show up and do the practice. You don’t need to listen to what you feel like doing today.
This, of course, is a practice I’ve adopted in many places in my own life. I don’t decide whether to exercise in the morning, or sit for meditation, or write a blog post. By removing the choice about whether to do the practice, I free myself up to focus on what I’m doing in the practice.
In this time of quarantine, I’d already been adapting my morning fitness ritual to focus more on my yoga practice, especially when it’s been too cold or rainy to go outside. Committing to the same practice every day has removed the pressure of deciding what to do, or designing a new sequence every day. It’s even freed me from the pressure to check in with myself about what I think I need on any given day.
I just hit the mat and do the practice I’ve committed to doing. And this frees my energy to be more present in the practice and notice what’s happening in my body and mind.
Beyond the Yoga Mat
This principle applies everywhere. For years, I’ve mentally wrestled with clients who want to preserve all of their options when buying a home or making another life change. Although “optionality” sounds like what we want, it often leads to indecision and stagnation.
Similarly, those of us who are creative often believe restrictions stifle creativity. We want total freedom to create as our heart desires. But the truth is that creativity demands restrictions and limitations to thrive. In fact, limitation is what creates the container for creativity.
We often default to binary thinking: freedom or restrictions. In reality, it’s never that simple. Everything contains everything else within it. Absolute freedom can paralyze us with an overwhelming number of choices. And limitations or restrictions can give us freedom to experiment and tap into a well of creativity.
This time of coronavirus quarantine is a perfect opportunity to explore these concepts, on and off the mat.
This is the Time to Explore
We’re not getting freedom from confinement for at least another month. So it’s a perfect time to explore how we can find freedom within the confinement.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and where you are finding freedom within the confinement in this time.