We all have our chosen ways of remaining ‘safe’ (and stuck), root bound in our favorite pot. Here’s how to outgrow it.
I’ve felt it often this past month, a certain heaviness in my bones.
Part of that weight is the heat and humidity of summer amid the palm trees of Hawaii, my body not inclined to move much, other than to place myself in front of the cooling fan. There is also something deeper, however, rooted in the shadows of myself — a familiar tendency towards inertia when I am out of balance in some way, when something essential for my wellbeing is absent from my life.
Last April, I injured my foot while walking in California and it has stubbornly plagued me since then, limiting my walking and exercise. The pain in my right foot has also effectively derailed any dance or movement practice, which is one of the primary ways I keep myself ‘unstuck’. As a result, I feel the familiar heaviness pulling me slowly down into a dull passage of days in metered domesticity. Root bound in a familiar pot.
Repeatedly, I have asked myself, what is the gift of this? What do I need to learn from it?
Injured or not, inertia mires nearly all of us in some fashion. I’ve written about it extensively in the first chapter of my book, The Bones and Breath: A Man’s Guide to Eros, the Sacred Masculine and the Wild Soul:
Despite the frenetic busyness of our lives, most of us are held in a state of containment and inertia. It is a sticky place of nonmovement and relative safety, where life is mostly predictable and homogenized. We are numbed to the deeper messages of the body, deaf to our soul’s whispered longing, and mutely dumb to the power of our authentic voice.
Inertia holds us all on some level, whether it is simply an early morning grogginess and lethargy from which we must wake, or a sense of dull routine that blurs our days into fog. It is also the passively drugged stage of television watching and Internet addictions, or the haze of drugs and alcohol as an escape from the pressures or doldrums of life (or own own demons). Inertia is the stale relationship or career we’ve outgrown but are too afraid to leave.
It’s easy to remain comfortably rooted in our familiar patterns. Containment, as I call it, is a sedentary, domestic rhythm of well-pattered grooves and restriction of vital energy. It’s a state in which most of us live and die.
At a basic level, containment and inertia constitute the lowest common denominator of energy in body and mind. It’s an unconscious realm of unquestioned beliefs, unexamined values, rigid attitudes, and accepting the status quo. Shifts of expansion and movement may be perceived as uncomfortable or even threatening. Indeed, there is a seductive, sedentary pull of inertia; our containment is effortless, easy, and nondemanding. Newton’s first law of motion — that a body at rest tends to remain at rest — is essentially the law of inertia.
Containment can feel normal, but such restriction isn’t our natural state at all — the body is designed to move. A tremendous amount of energy is required to remain frozen in inertia, yet we have little to show for this daily expenditure other than a rigid holding in the “bodymind” and a perceived safety in life.
To wake up and embrace a meaningful, authentic existence, we must recognize and loosen inertia’s grip on us. We need to confront our ways of being procrastinators, avoiding or simply drifting along, or surfing one wave of drama to the next. We face our addictions — Internet porn, food, work, anger, sex — and the deeper issues that they mask.
Yes, it takes requires effort to rouse from inertia. Courage, too. There’s always a reason not to break out of our containment, a million tempting reasons to stay right where we are: it’s too difficult, too risky, too unpredictable, too vulnerable, too… too whatever. (Pick your favorite excuse or avoidance and put it here.)
Complacency wears many clever disguises. If you are inactive for an extended period and start exercising again, you know that the activity may initially seem difficult — even uncomfortable — but then it gets easier. The stiffness, aches and pains diminish and we rediscover the ease, power and grace of our stride or activity.
Gabrielle Roth, a dancer-turned-movement guru, developer of the 5 Rhythms (a form of ecstatic dance), said, “the simplest way out of inertia is to start moving.”
The way we move, allow ourselves to be moved, or resist movement reveals much about us. Movement is the opposite of holding; it offers the antidote to inertia. When we begin to free the body, we simultaneously open the heart, emotions, and mind. And the soul.
I ask, have you stopped dancing in life? When did you lose the joy of moving? Singing? What are you afraid of? Many of us are yearning for a larger life and yet shrinking back from it at the same time, fearful and unsure. Conflicted. Stuck.
Inhale a deep breath. Move your body. Discover your untamed animal energy. A wild soul slumbers restlessly within, waiting to wake up and roar.
In The Bones and Breath, each chapter ends with what I call a Soul Skill: a simple tool that moves us directly towards a more engaged, authentic and powerful life. Soul Skill #1, the foundation on which all the others are built, is “Rouse from Inertia” — shaking loose from the containment and patterns that hold us.
A life of passion and meaning requires us to rouse from inertia. Movement is the antidote to our rigid stasis; it loosens somatic armor and restrictive patterns, and energizes the body. Both literally and figuratively, we have to get moving.
In a conscious life, one of our primary “soul lessons” is to learn that the body is the teacher, healer, and guide. As we begin to reinhabit and awaken our bodysoul, we discover not only courage but also an enticing new world of possibility. Muscles, bones and breath launch us from a lazy comfort zone into a state of grace, potency, energy, and alignment.
Years ago, Nike launched their now famous slogan, “Just do it.” Those three simple words offer a concise, powerful prompt and dose of inspiration; they also nicely paraphrase Soul Skill #1.
Last night, just as I was drifting off to sleep, I heard a voice say, If you don’t leave the familiar ledge, you’ll never learn how to fly.
We all have our chosen ways of remaining ‘safe’ (and stuck), root bound in our favorite pot. The shutters of our windows and doors are drawn in a familiar gesture, closing us in to a familiar, small realm. The gravity of inertia sets in and pulls us down. For me it happens most often when I’m not actively moving (as with dance) or opening my body (yoga), or being out in nature.
Even a simple walk through the neighborhood, my senses wide to the beauty that surrounds, appreciating the trees or whatever catches my eye, can shift my entire day and leave me feeling inspired. Awake. Humming in bones and breath. Fully alive again.