Unbind yourself from contradictions.
If you are stuck, they may be why.
Trace your rules back to their source
Were they ever yours to begin with?
Or were they modeled? Inherited? Overheard?
Impressed upon you…or else.
Did they come from an abstract authority
Or your own innermost knowing?
Were they helpful for some other time?
Or someone else’s context?
Unbind yourself from tangled constructs
That whir the mind, enslave the body, and shut down the heart.
Study the cage you’ve made
Of unexamined private laws
That shrink the world to one so small
You sometimes wonder, why bother at all?
Last Sunday, during an embodied writing group session I discovered some alarming life-math. I was believing:
- To be happy, I have to exercise outside most days.
- To be happy, I have to let my body wake up naturally
- Because of the heat, I have to exercise before 6am
- I don’t seem to wake up before 6am.
- Therefore, I can’t be happy.
I also noticed that even on the days I did wake up naturally early, I wasn’t getting outside to hike. Because I believed I have to exercise outside most days to be happy, even when I woke up early, I would think, “What’s the point ?”
Once I saw the bind I’d put myself in, I knew that if I wanted to be happy, one of the variables had to change. I either had to:
- unhook my happiness from exercising outside
- set an alarm
- hike in the heat or
- move to a cooler climate.
As I had spent the last three weeks proving, my unexamined rules were a recipe for perpetual grumpiness, self-pity, and self-judgement about both.
Looking at the list, I decided at least one rule that didn’t hold up: I have to wake up naturally to be happy. Some of the happiest times in my life, like meditation retreats, I had been setting an alarm very early. I also decided that hiking in the heat wasn’t the worst thing, I sweat in Hot yoga on purpose, I could wear a hat and take a little sun. I got willing to set an alarm AND hike in the heat.
The very next day, I just happened to wake up early enough on my own to get outside before sunrise. Rather than my previous approach, “why bother?” I went for a hike.
I was right about one thing…I did feel happier! Who knows if that was due to the exercise itself or being free from the ties that bind, or a coincidence, but who cares! I felt empowered by moving from victim to creator of my situation.
I have hiked every morning since. Sometimes I wake up early enough, other days it was hot outside, other days I dropped my “outside” rule and went to a yoga class or a gym. By removing all my rules except one: I’m happier on days I exercise, which isn’t a rule so much as experiential data, I’ve unstuck myself.
Since this freedom, I’ve explored other binds. Yesterday I found this one:
- To have a lot of fun in life, I need to plan more fun things
- Planning ruins fun.
- Therefore, I can’t have fun.
I’m considering challenging, or at least questioning the “planning ruins fun” rule, but I haven’t done that yet. I’m still just welcoming my resistance to planning. But at least now by identifying this situation I can’t blame life for not providing more fun for me, I recognize it’s my own mental bind creating the feeling of stuckness.
Another one I have is this one:
- To love where I live, I need to live somewhere I can bike everywhere easily
- To love where I live, I need to live somewhere that feels remote
- I can’t live remote and bike everywhere easily
- Therefore, I can’t love where I live.
The problem with this bind, is that it keeps me from trying. When I’m subconsciously holding these beliefs, the conclusion “I can’t love where I live” keeps me from exploring, wondering, dreaming. It stops me before I even begin which keeps me from getting new information that might unstick me.
If you want to play this game, you can start like I did:
- Notice a place in your life where you feel stuck or frustrated.
- Start writing down your rules. For me, it took a bit of rule-writing to discover where the binds were. Above are synthesized versions.
- Once you find them, check your willingness to unbind yourself. Do you want freedom around your issue more than you want to keep the status quo? If your rules make you feel safe or comfortable, like in my “planning vs. having fun example” then give yourself full permission to stay stuck around that issue. For now it appears I prefer to not plan rather than have more fun. Can I let go of judging that or making it wrong? Can I let go of the hidden rule, “I should have more fun?”
- If you are willing to make a change, which of your rules or premise) are you willing to question or challenge?
- Experiment, and let me know how it goes!