By Vanessa Fleming, Summersalt Yoga teacher
Think back to a situation when you’re challenged by progression. Whether it’s in a yoga class, or your job, or any sport or hobby you participate in, it’s happened to all of us.
We usually call this phenomenon “reaching the plateau.”
When this happens, we often push harder. We take on more, we try to go outside of our capabilities, just to avoid stagnation. Sometimes, this creates an unsafe environment for our bodies or minds. When we find stagnation, we may have a tendency to avoid (avidya), or become mindless in our actions.
Oftentimes we devalue the importance of taking a step back. We have been sold the idea that taking a step back is weak or lacks character. If we push harder, we’ll break the stagnation and come out on top…right?!
But let’s be real…how often does that actually work?
What if, instead of pushing harder, we took the time to just slow down? What if we take some steps backwards and go back to where we started?
The viewpoint of going backwards can be humbling, or it can be humiliating. Which persona does the ego take on?
Somewhere along the line, we have told ourselves that starting over again means nothing has been gained or achieved. We’ve lost everything we have worked for.
I was talking to my good buddy, Farhad, about this. Farhad is a musician with whole lotta heart and creativity. He’s been playing music for over 20 years, and I am inspired by his dedication to his craft. What happens when he gets stuck?
“Sometimes you just have to take a step back and abandon an idea no matter how much time was invested into it. While it can be a very difficult thing to do, it’s important to note that no time was wasted in the grand scheme of things. This is the embodiment of the creative process. You have to be open minded in the review stages to assess if an idea is good enough to make the final cut. There are times when songs that have been worked on for days have to be scratched completely, and at other times it can be just certain parts. Abandoning ideas regardless of how time consuming they were is frustrating, but it can also inspire you to come up with something even better in just a few seconds. Some of the most amazing songs only took minutes to write.”
You know what sticks out here for me? Abandonment. Fear of abandonment. Fear in ourselves of being abandoned, fear of letting things go.
We attach to our things – our practice, our creativity. But with attachment we create suffering. With suffering, we can not grow. We can not see where we’ve come from, we only see where we are at that moment. Maybe that isn’t the moment we want to be in. We can’t see the bigger picture.
How do we see the bigger picture?
My friend Lara and I also talked about this. (Can you see my fascination with it?) She’s a former dancer. Whenever she and her fellow dancers would get too ahead of themselves, her teacher would put them all back into basics.
“All of us had this ‘advanced’ practice. But our teacher would watch our egos balloon, and make us go right back to the basics. And with that, we felt the nerves down to our bones. We felt the muscles from the simple moves. These poses, the ones that we ‘were above,’ rocked us right down to our cores and humbled us. She taught us to never take our advanced level too seriously.”
EGO! There it is again!
So maybe the next time you’re feeling a little stuck, stagnant, or like you’ve plateaued, remember, to speed up progression, slow down. Go back to the basics. See where you can find something new, a little joy, and a completely different challenge. You’ll get there with a new vision, a new technique, a new acceptance. And it might be totally different than what you expected.