“A body at rest tends to stay at rest, and a body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an external force.” -Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion
“Any excuse will do.” -Ti Harmony
Though formulated for particle movement, it’s easy to see the applicability of Newton’s Law to our own personal experience. How many times have you found yourself wanting to start some positive habit for yourself (or even for others) like yoga or meditation practice for example, but it proves to be surprisingly harder than you expected? Maybe you’ve experienced it already this year with your New Year’s Resolutions that I wrote about before. I know I’ve experienced that challenge many times. That’s inertia, right? I hadn’t been doing this thing that some part of me wants to do, and so I endeavor to start it up, and what shows up instead or at least in addition to the desire to start it? Resistance… even to this positive thing. A body at rest tends to stay at rest. In some ways it doesn’t make sense that it would be like this; why would I/the Universe resist some positive, life-enhancing thing happening? It’s simple. I have a lot of experience doing the opposite, and somehow all that opposite practice needs to be overcome.
That’s where the “external force” mentioned by Newton can be helpful. We all know of instances, personal or from others, where the doctor gives some ominous diagnosis and we/the other person suddenly is able to change habits that were previously thought to be impossible to change. (And of course, we know that even sometimes, that huge shock is insufficient to get past the inertia.) Or our spouse gives us an ultimatum. Or our friends make a positive commitment and invite us to join them. (“Company is stronger than will power.” as Amrit Desai said.) Or our teacher nudges us in the direction we already know we should be going.
There are many ways that the “external” force can be applied, but for some individuals, an “internal” force, that being strong commitment and will power, is enough. The latter often works for me AND I know that sometimes “company is stronger than will power,” and I use that knowledge when needed. And fortunately for me, I have only experienced the massive-shock motivation only a few times. As best I can tell, Life gives us inner motivation first, which we attend to or not. Then we may get some of the “weaker” external motivations, until eventually some HUGE external motivation, which again, may or may not be “enough” to evoke the change. Global warming is one obvious external scenario where we can see this pattern, and I’m sure most of us have experienced it all personally somehow, too.
In the first meeting of my Path of Yoga group, I spoke about Yoga practice and its ultimate Goal and what is a reasonable amount of time for one to realize That? If I want to start some good thing or move in a more positive direction, I should at least from the beginning have a reasonable time frame in mind for it, otherwise I could easily get discouraged if it doesn’t happen as soon as I think it should. We also need to know if we are on the “express bus” or the “local bus” with lots of stops. Depending on the goal you have in mind, or the repeated practice you want to begin, there is quite possibly going to be some lag time (of days, weeks, months, years, or lifetimes) before our initial attempts at implementation and realization of the goal. We have to remember that “Falling down is not a problem. Failing to get up (and start again), is a problem.” As the saying goes for smokers, “don’t quit quitting.” For other situations, “don’t quit re-starting/resuming” may be a more appropriate phrase.
Resistance can take many forms. I’ve seen it take the forms of sickness (either of oneself or family members), car trouble (of all sorts), work “emergencies”, getting lost, procrastination, tiredness or lack of sleep, forgetting, busyness, WEATHER 🙂 and many others! I imagine you have some others that we could add to this list. So we do need to be watchful and wary of the excuses that show up for NOT doing the thing we set out to do. The ego wants always to maintain its illusion of control, so when it inevitably meets Reality, it will fight it with all the resources at its disposal, which are many and varied. About 20 years ago, I came up with the phrase, from personal experience, “Any excuse will do.” It doesn’t even have to make SENSE or be TRUE!!! That’s the beauty of excuses! Over the years I have seen IN MYSELF some painfully RIDICULOUS and lame excuses! The ego will always choose the excuse that is least damaging to it. Sometimes things happen that are seemingly out of our control (like sick kids or car), but if it becomes a pattern (even twice), then we will serve ourselves well to investigate internally and find the resistance that is, no doubt, lurking in there, and then do what we need to do to get past it.
There is good news in all of this. The other side of “a body at rest tends to stay at rest” is “a body in motion tends to stay in motion.” For this reason I am very wary and resistant to anything that might keep me from my practices and commitments. Amma and my other teachers have taught me, and my own personal sense of it is to keep up my practice(s) once I have begun them. Another physical law is that start-up always takes more energy than keeping something going which is true in personal life, too, so once we have a practice begun, it’s good to keep it going.
But stopping is not a problem in and of itself. Even pausing is not a problem. Getting off track or lost or making excuses are not a problem. All these are, no doubt, part of our process from time to time. But if we want to move strongly, courageously and positively forward in our lives, then we will need to, again and again, resume our commitment(s) with renewed strength and vigor and compassion and humility, and maybe also “with a little help from our friends.” 🙂
Thank you, fellow-traveler, for reading this far. I hope to see you in class or elsewhere soon!