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The Subtle Art of Avoidance

I began to ponder avoidance and its subtleties as I grabbed the broom to sweep my entire house instead of sitting down to write out my first blog post. I was going to write about the lessons we learn from our plant friends and what they can teach us, but I guess that will be a different blog/vlog post down the road. Today, I wanted to talk about the subtle art of avoidance and how sneaky that bastard can be.

So, what is avoidance? How can we as humans define it to better understand and observe its subtle arts? Well, for me, avoidance is something that happens when I am faced with a daunting or scary task. Take this blog for example. Blogging is essentially easy. It’s a collaboration of letters that make up words to express our thoughts on a specific topic or idea, right? Why was I choosing to sweep my house instead of write down some thoughts for my first blog? I realized that I was practicing avoidance, without realizing it. First and foremost, I am not a major in anything other then greenhouse work and being a wife. Most importantly, these blogs are my thoughts and ideas on things that nag at me and demand something more from me then simply existing. If I’m wrong, I apologize ahead of time and will do what I can to correct myself. Anyway, now that caveat is taken care of, lets get down to the big thoughts on avoidance.

Why do we avoid things? Well, for me it boils down into the area of discomfort or Fear. I avoid tasks that may expose me to a larger group of people who have their own thoughts and ideas and might think that I’m a complete lunatic or fraud. But I’ve come to realize that their thoughts are their own and they are allowed to have them. So why am I not allowing myself to express my own thoughts and ideas? Why am I avoiding putting myself out there? Because it’s uncomfortable. It’s work. It takes practice and time and whatever other excuse I can present to myself to justify why I avoid being heard or speaking my truth or growing within the community of like-minded people.

There is a tool that I was given by my first ever teacher who taught me that in an asana (yoga pose) you want to find the area of discomfort and stay there. That’s where growth happens. If you cross over into pain, pull back into the area of discomfort and stay there or get out of the asana all together. Even though this is a tool used in a yoga practice while going in and out of asanas, we can apply this to our everyday life as well. We can find the areas of discomfort and stay there to explore them so that we can go beyond them and grow into who we are as people. For a lot of us, this is a terrible idea. Why on earth would I want to sit in discomfort? Because that’s when you grow, that’s when you change, that’s when you start to figure out who you really are. So here I am sitting wholly in my area of discomfort, blathering on about avoidance and what we can do about it together.

Avoidance affects the areas in our lives that we are afraid of or are dreading the completion of. But I’m going to tell you something I tell my step-son all the time. Just do the thing. Right now, that feeling of discomfort or dread is HUGE because you’ve made it that way in your head. You’ve built this thing up to an insurmountable monster that cannot be defeated, but I’m telling you, you can. And if you can’t, find someone to help you. As my dad has always told me, it’s not about what you know, but who you know. Let’s get back to the topic of avoidance.

Avoidance can manifest in many many ways. Honestly, it’s incredible the number of things you can accomplish while actively practicing avoidance. Like today, I managed to cut down a bunch of limbs to make into walking canes, I watched another episode of The Punisher on Netflix, I tooled around on Facebook for about an hour, I swept my house, I watered my plants, I talked to my plants, I made lunch, contemplated why I like anti-heroes so much, thought about yet another DnD character that I would like to make (and likely never play) and that was all before noon today! And all because I was avoiding writing out a blog post. Right now, I’m struggling through this thing, because I have the fear that no one will like it. But truthfully, this is more for me then for you anyways. You just happen to be along for the ride. But that’s just it, right? Even while I’m doing “the thing” I’m considering ways of avoiding “the thing that makes me uncomfortable”. Oh, yea, by the way, I ramble a lot. So, bear with me, there is a point to all of this, I swear.

How do we avoid avoidance? Seems redundant, doesn’t it? Well, not really. You could boil it down to being passive or active. Avoiding is passive. You’d rather sit back and do nothing instead of actively getting up and doing the thing that makes you uncomfortable. I could really be enjoying another episode on Netflix right now and you would be none the wiser that I was avoiding the task of writing this darn thing out and sharing with you my random contemplations. But that next episode serves no real reward to me, nor does it serve any risk. I could be comfortably sitting on my couch, happily watching Frank Castle be a badass, or I could be sitting here talking to Gods know how many people about why avoidance is a toxic practice that hardly anyone is aware of. Well, I’m telling you that I am aware of it now, and so are you. Sorry.

For me, I have to utilize the tool of awareness to identify if I’m practicing avoidance or not. I have to really observe what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I have to sit there and really ask myself, does this need to be done right now, or am I just doing this because I’m avoiding x, y, or z? That’s where this whole thing started anyways. I got up from my comfy spot on the couch to come write out a blog about how awesome plants are and ended up sweeping my entire house. Now, you’re probably sitting there going, but isn’t caring for you house a good practice? Shouldn’t you do that? I mean, that Marie lady told me to, so why are you using it as a bad thing? I’m not. Taking care of your house is a good thing, it’s good for the mind, it’s good for the spirits of your house, it’s good practice to keep a clean house. What I’m saying is I chose to clean instead of write, in a practice of avoidance because I was experiencing anxiety over actually publishing these random thoughts that seem to keep racing around in my head. What I’m trying to say here, and flailing about wildly, is that I have been avoiding this since I completed my first round of training with my current teacher approximately two years ago. And he’s probably reading this going, FINALLY!

When you really look at avoidance, you will notice that there are many different types of avoidance. There are things like completing tasks that don’t necessarily need to be done right now in order to avoid that thing, or there are far more toxic ways of avoiding things like the abuse of drugs or alcohol. I’m not talking about the more toxic ways of avoidance, but they certainly need to be addressed if you are utilizing substances in that manner. I am under-qualified to handle such things and I hope you seek help if you are in that boat.

Looking back over my life, I have to laugh at all the times I practiced avoidance and the things I utilized in order to avoid a specific task that seemed scary or frightening. The excuses I told myself recently are especially comical looking back on them. I have everything I need to express myself right now at my fingertips, but chose to wait till the season at the greenhouse was over to really kick start my online presence. Even though I really was only working 4, maybe 5, days a week for the past month and have more time then most bloggers have to write and get things out. How silly! I laugh at myself to make it an easier pill to swallow.

Since I’ve avoided talking about avoidance for practically this whole thing, lets talk about some ways to counter avoidance and its toxicity. Firstly, become aware of yourself. This tool will be exceptionally helpful to you in so many more ways then avoiding avoidance. Start a physical practice (after consulting your doctor first!) like yoga or Tai Chi to begin your bodily awareness. Get to know your body and how you move and start working on moving with purpose instead of flopping around like a fish out of water. Know your fingers and toes, your knees and elbows, your head and neck. Know how everything moves and how everything feels. Yoga will help you build physical strength, but it will also help you build a bigger self-image.

Next, become aware of your breath. Your breath can teach you so much about you and your actions/reactions/emotions etc. How do you breathe when you are happy? How do you breathe when you are sad, angry, upset, stressed, relaxed? Learn how to control your breathing and breathe with purpose instead of breathing because it’s vital to your continued existence.

Now, become aware of your thoughts. Don’t stop your thoughts, instead counter them. This is something I’m working on. Instead of saying “Well, I can’t do that because I work to much.” Say, “I can do this amount of it today, and this amount tomorrow.” That way you can work on giving yourself a reason not to avoid a task that seems huge. Play around with this concept. If you suffer from self-depreciating thoughts, counter them with more gentle thoughts.

Actively practice self-care, but be aware of letting your practice of self-care fall into the realms of avoidance. This has happened to me. Granted, for about two months every spring I work 6 days a week, 12-14 hours a day, so self-care during that time is vital to my survival. However, in my off season, it’s very easy for me to fall into a state of stasis and call it self-care.

You have to be active in your life in order to get past the stages of discomfort. So many of us get to the point of discomfort when it comes to growth that we stop there and never move forward or continue to grow because we stomp our feet and scream no! I don’t like it. But I promise you, amazing and wonderful things can happen when you push past that point of discomfort and walk into a new realm of comfort you never knew exsisted. Like a seed sprouting in the ground, the seedling must push past the dirt that is covering it in order to reach the sun (hey, look! I incorporated plants!). In our cases of being human, the discomfort is the dirt while comfort is remaining a seed and never pushing ourselves up to meet the sun.

And the Gods honest truth about discomfort, is eventually it will become easy. Over time, the more you push into your discomfort and explore that area, the more you will become comfortable with that practice and the more you will grow. Good luck, and until next time. *muwah!*

Published by Lady Storm

I am a spiritual practitioner that has walked many different paths. Some could call me a jack of all trades when it comes to belief systems. While I don't hold all the answers, I hold many tools that will help unearth answers to questions anyone may have.

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2 Comments

  1. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one that experiences this. I know it is definitely liked to my anxiety, and I’m finally pushing through it to get some counselling. It takes a lot of courage to push through that discomfort and keep going. You’ve got this!

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