When I was pregnant with my son a couple years back, I had a pretty vulnerable moment at the doctor’s office.
Keep in mind, at that point in my life, I was finding new level of success as a health coach; spreading constant messages about body love, about tossing away the scale, about nurturing our deeper selves with food, and letting the results follow. I was ALL about entering into state of flow and surrender, and TRUSTING our bodies to show up for us. I was preaching this message to large groups of people every week!
At this particular OB appointment, they did the whole weigh-in ritual at the beginning. Logically, I knew I was SUPPOSED to be gaining weight at a steep incline (end of second trimester when the baby is really growing), that my body would change and it was supposed to change. But in that moment, I saw a number that triggered me. Suddenly, my face was hot and tears were stinging my eyes. The nurse watched in silent horror as I started to lose it. Shame coursed through my cheeks and neck.
I am supposed to be evolved! I am supposed to be over this! I am such a fraud.
Luckily, I was able to talk myself down after a few minutes and a vulnerable conversion with my husband, and the whole shenanigan dissipated pretty quickly, but I remained insatiably curious about my reaction in that moment. After all, I thought I was healed.
I realize now that we are never “healed” of our ego-attachments.
For me, weight, body image and food may always, to some extent, be my weak spot, my Achilles heel, my “banana” (curious what that means, read on). However, once I start to understand why is resurfaces in particular moments, I can see it is always pointing to a truth underneath. Our Achilles heel could just as easily be ANY ego attachment that we have (what we deem to be unique, important, special, or admirable about us, how we understand “who we are.” ). It could be obsession around career progression, how admired we are, how much money we are making or how talented we are. It is attachment to an external source of power (that relies on the outside world instead of our internal reservoir) and whenever we experience extreme attachment, it is typically because we are feeling vulnerable in our lives. We feel tapped of that internal reservoir.
In this particular example, it wasn’t hard to see why I was clinging to controlling my pregnancy weight gain. I was facing the most uncertainty I had ever faced. I wasn’t sure how the hell I was going to manage as a Mom, if I was going to even like it, if my whole sense of self would be rocked, if my business would suffer and go down the drain, if I would look different (and no longer be “attractive” my health coaching clients afterwards). My future freedom and autonomy were all in question. I couldn’t control any of those things but what I could control was how much I was eating and if I was gaining weight faster than I was supposed to. Turns out, I couldn’t really control that either. The whole incubation phase of becoming a mother was super exciting but also really scary.
Think of your Achilles heel in the sense of how your body functions. We all have places in our body where illness tends to surface first when things are out of balance. For my husband, it is his throat. For me, it is headaches and nausea. For others, it could be a UTI or irritable bowel symptoms. Is it a pain in the ass (sometimes quite literally)? Yes. But it let’s us know that something wants our attention. We need to look closer. The same is true of our ego-attachment Achilles heels.
When we look underneath the grasping, the clinging, the obsession, it usually boils down to our grasping to find some sort of certainty in our lives.
For any number of reasons, the seismic plates of life may be moving underneath us or we are suddenly feeling like they are standing WAY TOO STILL and we need to know how its all going to play out. We long to feel powerful again because we the lack a feeling of certainty. This, to a some extent is always happening in life, because of course, nothing is permanent, everything is in flux but sometimes we are able to live under the illusion that this isn’t true. Other times, we are unable to. Inevitably, we find ourselves grasping to the ego-identifier as a way to feel grounded in what seems like a random, uncaring and unpredictable universe.
Although our intent is to gain a feeling of safety, when we grasp to this ego-identifier (such as staying at a certain weight or booking an acting job) to help us feel powerful, we will ultimately feel trapped, anxious, frustrated and vacant to some extent because we are sacrificing our internal freedom to feel externally powerful (and it never lasts). It is a goal post that keeps moving.
In the book, You are the One, Kute Blackson talking about control being the MASTER addiction (underneath all other addictions) and how easily we will trade in our freedom to experience certainty.
He uses the analogy of how people catch monkeys in Bali. They put bananas in a big cage in a town square, and the monkeys gravitate toward the cage because, well, they love bananas. They are able to fit their tiny wrists in through the cage and grab a banana, but unable to get the banana out. And that is how they get trapped! They refuse to let go of the banana. How sad is that? They could have all the freedom in the world! There are plentiful ways to nourish themselves all around, but they grasp onto that banana, refuse to let it go and sacrifice their freedom.
Like monkeys crave bananas, we humans crave certainty more than ANYTHING, and life is, by design, very uncertain, which can make for a pretty anxiety inducing life (if we aren’t awake enough to see it).
We sacrifice our freedom by clinging to the side of the river of life. Of course, life has its own current, it will always carry us where it is going, and yet we try to swim upstream, determined that we know best, determined to bend life to our will, and we wind up drowning. When we let life carry us, we suddenly have a lot more power to accept our circumstances in the present moment and create WITHIN them (and eventually beyond them). We can still create amazing things, but we can recognize that we are co-creating with the flow of life, and some of the things it has in store for us we aren’t meant to know.
So, how do we get “comfortable” with uncertainty? With the flow of life? With the not knowing?
1) Start exploring the self beneath the ego-attachments and identifiers, the self that will always be with you, even when your perfect body, your bank account, your career credentials, your status have gone. Explore the self that can’t be diminished. Hey! This is why a lot of people start exploring their spirituality (and there are a myriad paths to do so–some that correlate with religion, many that don’t). They want to start to understand themselves beyond fear and beyond all of the external attachments. They want to feel worthy in a way that doesn’t feel like a constant roller coaster. For me, it started with books, then moved onto workshops, then programs, and understanding myself in this new way is constantly evolving. Many people find this through travel, through seeing the world, through helping and serving others who are suffering. Life has a way of stripping our ego attachments when we get too attached, so recognize that in the moments of “Who am I now?”, there can be room for so much understanding and inquiry.
2) When you notice your Achilles heel surfacing, take a moment to inquire WHY it is surfacing at that particular moment. Where in your life are you feeling out of control? Where are you clinging? Where are you experiencing fear of the unknown? The Achilles heel tends to be a smokescreen to the deeper issues that are REALLY wanting our attention (we are in a relationship that isn’t working, we are feeling rejected, we are confused about our career choice, a loved one is facing an illness, we aren’t dealing with past trauma). It is a way to functionally distract ourselves from the REAL vulnerability.
3) Inquire into what it would be like to “drop the banana.” Keep in mind, you can’t “drop” an attachment to something. Letting go is a gradual process but sometimes it can be really helpful to ask yourself the following questions. You may find the more you pay attention to this, the more you gradually start to let go naturally (because you realize it hurts to hold on).
Who do I become when I attach to this? How do I interact with other people and the world around me? Does it help me feel the way I want to feel? Does it help me reach my goals or move me further away?
If I wasn’t attached, how might I interact with the world/others differently? What would I give myself permission to do? How might I actually “succeed” on a new level?
What would I need to believe in order to start to pry my fingers off of this “banana”?
4. Remind yourself that change and the unknown are actually the ONLY constant. Circumstances will be changing and shifting in ways you can’t possibly foresee for the rest of your life, and that ultimately you can rely on yourself to have your own back and to know your next best steps (especially if you have done the work from #1), that your body will always cope, and if you keep your heart open, you can continue to have a beautiful and full life experience. After all, the uncertainty is what makes life exciting, is what provides us with the big feels. It is what LIVING is actually about.
Rock On & Be Well,