on the necessity of action.
I usually find myself most prompted to sit down and write when shits feels like its swirling all around. I think you probably know the feeling. When instead of sifting through it, you're just hoping/wishing/praying for it all to settle but can’t muster the oomph necessary to make it happen yourself. just waiting for things to happen to you. waiting for the storm to pass. stuck in that foggy purgatory of should-but-for-some-reason-can’t.
I suppose I could be succinct and just call it what it is. anxiety. maybe a hair (or two) of depression throughout the years. And even with all the yoga, the meditating, the support (which I’ve been very lucky to have a lot of) it hasn't always felt like I had the tools to really keep my head above water. Why couldn't I get my shit together. Why couldn't I just get my ass out of bed. why. What was different between me and anyone (often it feels like everyone) else?
Even though my life and career largely revolve around movement, movement has never come easy to me. Not physically moving that is, I’m quite privileged to have a relatively healthy and able body. lucky to at least be decently coordinated and thankful that I can somewhat respectably hold a beat at a concert with the help of a well timed finger snap or two. No no, its not about keeping going, its always been about getting going. get out of bed. start the day. just go to fucking yoga. just roll out your mat. just leave the house today. just go to the grocery store. just go for a walk. just. just. just.
just do something. just move. just start somewhere.
and that's the thing. forever its been about that somewhere needing to be grandiose. go big or go home. go do all the things today and everyday because you're supposed to and you're also supposed to love every moment of it. right? right…
Maybe it's getting older, maybe it's just finally settling into my own skin 30 years later, or maybe it's the newfound vitamin D in my system, but lately I’ve come to realize that quite likely its not the grandiose outcome that is the driving force. its simply the action. it's the effort. that's it. that's the point. it's not about what I do when I get out of bed, about all the things needing to be done. it's about just getting up. starting small. up and at ‘em before they get at you.
There's a popular part in chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita* that explores the idea of action over outcome. The notion that we are entitled simply to the action. very much entitled to the work, but not to the outcome. not to the results.
The effort is the action and you are entitled to the action. maybe not the fruits of the action, but certainly the action itself.
कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन |
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि || 47 ||
karmaṇy-evādhikāras te mā phaleṣhu kadāchana
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr mā te saṅgo ’stvakarmaṇi
BG 2.47 You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction.
so we gotta keep up the action.
When I’m wavering and pulling the covers over my head, when I’m scrolling or numbing, sometimes I have to leave the present moment of comfort or perceived safety and ask myself, what now? what next?
just get up. just put on your running shoes. just start there.
then, when you’ve made it (in which case, hell yes, step one!) ask again. okay, what action is next? How can I combat anxiety with action? is it possible to counteract paralysis with movement today? some days it is, some days its not. life and brain/gut/hormone/whatever is running the show that day isn't always going to be fool proof. but the (not so) shocking realization this passage has given me recently is that action doesn’t need to be fool proof- it just needs to be done.
each moment, decision by decision, trying not to get lost in the mind and forget that when the mind wanders, we need to move the body to help still the mind.
so yeah, JUST go for a walk. JUST get out of bed. JUST make that coffee. steps are steps and no step is less important than another. and I’ve got an inkling that all the teensy-tiny bits of action, might even build upon each other over time, but if we get too ahead of ourselves we loose the attention. we lose the work in favor of the outcome.
The action is the effort and that is how we start.
*I didn't grow up with this stories of the Gita or the Mahābhārata and I'm not a historian or Sanskrit scholar so I'm always looking to understand or interpret Hindu and yogic philosophy largely as an outsider - these aren't my stories, so I'm never sure I'm truly digesting it all appropriately, but as a forever student, I'm interested in trying to absorb them in some way shape of form as best I can at this moment in life.