As I was eating my dinner this evening and catching up on some news from the week I came across an interview with Victoria Azarenka in the Wall Street Journal. For those of you unfamiliar with Azarenka - she's a fierce tennis pro and is famous for her loud shrieks (not unlike Serena Williams). I'm a tennis fan. Former player. But the point of the article and my point herein sending this email to all of you can be summarized by the title of the article itself: Victoria Azarenka Learns to Chill Out.
Azarenka struggled with some major injuries last season which prevented her from winning grand slams she was expected to secure. Instead 2015 was a year of disappointment to say the least. The tennis star was seriously depressed.
"Before Azarenka began to train for this year's Australian Open, she engaged in a few months of re-programming. She adjusted the way she pushed off on her left foot, which had long caused her pain. With the help of a specialist she changed the way she moved her jaw with lots of practice in front of a mirror to give it more range of motion and to help align her spine. She conquered her fear of needles so she could try acupuncture. And then there was the most important challenge of all, something the hyperactive Azarenka had always been too afraid even to attempt: she learned how to sit around by herself and do nothing."
One of the theories of change I submit to in my own practice, and in my work with clients, is mindfulness, and following something known in Buddhist psychology as "the middle way". This, Buddhists believe, is the cure for all of life's ailments. To hold nothing too close or tightly and to push nothing too far away too quickly. No grasping, no forcing, no fighting. We are just "to be".
I had a client a few weeks ago come into my office and tell me that she just can't take it anymore - she can't take having free time because it reminds her of how alone she is - so she fills it - she has been filling it for so long that her adrenals have about run dry and she is physically weak and limited in her ability to experience pleasure or glee or delight unless she is with another person, doing something, pushing herself towards accomplishing something.
This, I told her, was the glorification of "busy" and a means of coping with difficult feelings about her identity, her self-worth, her life choices. She didn't want to have peace and quiet because she didn't want to have to sit with herself. Silence can be scary.
Azarenka is an example of someone who literally ran themselves dry. Injury forced her to sit with herself and she's lucky it didn't cost her entire career. She is back in full force this season - slated to win several grand slams - and she credits her work around doing "nothing".
Biologically we are still the animals we once were back in the days of cavemen and cavewomen. This means that during times of heightened attention, hyperaroused states, our bodies act to conserve and preserve. The ring many women ( and men!) have around their midline is more likely the end result of STRESS. It's fat stored away for survival.
Along with your attention to diet and exercise during these 8 weeks, perhaps you also might take a look at how you cope with silence? How often do you sit with yourself? How do you avoid it? What's holding you back from self-acceptance, self-care, your relationship within yourself? What wisdom are you missing out on because of your fear of less activity, less fuss, less "busy"?
From Tibetan literature: