A Soul in Resistance

by Christopher Lovejoy on May 15, 2011

A cold winter darkness had fallen and the taxi moved gingerly into the driveway leading up to the side door of my home. I was coming home from work.

About a month before, I had slipped on some black ice and fractured my ankle on the way down. The following night, I had surgery to re-attach the lower fibula in my right leg to my ankle. I saw the x-ray after surgery. It took a pin, a metal brace, and seven screws to put me back together.

I paid the driver and he asked me if I needed a hand, but I assured him I could make it on my own.

I opened the door of the taxi, slid my crutches out the door onto the driveway, and as I slowly exited the taxi, I realized in a moment of dread that the driveway was covered in ice.

I got on all fours and crawled like a baby over the ice, pulling the crutches along with me, feeling my way through the dark with my bare hands, shivering from the cold, until I reached the door.

You can imagine my relief when I saw that the steps leading to the door were ice-free.

I managed to make it through the door without breaking another bone.

A Decision That Shaped My Life

Within a few days of having surgery on my ankle, I had a decision to make.

I could stay at home and have the work from my job delivered to and from my home while I made a recovery or I could summon the courage and go back and forth to work on crutches.

I was afraid that if I stayed home to work, I would get lazy and lose much of my vitality, but I was also afraid that if I went back and forth to work on crutches, I would slip and have another accident.

I had no experience in my life that would help me make this decision, and so I sat with my choice point in silence, inviting resolution, listening for the voice of my intuition to speak.

Here’s what it said: “the bolder way is the better way”.

I remember nodding imperceptibly and I made my decision on the spot.

In retrospect, I can see that it was the right decision for me to make. Although getting around on crutches in the dead of winter was strenuous, I never slipped and fell (although I did slip).

I kept my soul alive and my spirit engaged.

I kept my mind active and my heart open to offers of help.

I said “yes” to health, fitness, and vitality.

Inertia is not Procrastination

Inertia is not a happy or fulfilling place to be.

Before I started eating mostly raw, living food most of the time, I knew that food or drink with high concentrations of sugar did not agree with me. After eating or drinking something at a restaurant that contained a lot of hidden refined sugar, I would wake up the next morning feeling foggy, sluggish, and depressed. A condition known as sugar shock. I didn’t feel motivated to do anything that required my concentration. I had to wait a day or two before my usual clarity, vitality, and buoyancy returned.

I can well imagine that inertia is not a state of being you want to fall into or be gripped by for long.

Basic advice for dealing with it can seem facile: if you find yourself gripped by inertia, here’s how you can overcome it. Or if you feel yourself to be trapped by inertia, just be patient and welcome it fully. Or if you find yourself slipping into inertia, just do this, that, or the other thing and avoid it altogether.

A useful distinction between procrastination and inertia can be made.

If procrastination is local, then inertia is global. If procrastination applies to putting off specific tasks, then inertia applies to putting off any and all tasks that require too much effort, movement, or change.

The symptoms of inertia are easy to spot and difficult to mask.

You feel apathetic or lethargic. You appear inactive, uninvolved, or disengaged. A sense of resignation prevails: “I just don’t feel like doing anything right now.” “What’s the use?” “Why try?”

Judging or blaming or faulting those for being this way is all too easy, but not advisable. Unless you’ve walked the sluggish walk of inertia, it’s better to keep your moral pronouncements to yourself.

For all you know, they might have been traumatized. Through no fault of their own, they might have been pushed or backed into a situation where they were overcome with burn-out or worthlessness.

This is not to excuse them from changing or leaving their situations, but if they no longer feel disposed to move, exert, or change, then something is obviously wrong – something beyond their control to fix. I would advise caution if you’re inclined to think there was a payoff for getting drawn into a situation that caused them to feel traumatized, overwhelmed, burned out, or worthless.

When those who have been gripped by inertia begin looking, sounding, or feeling too comfortable for their own good, this is actually a good sign. With enough energy or courage, they can begin moving, changing, or exerting themselves in positive, constructive directions. But there’s a gray zone between feeling too comfortable for your own good and feeling too damaged to do anything constructive.

Only you can know in your heart of hearts where you stand.

The Illusion of Free Will is Itself an Illusion

So what if you’ve been stuck in a state of inertia and you start looking, sounding, or feeling a little too comfortable for your own good? Have you become free to do something about your inertia?

No.

And yes.

Some clever neuroscientific experiments have been done that clearly and unequivocally indicate we’ve already made our decisions up to ten seconds before we’re consciously aware of making them.

In other words, our conduct and behavior is caused and determined seconds or milliseconds before we consciously decide to act, move, exert, or change. No conscious, free agency seems to exist.

And yet, another experiment has shown that we can be primed to choose among alternatives.

For example, subjects were told to serve food with two provisos: (1) make sure you tell everyone you serve that they must eat everything on their plates; and (2) don’t serve the super hot salsa!

Group 1, initially primed with positive, affirmative statements that they have free will and that they’re free to choose, did as they were told more often than not, e.g., they were more inclined to veto their impulses to serve super hot salsa when they served the food. Group 2, initially primed with statements that failed to affirm (or even negated) freedom of the will, generally did not do as they were told.

In other words, subjects were either primed to assume that they were free or not, and this made a significant difference in how they actually behaved. Implication: if you can be primed to behave in a certain way, then what’s to stop you from priming yourself to behave in a certain way?

So if you’re in a state of inertia, and you’re feeling too comfortable for your own good, you’re better off believing that you’re free to do something about it, even if the specific actions you take to get moving in positive, constructive directions are caused and determined seconds before you get moving.

Call it the paradox of free will, but where inertia is concerned, I believe that it’s better to believe that you’re free.

Letting Go and Letting Be

If you feel stuck, and you know in your heart of hearts that you can do something about it, it’s best to start with these simple affirmations: I am free. I am free to choose. I am free to act.

Affirm. Believe. Repeat as necessary, until you’ve become convinced that you’re free.

If you’re already convinced that you’re free, then good for you. You’re ahead of the game. You’re in a good position to let go and let be. Not everyone can claim the same so quickly or easily.

If you don’t yet feel ready to affirm your freedom with anything approaching conviction, then you might like this suggestion: set yourself up for a period of R.E.S.T, which stands for Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy. It’s one of those crazy, lovable Japanese inventions that can do wonders for the soul and its restoration; it’s free and it can be done by anyone anywhere. Give yourself permission to take some time out by setting up a quiet or pleasant space where you can do absolutely nothing for as long as you feel called to do so, while keeping in mind this Spanish proverb: how beautiful it is to do nothing and then rest afterward. You might choose complete silence or some white noise with a water fountain or some other device that blocks or minimizes any intrusive sounds in your environment, or you might invest in some ear plugs, an eye mask, and a comfortable bed at home or elsewhere.

“Letting go and letting be” might be seem like strange advice for someone feeling trapped inside a state of inertia, but if you’re holding on to something that no longer serves you, then the excess baggage that you carry around inside your heart can weigh you down and keep you down.

My post, The Art of Surrender, has a few tips for “letting go and letting be” that might help you pick the lock on the ring that keeps you a slave to your ball and chain.

What Causes Someone to Feel Inert?

Once you begin priming yourself to let go and let be whatever might be holding you back or keeping you down and out, you’re ready to take the reclamation of your sovereignty to a whole new level.

You might consider one or more of these questions of lifestyle:

  • am I following a diet that energizes me?
  • am I waking up feeling rested and refreshed?
  • am I feeling playful and alive when I exercise?
  • am I getting enough fresh air and sunshine?
  • am I taking time out to commune with nature?
  • am I keeping my daily stresses in perspective?
  • am I making time for myself and loved ones?

The subject matter in each of these questions alone deserves at least a book to address adequately.

Avoid the temptation of plunging into all of these questions at once. Your heart will let you know which one requires the most attention at this time. Start there, do a bit of research, consult someone about it if needs be, and stay with it until you feel satisfied you’ve answered it as fully as you’re willing or able.

Because diet is so important, I would start there. Because I was paying attention to what I was eating over time, I was able to determine that hidden refined sugar is a kiss of death for me.

For me, sugar shock is synonymous with inertia, and I’m talking about the kind of inertia that makes you feel or believe that it’s never going to end. That kind of inertia.

A tactic favored by health practitioners is to have patients eliminate (for about six weeks) sugar, meat, dairy, and wheat (or any other food you think might be making you feel less than your best).

During this time, I suggest eating as much raw, living food– whole, blended, or juiced – as you feel comfortable eating or drinking. Fruit for energy, green juice for healing. Juicy fruit when you wake up to help your body eliminate the toxic byproducts of bodily repair while sleeping. Calorie-dense fruit in the middle of the day to keep you energized. Citrus fruit for dinner followed by a veggie green juice or salad. If you’re going to eat anything with fat in it (nuts, seeds, coconuts, avocados), consider eating them in moderation towards the end of your day as they can be more grounding than energizing. Just don’t make the mistake of getting the bulk of your calories from fat. Go easy on the fat.

Fair warning: eating this well could have your body begin a detoxification process of removing toxic byproducts stored in your fat cells, which could intensify your inertia – at least for a time. Be sure you do this when you know you can take it easy and get plenty of rest and as much sleep as you need.

At the end of this six-week period, you can always add back foods one at a time (every three or four days as it can take this long to notice their effects) to see how they make you feel.

Giving Peak Performers the Cold Shoulder

Peak performers are usually not the best advisors when it comes to licking inertia.

Procrastination, yes. Inertia? No.

To be sure, they’re in an ideal place to know inertia when they see it; they might even have grappled with it in their own lives, but when they start telling you that inertia stems from poor organizational or time management skills, it’s probably a good idea to turn away and let your eyes glaze over.

Peak performers love to talk, talk, talk about goals, goals, goals. Goals that motivate and inspire you! Goals that fire you up and get you excited! Goals that are good for you!

Forget about goals.

If, more often than not, you feel like you can barely get out of bed in the morning, the last thing you need to hear about is goals.

What you do need to hear about is something called ‘needs’.

Remember those?

Needs … as in: I need to eat a diet of living food that would have me looking and feeling good about myself and others; as in: I need to get some fresh air and sunshine every day; as in: I need to make some quality time for those I love and care about; as in: I need to spend some time surrounded by nature; as in: I need to watch and listen to things that inspire, uplift, nourish, and refresh me.

Needs – not goals.

Satisfy your needs, in your own time, at your own pace, for your own sake, to your soul’s content until you look, sound, and feel too comfortable for your own good.

Forget about getting organized. Forget about managing your time. Forget about commitments.

Just relax, take it easy, and satisfy your deepest, most heartfelt needs.

And if the peak performers come knocking, tell them to take a hike (to put it quaintly).

You don’t need them telling you (in a morally smug or sternly patronizing tone): “If you’re honest with yourself, you’re the only one who is preventing you from moving forward toward your goals.”

Once you start looking, sounding, and feeling too comfortable for your own good, take this as a good sign. You’re ready to power up, face the music, and take control of those things that need doing.

Do them. One at a time. At your leisure. No rush. No hurry. No pressure.

And when you feel the negativity come creeping back into your life, here’s a quick tip for you: turn the cursed ‘am’ into a blessed ‘feel’.

Turn “I am lazy” into “I feel lazy”, “I am worthless” into “I feel worthless”, “I’m too tired to do anything worthwhile” into “I feel too tired to do anything worthwhile”.

Get in the habit of asking, for any and all unwanted feelings: could I welcome this feeling? Could I allow it to be, just as it is? Could I let it go, just for now? Would I? When would that be?

You are not your laziness, worthlessness, or tiredness. You need not define yourself in these terms.

You’re not a lazy ass. You’re at choice about being a lazy ass.

You’re not a worthless bum. You’re at choice about being a worthless bum.

You’re not a burned-out remnant of your former self. You’re at choice about being a burned-out remnant of your former self.

Do you feel the difference?

Also, don’t for a second think you need to be positive.

Be open.

Be open to your experience. It is what it is. Let it come and let it go. No stress. No worries. Review my post, The Art of Surrender, for some tips on making the most of this simple strategy.

If you know what caused your inertia, consider ways of dealing with it in the future. If you don’t know what caused it, I have two suggestions: consult someone about possible causes or journal about it. In both cases, consider doing exploratory research so that you have a basis for intelligent discussion.

If you’re afraid of failing (or succeeding), perhaps this perspective can help. Of course, you could always consult a peak performer on the subject of success and failure (smiles).

Here’s what they’ll tell you (as if you didn’t know already):

They’ll tell you to be honest with yourself and they’ll tell you to be realistic. They’ll tell you that those who seem to get everything done are better organized and more focused than you.

Can you hear the moralizing, patronizing tone? (wink)

They’ll tell you to be honest enough with yourself to set and meet realistic goals. They might even tell you to keep a running, daily to-do list and to be mindful of your deadlines for completion.

You can take this advice or leave it. Your call. Take what resonates and leave the rest. Only you can speak your truth about what you really and truly need and want for your life.

Listen to yourself and claim your sovereignty. This is your birthright.

It’s your life and you get to live it any way you please – moralizing, patronizing peak performers notwithstanding.

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