*I drafted this on Wednesday night, but cooking, cleaning, and eating prevented me from getting it all done until now! Enjoy.
For many months this year, I was magically receiving the magazine “Yoga Journal.” I suspect my mom signed me up for a subscription, but I still forget to ask her if it was her doing. It has since stopped coming, but there were several articles over those months that stuck with me, foremost being one by yogi and writer Sally Kempton. I do not know much about her other than what I found online, she’s a spiritual guru, has studied all over the world, writes and travels etc., but her voice brought a clarity to many sticky topics for me, the most significant being the issue of commitment.
The article called, “Go Your Own Way” appeared in the June 2009 issue, but was never posted online. I even wrote to YJ asking when the link would be posted, but they said they did not have any idea, and just to check back, sometimes they posted, sometimes they did not. Ironic I thought, how flaky. (Probably has more to do with the deals they have with their writers and editors however, so I calmed down.) I scanned the article directly from the magazine and ended up with a cut and paste PDF version so annoying I blurted numerous disclaimers as I sent it off as an attachment to several friends. On my run tonight, 5.5 good, strong miles and some lunges too, I remembered the article and decided to try again to find it. Lo and behold, it now has a link to Ms. Kempton’s site, but it is an unedited, abridged and inferior version from what appeared in the magazine, it almost feels like a rough draft. (Again, I am assuming this has something to do with contractual constraints.) I still have my funky cut and paste version, so I re-read it, and was happy when it continued to validate my ideas about commitment but was never able to articulate. I felt proud that I have a very healthy relationship to the act of committing, which as explored by Ms. Kempton also means knowing when a commitment has got us stuck and that it is time to move onward.
Life could be organized by the commitments we make. From small things like training for a half marathon, all the way to successfully completing med school, each requires a pledge to meet the benchmarks along the way and make adjustments as challenges arrive to achieve the goal. It seems like most of the time, we manage our commitments with little angst, however, when life does inevitably kick us in the ass, it almost always has to do with a choice we have made to commit and then facing the process that it is time to change course. Ms. Kempton argues that commitments are, “a prerequisite to depth,” because sustained focus is necessary to “make progress possible” even when you are not feeling the greatest. Raising children, running a business, being married or in a long term relationship, growing spiritually all require commitment. But, there are times when commitment, “can become a safety zone that prevents you from making needed changes. When the life has gone out of a commitment, it can become a life eater, a black hole that sucks your joy, your love, your creativity… Stability (supportive, grounding, depth producing) turns to stagnation (swampy, deadening, sticky).”
Ms. Kempton goes on to explain that facing these blockages with a commitment are both normal and inevitable as everything is cyclical – birth, growth, death. When something starts to feel dead, we should ask questions of ourselves to try to find out if we are just resisting learning a new skill required to go forward on that commitment’s path, or if in fact we are no longer being spiritually fulfilled by that path. For me, knowing when to call it quits is almost more powerful than hunkering down because that is the bigger leap into the unknown. And that leap means we are connecting more deeply to our core values. When we do that, we can identify what Ms. Kempton calls our “meta-commitments” which are based on those core values. Honest and intense “self-inquiry” is the way to find out what they are. (She has a list of questions in the article, let me know if you want a copy.)
I definitely learned the heartbreaking hard way on when to call it quits. Having been with and then married to a person that at the time I did love, but deep down I knew from moment one was not my spiritual partner or intellectual equal, going through a divorce should have been sad and trying, but ultimately set me (and him) free. Based on my own issues, our co-dependency and his severe emotional abuse of me, I resisted and in my mind stay committed to the marriage by trying to get him to see that my values were in a way, better than his. He kept berating and undermining me to the point where I did not feel valuable at all. Unfortunately, I was left so weakened, I had taken leave of the very values I was defending. My case is somewhat more dramatic, because this person was so damaged and abusive, but wow do I get it now and feel more equipped than ever to handle these deeper questions about what I want in my life and where I can take it. Ending the marriage that had become mired in the stagnant swamp allowed me to do that.
Creating this challenge for myself, the running and writing, has been most satisfying, and has empowered me to clarify what I want to commit myself to. I am working it out on the trails and on the page, and look forward to putting it to work in 2010.
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