Avoidance Is Attachment
“Avoidance is not the answer. Avoidance is actually attachment.”
The English teacher in me loved the assonance (the repetition of consonant sounds) as well as the paradox. I thought about the words my yoga teacher had just said as my toes gripped the mat and I tried to hold my high crescent lunge. I understood the first half. Most of the time, when I am procrastinating or avoiding something, it’s because it’s difficult or at least unpleasant and almost always has the power to change me.
We’re all Peter Pan in some way; we don’t want to grow up.
I confided to a friend one time that I was avoiding a certain spiritual practice that I knew was good for me, that had been a big part of my life for awhile.
“Pick it back up,” she said. “Lean into it. The thing you are consciously resisting is usually the very thing you need.”
I did. It was.
But how is avoidance attachment?
If I am avoiding change, it’s because I am attached to comfort and stability.
If I am resisting prayer, it’s because I am attached to myself as god, my own ideas of how things should be ordered in the world.
If I am avoiding worship, it’s because I am attached to the known and fear the mystery.
I’ve avoided things because I fear them; I’m attached to the quantifiable and manageable, to the outcomes I can control.
I’ve resisted some good habits I should incorporate into my life because I’m attached to easy and pleasurable and too much of almost anything.
I’ve avoided hard conversations; I’m attached to approval.
I’ve resisted cleaning out closets and cupboards because I’m attached to memories and to stuff.
I’ve avoided others because I’m attached to privacy and solitude and I’ve resisted solitude when I’ve been attached to activity and people.
When I was a little girl, my mother was trying to teach me to swim. I would cling to the side of the pool with her only a few arm’s lengths away. “Don’t move, Mama,” I would say. I was terrified I would let go of the side of that pool and sink before I could reach the safety of her arms. How silly that seems to me now. Though she did take a few steps backwards after I let go to push me to swim a little further each time, I was never safer in my life than swimming toward my own mother. And yet I wanted all these verbal assurances from her that she would not move before I’d let go of the side of the pool. I only wanted to swim to her if I was certain it was doable. Where’s the growth in that? Where’s the strength building?
(Mama, it’s taken me half a century to thank you for stepping backwards and making me stretch.)
Doing things we feel resistance toward releases the attachment to something else.
I reached a point of perspiration and exhaustion that particular night, when we kept doing a circular series with high crescent lunges. I was pouring sweat and thought if the teacher called out just one more thing I was going to walk out the door. But I didn’t. I kept reaching my hands up to the sky and let them become prayers. “ Take it; it’s Yours,” they said silently. I was delivered from my analytical mind that wanted to think about the quotidian problems of my life. For a few minutes, leaning into the resistance was like letting go of the side of the pool, swimming toward my mother’s arms.