Thoughtful Thursday: The Exhilarating Tension between Being and Becoming

January 10, 2013

Thoughtful Thursday

Welcome to the January Intelligentsia.

#39: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#33: A from Are You Kidding Me?
#32: Lost in Translation from We Say IVF, They Say FIV
#31: Strongblonde from Strong Blonde
#21: St. Elsewhere
#19: Lori from Write Mind Open Heart
#16: Cat
#14: Sara from Aryanhwy
#3: Mina from Kmina’s Blog

Thoughtful ThursdaySeveral times over the past couple of weeks, Intelligentsia Member Ana has blogged about the push-pull between trying to change yourself and resolving to just get through the day, accepting yourself as you are. This tension has become particularly relevant to me lately too, given my recent illness (which, by the way, now has a diagnosis, and since some of you have been asking, thanks, I am now better than I was but by no means fully functional).

Normally, I am someone who loves to challenge myself. In pottery, instead of working on things that I already know how to do, I constantly push myself with new techniques, new shapes, new sizes. I chose a career that involves constant mental stimulation, and even more than most in my field, I seek to learn new things and master new sub-areas. A couple of weeks before I got sick, I decided that I would soon undertake a new fitness regimen; deeming yoga too easy, I decided that I should take up Pilates.

I think that was the moment when the Universe said, “Hey now, yoga is too easy? Are you sure? Let’s see about that.”

Right now even with all of the medications, I can’t do a downward dog for more than a few seconds before my wrists give out. Meanwhile the students around me, most of whom are in their 60s and 70s because I am only taking the “gentle” and “slow” and “therapeutic” classes, stay upright the whole time. It’s not a competition, I know that, but if a 70 year old woman with a full cast on her arm held a pose long after you’d flopped to the ground, you’d make comparisons too.

Competitiveness aside, or perhaps because of that competitiveness, it turns out that yoga is exactly what I need right now. The first yoga class I took after my initial recovery from being unable to walk or do anything with my arms really cemented this fact. The class focused on Moon Salutations. I’ve done yoga hundreds of times over the years, and almost every class has focused on Sun Salutations. I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as Moon Salutations. The teacher talked about how even in yoga people are typically trying to push push push, and that on this day we’d do something else. How most exercise is about compression, and that we were trying to expand. Most yoga focuses on yang, but that day we accepted the yin.

Yin, that’s what I need.

Perhaps if there’s anything good to come out of this illness, it is yin. There is still room in my life to work on becoming, which is my natural state, but now I get to practice just being. Not just during yoga, but in my daily life: accepting limitations, slowing down, taking a literal and figurative breath.

I have blogged many, many, many, many, many times about zen non-attachment as it pertains to pottery. I’m quite good at yin when it involves a breach in yang. I’m not so good at yin for its own sake, yet. And yes I realize that trying to improve on yin is in itself not yin. I can’t turn off yang entirely; I can’t stop being me. But maybe now I’ll find a little more balance.

How is your balance between yin and yang, between slow and fast, between accepting and pushing, between being and becoming?

P.S. Big big points to anyone who gets the reference in the title of the blog post without Googling.


18 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursday: The Exhilarating Tension between Being and Becoming”

  1. Ana Says:

    First, I am really truly sorry to hear about your diagnosis. I am sending all healing thoughts your way. I hope that with treatment, you can soon be fully functional…even thriving…again.

    Second, Thanks for the mention!

    finally, to answer the question (which is such an eloquent and unique perspective on what I’ve been blathering on about, btw), I have a very very hard time with yin. All my life has been about “becoming”, and a key theme to these past few years has been learning to finally “be”. I haven’t quite found my way to it, yet.

    No idea on the title, I’ll have to google it!

  2. Ernessa Says:

    I’m so happy you received a diagnosis and that you’re back to yoga.

    I read an awesome resolutions article the other day about how we might have more success by pledging to do less as opposed to the usual more.

    Being terrible at yin and yang, I’m struggling with the IRL application if this concept. But I think the message is right on time.

  3. Elana Kahn Says:

    I don’t actually know anything about yin and yang, but I definitely have difficulty controlling my tendency to do everything quickly and to push myself. I don’t know how to do things slowly…it’s just not in my genetic makeup. lol Though right now with school I am trying to become something, and once I get there I don’t think I’ll have trouble being that person without trying to become something else.

  4. First, I’m glad you now have a diagnosis, and even though what I read about it isn’t great, I was afraid you were having an MS-type illness, so I’m relieved that’s not the case.

    I think I’m slowly getting better at being, but it’s a work in progress and I still have a long way to go. I took a Positive Psychology course last year and it was a lot about accepting what you have and seeing the positive things even on a bad day. At the time I didn’t think it was very enlightening, but in hindsight it was – and I’m reminded of it when I get too frustrated by certain things and then I try to slow down, or savor the moment and make the best of what I have.

  5. Mel Says:

    I thought Being and Nothingness with the title, but that can’t possibly be correct.

    I am not big on pushing myself. It is something that annoys my guitar teacher (as well as every other teacher I’ve ever had) very much. He assigns a piece. I look at it doubtfully and say, “that looks hard.” He tells me to try it and practice it. And I tell him, “that would take a lot of time and be hard.” Things don’t move very quickly in guitar lessons. In fact, I haven’t really attended one since October. I turned over all my lessons to the Wolvog, and while the guitar teacher commented on it at first, he has stopped, as if understanding that the chances of me returning and pushing myself are slim to none.

    At the things I do well or I suspect will be easy enough for me to catch onto, I can be very driven. But if I have an inkling that it may be an uphill walk, I tend not to start. And be okay with not starting for the most part.

  6. a Says:

    Crap. RA? That sucks. My dad had it. I hope you have the mildest of symptoms and that you respond well to the treatments.

    I am very good at just being. I’m not very driven – when I want to do something, I do it. When it’s difficult but masterable, I master it. When it’s outside my talent range, I don’t even try. While I’m the person who thinks they can do anything, it still has to interest me a lot for me to try. I can, however, sit and listen to my daughter ramble on forever. I often get into arguments with my husband about wasting time on things you can do nothing about. (He always wants me to ask people questions about things that can’t be changed regardless of the answer. I always say that it’s not going to change anything, so why waste my breath. It makes him crazy.) But, basically I know my limits and stay well within them.

  7. vablondie Says:

    Glad you have a diagnosis. I think sometimes it helps just to put a name to things.

    I am more OK with becoming. It is scary and challenging, but it is active. I am much better at action. I would rather be doing something than waiting. This usually means that I am horrible at being. Just being in the present moment and enjoying where I am. That is a skill I am working on.

    The title sounds rather taoist to me. I feel like I have read the words before but I cannot remember where…Tao Te Ching? Dark Night of the Soul? It will probably bother me until I remember it. I guess I will go hit up google…

  8. strongblonde Says:

    you said this much better than i ever could. i have been thinking a lot about this, too. i’m really trying to focus more on being. on being present. on really just….being (which kills me that i can’t think of another word. i hate when people define a word using that same word in the definition. how is THAT supposed to help??). i think that in life, especially in those of us who are really driven or motivated, society (or our own personality or some combination) pushes us to really think about the future and work toward something rather than living in the moment and experiencing the present. for me? i feel like i have spent my life really worrying about all of the things that COULD happen. so…not really focusing on becoming or being, but focusing on things that MAY happen. for my personality, this was helpful to prepare me for the worst. it helped when i got my cancer diagnosis. i was able to just think of things clinically and become detached, mostly because i had already spent a ton of energy on all of the bad that could POTENTIALLY happen. but you know what? it’s exhausting. there really is something to balance, right? this year i’m trying to do a little better with that balance and focusing on things that are more positive, and being more present.


  9. A is my zen hero.

    I’m going to guess (it’s a total guess) that the title has something to do with Arctic Fire.

    This made me laugh out loud, literally: “trying to improve on yin is in itself not yin.” It SO speaks to me (as you know).

    And I can’t believe how many broken pots there are in your archives! I’m not very zen about that, and they weren’t even my pots.

    As to your question, I will say I am becoming more balanced.

  10. luna Says:

    love this. so sorry about your pain and the diagnosis. hope you can get some good treatment/relief/therapy.

    since I’ve taken, for the most part, a break from work, I’ve had to shift from more of a state of becoming to just being. though just “being” is quite an achievement on some days — it’s hardly stillness, it’s work, but a different kind of course.

  11. Mina Says:

    Oh, shoot, it’s good you have a dx and can treat it, but auch, RA?! That is one short straw you drew, dear. I am very sorry for it. I hope you feel better.
    I am very good at being. I do my becoming part without too much pain, because somehow I adapt my becoming if it is too strenuous. 🙂 I find the becoming part more subtle now, in middle age, and I try to enjoy my being because that also changes.
    I have no idea about the title. Please enlighten me.

  12. St. Elsewhere Says:

    I am not winning your big points. I will have to Google.

    I am glad you have a diagnosis. I hope the medication will help you get back on track, and get you functioning. I hope for the pain to go away, and stay away.

    Being and Becoming – what powerful words.

    I don’t like to push myself to do something. I like to go with the flow. But there are times when I have to push myself, and amp the flow. Do you understand what that means?

    Context, Demands and my Mental/Emotional Zing temper my being and becoming status. And there are things for which I wished “When I have x, I will do y”….I no longer wait for the x to happen. I want my y. Now.

  13. Dora Says:

    Ugh! RA sucks. I have a bunch of OA, but I know that’s a walk in the park next to RA. Still … glad you have a diagnosis.

    As for my yin yang, I think I’m somewhat balanced, but I’m too fried from work drama and a sick kitty right now to analyse that thoughtfully right now. But I wanted to let you know I’m sorry I’m such a lousy commenter and emailer, but I’ve been thinking of you a lot.

    Ack! But, but, but. That doesn’t sound very balanced.

  14. Sara Says:

    I have no idea where the title comes from, but it sounds like something from Kundera’s The unbearable lightness of being.

    This is a hard one for me to answer (though that’s not the reason for the delay — an international move + not having internet access at home for nearly two weeks were the cause!), because I don’t really think about being vs. becoming. My gut reaction is “I just am”, but then I think “that makes me more being than becoming, and that doesn’t sound right, so maybe not ‘I just am’ but ‘I just do’, but that makes me more becoming than being”…I don’t know. Whichever I am, I just am/just do it. One thing I’ve found since having a kid, and dealing with the concomitant extra responsibilities along with no reduction in the ones I already had, AND along with the lessening of sleep that comes with it, is that I’ve stopped thinking/bothering about a lot of these sorts of things. I simply don’t have the mental energy to deal with that meta level, so I don’t, I keep things basic. So, I’m more than just being, but I wouldn’t quite say I’m at becoming, I’m somewhere in the middle, doing.

  15. Kate Says:

    What a truly awesome and beautiful post! I am sorry for your diagnosis and very glad you know the reasons behind the mysterious happenings…
    How interesting to think of mindful expansion in this way– will be looking up moon salutations right now!!!!!!!
    xo Kate

  16. Elizabeth Says:

    My prenatal yoga class was very gentle and Yin. I think I’m more Yin – maybe too much so. I tend to get passive under stress and it drives my husband insane – he’s so yang. We balance each other a lot, I think.

    Hope you can continue to get some relief from your pain.

  17. Heather Says:

    I’m working on being kinder to myself. I’m pushing myself and being so unkind when I’m not getting things done. I hope I can get better on this one soon!

    BTW, on the diagnosis, try to see if there are trigger foods or environmental factors that make things worse. RA is an autoimmune disease and my DH has it. His sister also has lupus, of which RA is just one factor. We found out that MSG is a trigger food for DH, so we don’t eat a lot of pre-processed foods anymore. We used to eat a lot of frozen dinners and such when we were newlyweds. He was diagnosed in his mid-20s and a year or two after that we found out that Pringles potato chips really made it flare up the day after he had them. Stopped eating them on excursions to the beach and woo hoo! It was much better. Found out they are loaded with MSG. This is many years later, and he’s not on any medications anymore. Although there are some days he says his feet really hurt or his chest feels “quirky”. That’s the term we have for the muscle aches that come with lupus that I believe he will get diagnosed with some day.

    Good luck!

  18. St. Elsewhere Says:

    Heather made a crucial point about trigger foods – do keep an eye on them.

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