From Push-Pull to Meeting Life as it is.

 In Art & Spirituality, Yoga

When we experience a sense of push or pull within the system it generally feels uncomfortable. We might experience it at the physical level: as muscular tension, heaviness or contraction. We might feel the weight of strong emotions, harsh thoughts or we might be aware of it in the energy body as a sense of feeling ungrounded. Right now you may have a sense of how push-pull manifests for you.

Is Push-Pull here now?

Take three deep breaths to see if push or pull feel present in the body, mind, emotions or energy. What do you sense and where?

When we sense push or pull in the body, we can check in with three questions to see what may be occurring. But first it is useful to identify the sensations that arise as Push-Pull so that we can recognise the process as it happens. This awareness helps us not to get caught up in it.

The Push

It can appear as an internal energy behind daily tasks, a sense of an edgy, underlying force that is uncompromising and very driven. This energy isn’t the same as relaxed attention focussed on a task at hand. The push has a pejorative flavour, often ahead of it is the ego’s elusive carrot of ‘good enough’: ‘When I do this I will be good enough. When I achieve this or have this, I will be enough.’ The push may also appear to come from an external source: a boss, colleague or relation who seems adamant we must do something and we sense there’s a driving energy, a push, behind their words.

The Pull

The pull, could be said to have more of  a sense of energy being drawn outwards from our centre. It may be that we feel internally pulled, drawn back to past events or patterns. Or, it may seem that external tasks, events and people are pulling us this way and that. The pull can be felt at the subtle level too. For example, we may be chatting with someone but feel uncomfortable or drained, with a sense that something is silently being needed of us.

In yoga classes, push and pull can show up in the same ways – the pull may be attention scattering outwards or to the shopping list or next week. The push may be the thought that the body “should” be able to make certain shapes or look like the person next to us.

The first question we can ask, is one that one of my teachers, Prajna Ginty, asks when uncomfortable emotions/sensations arise:

Is it ok for it to be here? If the answer is an internal “No!” we can then ask if it is ok for the “No!” to be here too? There’s nothing we need to resist. Though if resistance is present, there’s space for that too.

Then, we can enquire further: What thought is being believed? Where are we orienting from?

What thought is being believed?

There may be a very real situation or external circumstance we need to attend to. For example, we need to take our sister to the doctor immediately. Push, the thought arises: I have to get her there now but I have so much work to finish and I’m already behind on a deadline. Or perhaps that thought feels more like a pull to your system. Another thought arises and you feel the pull in your energy: I am exhausted. I can’t give any more to anyone. But I have to get my sister to the doctor and she hates going to medicalised places alone, so I really should take her.

Push or pull, there’s a conflict within. The situation is the situation (our sister needs to go to the doctor) but the thoughts we believe add a story and so, with attachment to the story, suffering arises. If we don’t engage in those thoughts, if we don’t take them to be true, our sister simply needs to go to the doctor. We can still feel our feelings around this, see our thoughts. Nothing need be denied, yet we can also see what is needed as it is.

When we question what we are taking as true, it becomes easier to be aware of any story and any suffering as a consequence of believing the story. This does not mean that situations, events or experiences aren’t challenging or that we need to ‘choose a different story’ or shy away from aspects of being that are demanding or evoke a multitude of feelings. What supports us in meeting all of life, as it is, is to rest in our essence.

Where are we orienting from?

A useful analogy is that of the ocean. We can think of thoughts, emotions, sensations and situations as the ever-changing waves at the sea’s surface. If we drop deeper and deeper down to the bottom of the sea, we find the unchanging, calm expanse of the ocean floor. Here there are no waves. Our nature is vast, peaceful, untouched by the waves up at the top.

This is where embodied practice can really support a ‘remembering’ of essence. We can use the breath like an anchor. Each breath brings us into the body and to this moment, back into awareness of presence – the presence that is our nature. This may feel unfamiliar, as might the questions. With time, resting in and as our fullness becomes familiar. We meet difficulties differently, from our strength and innate power, even in challenge there’s a flow and a spaciousness, rather than a tussle of push-pull.

Next time you feel a push or pull, I invite you to explore the practice. Please feel free to leave a comment here or on my Instagram or Facebook page and let me know how you go.


Image Source: Tug of War by Steven Guzzardi. Flickr, Creative Commons.

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