Making The Offering
A recurring theme has emerged in the conversations, meetings and musings of my past week. The theme is taking action to either end a destructive pattern or to begin a constructive alternative—which are, after all, two perspectives on the same objective.
Whether it’s a pattern of commission (drinking too much, binge-eating, taking on too much work and so on) or omission (procrastination, withdrawal, fear of saying no, and the like), we probably, almost all of us, are prone to some kind of patterning which we’d like to iron out of the fabric of our habitual experience in favour of new, healthy options.
And I say “iron out” because these destructive and dysfunctional patterns aren’t permanently dyed in, they’re not an intrinsic component of character—they’re more like creases that have become so deep and repeated it only feels as if they’re permanent and impossible to shift.
When it came to addictive patterns my dad, Stephen, used to suggest focussing your energy on adopting and developing a positive behavioural trait rather than channelling any of that same energy into abstaining from whatever addiction had you in its grip. And with time, the power of the positive trait would naturally counter the force of the negative until the latter loosened and then fell away of its own accord. I could only ever agree with that idea in part. But there’s certainly something to be said for directing your resources into the action of creating something new.
Because that seems to be at the heart of this.
Taking action in the first instance. Beginning.
In order to break a cycle or form a new one, we must begin taking action and this action will, necessarily, be out of the ordinary. Which is what makes it seem extra-ordinarily difficult to do.
If you want to exercise more frequently, eat less greedily, or write the novel that’s been wafting through your awareness—whatever it is you want to achieve but you haven’t ‘til now succeeded in, it requires an unordinary first action (which becomes ordinary over time).
I’ve come to think of this unordinary action as an offering—as if invoking that higher part of ourselves we wish to align with and become.
What’s more, I believe it is this higher part of ourselves that calls us to act in the first place. And when we do so we do honour her or him or it with our gift. And when that happens, the kindness we show our (higher) selves is rewarded.
It’s rewarded in the short term with the motivation to carry on. Because motivation follows action and rarely the other way around. When we heed the call to act, our action is almost immediately followed by the motivation required to fuel this action forward.
And our offering is rewarded in the longer term—as long as we persist with it—with the actualisation of the potential Self.
This might sound like metaphysical claptrap so allow me to change tact and give an example that’s purely physical, because all this is actually very practical.
In calisthenics, for example, a pull-up is one of the first basic moves to get to grips with. If you’ve never done a pull-up before you might want to begin by practising simple scapular pull-ups first: hanging from a bar or gymnastic rings with arms fully extended, your toes resting lightly on the ground in front of you to bear some weight, you pull from the scapulae while keeping your arms straight. The vertical movement you generate might only be an inch, but it is, nevertheless, the beginning of a new neuromuscular pattern taking shape. And with regular practise, the neuromuscular connection will develop until you become physically able to engage the same muscles at the shoulder blades to safely pull up your own body weight all the way.
Scapular pull-ups are, in this instance, an offering to the higher physical self you feel you have the potential to become.
Or maybe you want to write a novel, but the thought of ever getting to the end feels so remote and unlikely, like such far-off fantasy, you never take the first steps to begin. Plus, you convince yourself anything you write will be shit and you’ll only end up failing.
But unless you take action to begin, how will you ever know? The only way to guarantee you’ll fail is not begin in the first place.
The beginning is the offering to your higher creative being. The offering might only be a few hundred words at first. And then the next day you offer your self up again with a few hundred more, and so on. Each new sitting, each new beginning, is the offering, and each offering builds towards the completion and realisation of something, someone, greater than that which currently exists.
But when we ignore the call to action and we don’t we don’t honour ourselves with our gift, then instead of channelling our energy correctly, we retroflect this energy instead. It has to go somewhere; it doesn’t just evaporate. So we turn it in on and against ourselves, feeling and acting out shame or guilt, rebuke or worthlessness.
Same energetic force, very different effect.
So, the next time you hear the call to act on something you’ve been putting off, as an experiment, try this:
Simply notice the thoughts or images running through your head as soon as you’ve made the decision to start (“I’m not worthy, it’ll be shit, what’s the point?”)
Notice if there’s an emotion attached to this thought. Chances are there will be. Chances are it might be fear.
See if you can pinpoint in your body where you’re holding the emotion (is it in your belly, shoulders, jaw or hands?).
And just breathe into that place.
Focus on it and breathe and be with it. Don’t run away from it. Don’t ignore it. Don’t put it off.
Treat it like you might treat a young child who’s come to you scared and upset and in need of love and attention. Just be there with it. Be present. No need to change it or tell it not to be afraid or to grow up or change. Just accept it for what and who it is. Parent it.
And notice what happens to it.
And then ask yourself, are these thoughts I’ve been telling myself – that I can’t do it, that I’m talentless, that I’m shit – are they true? Or are they part of a story I’ve been telling my self?
And then make the offering, just one small gift at a time.
With love, Jake x