The Law of Avoidance

Each month Body Comes to Mind hosts the Embodiment Lab (EL) where we explore topics that impact our personal resilience and wellbeing. These live, interactive sessions serve to supplement our online courses and to provide a training ground for anyone interested in transforming reactability into response-ability through the powerful tool of embodied awareness. Following is an outline of what we experienced during the lab, including paraphrased quotes from participants.

“You cannot find peace by avoiding life.”

Virginia Woolf

The Law of Avoidance

Last month we explored the Law of Attraction in our Embodiment Lab. This time we will look at the unavoidable counterpart: The Law of Avoidance.

Like we did last time, we used the pendulum as our vehicle for exploring embodied awareness. We used the pendulum’s weight and motion to work with the reactions in our own body and mind, both when we consciously interact with the pendulum and when we let gravity do its job. 

Our interest is how we can use that knowledge in our daily lives. It is only through practice that we can become familiar with what is happening with and within us. By expanding our self awareness we create more space for ourselves to discover how we can work with that in our lives. 

Before reading along find yourself a pendulum – or something that can work like it – to see what shows up for you doing the exercises that are described below.

What Are The Things We Are Avoiding?

Sometimes it’s an activity, sometimes people, sometimes situations. Some examples from the lab:

  • Bookkeeping!
  • Things that eat my energy
  • Dominant people
  • Planning
  • Looking for a new income source
  • Intimacy
  • Things I find challenging or difficult

“Is procrastination pushing away?”, one participant asked? We name things for ourselves in order to better understand them. Using a known situation, person or activity during our practice gives specificity and clarity. We can then more easily recognize our habitual patterns and interpret the meaning of our embodied experience in that particular instance. We are investigating how rejecting, avoiding or pushing something away might rob ourselves of connection or shift us out of our alignment.

Different Ways of Avoiding

As we took time to explore pushing things away from us, we found that our reaction changed depending on different factors such as which hand we used to hold and push, whether we faced our palm in or out, and whether we pushed directly in front of us or to the side.

“I find it lighter and easier to push away with my right hand, the left hand I started to feel anxious.”

Recognizing how different each situation can be, both within ourselves and between one another, we develop a greater understanding of the complexity and depth of our reactions. Noticing, as one participant did, that we sense “tension in my neck and becoming less present in my body” increases our skill to recognize when we’re out of alignment or the opposite. Another participant recognized that she felt safe and empowered when she pushed the object to one side, anxious and more vulnerable when pushing directly in front of her. We also noticed a change when we pushed with something specific in mind, putting a label on what we’re avoiding. Surprisingly, some of us found that even though it was something we thought we didn’t want, the act of pushing it away was uncomfortable. “I felt a sense of loss . . .” and

“I knew I didn't want to do it, but then I felt my innards getting sucked out of me when I pushed it away.”

Others felt a sense of relief, “It felt good, gave me space”, or the thing they were pushing became heavier for them when they labeled it. There is no right or wrong way to interpret or do this work. We each have a unique perspective and personal interpretation of what is happening. By recognizing what is happening we develop the ability to work with the tools we have at our fingertips to give us clarity.

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Small Changed Can Make a Big Difference

Facing our palms toward us or away from us when we pushed the pendulum away had a noticeable effect on our systems. For a lot of us, facing the palm toward ourselves while pushing was a more empowered experience, “more gentle and somehow more connecting”, one observed. “More whole, aligned, a connecting experience . . .” And the opposite way felt more protective and controlling.

But another participant had the opposite experience, feeling strength with the palm facing out, lacking control with it facing inward. Each of us observed where the comfort and discomfort lay in our system. Do you notice a difference between the two for yourself? And how does that play out to situations in your daily life?

“Palm facing out was more confrontational, using the back of my hand to push the object with my palm facing toward me I felt more at ease but with decisiveness and dignity.”

The Inevitable Consequence

When we push the pendulum away from us, whether with right or left hand, in front or to the side, there is a point at which our hand will no longer prevent it from swinging back in our direction. Have you ever noticed that something similar often occurs in our daily lives as well? Not only does the bookkeeping, lack of planning or annoyingly dominant person come back to us, they can return with an even stronger force or impact. By working to avoid things we eventually, even if it’s years away, have to put in more effort to manage or navigate the situation. That scenario played out interestingly when we worked with it in the lab. We found that the tipping point, just before the object would swing back toward us, could be uncomfortable, irritating, kind of scary: “My breath became shallow, I felt a kind of fear in my chest.” The swing back itself could actually be less stressful than the anticipation. As one participant remarked, there was initially “a small irritation, then . . . leading to acceptance” and another noticing that even though they didn’t want the thing, there was a resolve with the swing back: “Oh well.”

Can We Take Control?

Would our reactions be different if we had more control? Instead of letting it slip out of our hands back toward us, we played with guiding it back. Much in the same way we might invite someone back in or decide to do a task that we don’t like. And for one participant this resulted in greater discomfort, feeling vulnerable and out of control. When it just slipped back in unexpectedly, it was easier to manage. For another, the experience was calming.

“I also realized that there was a difference depending on the speed with which I engaged in the action. At the outset I was trying to get rid of the object as quickly as possible. As I practiced I began slowing down. I became more relaxed during the experience.”

Pushing has an inevitable outcome. Becoming aware of how the outcome affects our system and the different ways we might affect that outcome might allow us to make any shifts to increase our self-alignment and connection with another.

What Works for Us

It is not whether or not we will push things away, avoid or deflect. We will. Just as we will inevitably pull things toward us and grasp after things. It is about recognizing how we do that, under what circumstances, and whether or not we have a sense of our alignment in the midst of it all. As one participant remarked:

I suppose it’s rather obvious, but I never realized that there is more than one way to push something away!

The takeaway? Each of our systems reacts differently. Through experimentation and practice we can better understand where our unique set points are, what takes us out of alignment, what helps us feel more aligned and how we can help ourselves get there. Working with the body+mind system with curiosity and open minds in place, we discover shifts and approaches that deepen our connection to ourselves and to others.

“I realized that I have a tendency to disconnect quite quickly when I am pushing something away. I think I’ll work with disconnecting more slowly, being engaged throughout the process.”

References & Resources

Body Comes to Mind provides EMBODIED skills and practices to the globe through online courses, skills labs & workshops to enable people to take care of themselves while caring for others.

Centering Guide | BCM

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