The Great Weight of Inertia


“ object at rest tends to stay at rest..” –Isaac Newton

This past week, many of us in the Tri-State area found our lives skidding to a screeching halt- literally by forces of nature.  My little nook of a neighborhood was incredibly lucky to have been passed over in the devastating after-effects many are still feeling.  For that we are so very grateful.

Even so, our lives were affected.  The limited transit into Manhattan and the lack of power meant that most of us got a little too familiar with the well-worn paths through our small apartments.  I was one of those people.

The time trapped in Queens, the time away from the routine of daily life, was something like a “lost week” for me.  So many of my good practices flew out the window over those 7 days.  My healthy diet, my great food choices:  gone with the constant presence of pumpkin pie, apple crisp and mulled wine.  My awesome exercise regimen:  a little apartment yoga happened, but overall, the stretching and breathing decreased significantly.  My mindful, present attitude:  gone, gone gone.  I was so irritable and irate by Thursday afternoon it was almost laughable.

And it continued through the weekend.  Trains were running, and I could go out, go to class, choose vegetables instead of.  Those options were available to me.  But by and large, I felt like a big lump.  An object at rest tends to stay at rest.  I had rested, and now I just wanted to keep resting.  It didn’t feel great.  I didn’t feel full of energy and vitality, or strong and healthy.  But it did feel easy, in a way.  Comfortable.

This is the trap of inertia.  We get into a pattern and it’s not that the pattern significantly rewards us.  In fact, the pattern might be something we very much wish to change.  But we don’t change it.  Because we are at rest, we want to continue to stay at rest.  It’s the natural law of things.  We might be dissatisfied with the results, but we stay stuck.  And it can seem like a colossal, superhuman effort is required to get unstuck.

This last week snuck up on me.  I thought my routines were more solid, maybe verging on unshakeable.  But after only a few days of nothingness, all I wanted to do was exactly what I had been doing- curl up with a blanket inside my apartment.  I didn’t spend my free time working on new music, and I didn’t even spend it writing this blog.

Maybe it’s the winter weather.  Maybe it’s the storm, or the election, or the back-to-back-to-back holidays approaching.  But as Monday rolled around, and Tuesday, I didn’t feel a burning passion to jump back into them.  There were still goodies in my refrigerator.  It was still a long train ride to the studio.  And worst of all, it was COLD outside.

Yesterday, I finally did go to class.  I re-read my Rules I Live By (yet another practice that had fallen by the wayside), and I dragged myself down the stairs, onto the platform, and into the hot room.  And I didn’t regret one single moment of class.  And this morning, after a long night of watching the election, I sat down to write.   And I am not regretting one single moment of this either.

There is something we often forget about Newton’s law: the first phrase.  And that is “An object in motion tends to stay in motion.”  There may be superhuman effort required to re-establish our practices and routines, but maintaining those routines is not nearly as difficult as that first great push.  If we can only find the motivation to just begin, or to begin again, inertia will propel us forward into a place where we feel content, satisfied that our efforts are both worthy and worthwhile.  The hardest moment is the restart.  But if we can learn to pick ourselves up again when we stumble, or even when we fall, we walk away both smarter and stronger.

Yoga is sometimes defined as the union of body and mind, through breath, in order to do work.  In order to accomplish what it is we were meant to accomplish.

There is work to be done.

Be well.