THE EMPTY CLAY POT
By: Lauren Anderson
I’ve never worked out so hard that it made me throw up.
I mean, I’ve worked out so hard that I got a little dizzy. And a few times I did feel pretty nauseous. But here’s the deal gang– once I felt nauseous–I STOPPED.
Don’t get me wrong. I think sometimes it happens. You accidentally go over your limit, and BLUMP. Barf city. I’m not trying to throw shade. I’m just sayin, that it sounds awful.
And of course you hear the horror stories. Of like, real BRO gyms with puke buckets that line the walls. And written on the side in a hurried paint pen is a phrase like, “Thunder Chunder” or “Vomit Like You Mean It”.
Like it’s a point of pride to work your body so hard that it causes a mutiny in your stomach?!?
NO THANK YOU.
It was one of the things that made me so afraid of CrossFit when I first started.
Luckily Solcana is about as far from that mentality as you can get. They want WHOLE BODY FITNESS. Like emphasizing common sense and longevity. Including not making your esophagus have to prove it’s worth because you’re the asshole that did too many burpees.
But I will say, that there is a certain joy that seems to arise when I’ve really pushed myself to the limit. (Notice I didn’t say PAST the limit.) But you know the feeling? When you’re spent and breathing heavy and your head is a little fuzzy from all the blood that’s pumping? Yeah. That feeling.
It’s a rush! And somehow even though I’ve exerted myself completely—I feel better.
It’s similar to the feeling after a night of dancing, or good sex, or building your own damn deck in your backyard. You are exhausted but happy. Spent but content.
EMPTY, and yet… so FULL.
Which got me thinking about the idea of “emptiness”.
I think it’s pretty clear from everything we’re taught from the jump, that we should be filling up! You know… we gotta fill our brains with knowledge, and fill our hearts with love, and fill our homes with people and stuff and and and… the list goes on.
But besides the trends of Marie Kondo and Swedish Death Cleaning that coax us to empty our homes from the stuff, I often don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the importance of emptying out my mind, heart, and (without meaning to sound gross) my body.
So often I think I associate the feeling of emptiness with a bad thing. Like hollow or shallow or desolate. But if the small example of my work outs have taught me anything, that’s not really true is it?
Perhaps that emptiness, or “emptying out” is essential.
There is a quote from the graphic novel “Curveball” that said this in different words. It was just one quick panel in a pretty hefty book, but it struck me so much that I pulled out my phone and took a pic.
“We assume that having NOTHING is something NEGATIVE.”
I don’t know why it struck me at the time, but it’s a powerful idea. I think this society talks a lot about “The Haves vs. The Have-Nots”. Everyone is striving in some way to be the former and not the latter. But the burden of “having something” is that it also requires CARE and maintenance.
Which I am happy to provide for the people and things and feelings that I love. I mean, No D’oy.
But what about the stuff I don’t love? The people or circumstances that hurt me? The pain that I might not even be aware that I’m carrying? Whether I’m cognizant of it or not, I still have to lug this stuff around. And that requires time, energy, and maintenance.
Effort that could be used for something else!
This idea of emptying out all the unwanted stuff has been on the forefront of my mind and life lately. Especially now that I’m undergoing such deep and intensive EMDR therapy. (Which I can’t stop talking about, by the way. Because it’s CHANGING MY LIFE.)
I want everyone to do it. I want it to be a universal practice like yoga or improv or nutrition class.
I’ve blogged about it before, but in a nutshell what that therapy is doing is shaking loose and metabolizing all this hidden pain that I’ve just been carrying around for years! Some of which I was aware of, some I was not… and it’s blowing my mind.
Every week, I leave the therapist’s office feeling spent– but refreshed. Similar to how I feel after a good workout. And even though I am usually pretty exhausted because EMDR therapy can be pretty intense, there is new energy there.
There is an emptiness, or ROOM, to think about my life and my past in a new way.
There is space inside me to fill up with new thoughts and practices, new feelings and people. Ideas that serve me better. I empty out the pain, and what is left is a fresh new expanse to be filled again promise.
* * *
Every Monday I teach an improv class for a group of talented and hilarious senior citizens. It is definitely a highlight of my week. Not only are they some of the most open and wise people I’ve ever met in that class, but I think it goes without saying that they teach me as much as I teach them.
We always spend some time going around the circle and talking about our weeks before we get on our feet to improvise. During the “Go-Rounds” one of my students admitted that she was feeling down this week. Hopeless about the state of the country, and wondering how our leaders could be so thoughtless and bigoted.
We sat and listened and held space with her. This is a time for sharing and listening and I always try and encourage my students to bring their most authentic self to class. Because I believe that’s where improv really lives!
After she was done, she apologized for “bringing down the mood in the room”.
And then I had to say something. I thanked her for sharing her ACTUAL thoughts with the group. Because it’s so easy to stick to the pleasantries in public and keep our real feelings hidden.
But what a brave and authentic choice to share real thoughts and feelings! To empty them up and out of the body. To exercise them from the traps of our brains!
And I was proud of my class for allowing time for this moment. I wish everyone could talk this way to each other. I mean, imagine how much closer we could be!
We kept going around the circle. More students shared about their week.
And after hearing the good news of another student’s new grandchild on the way, she said to the group, “Thanks again for letting me share. I actually already feel a little better, just saying it out loud.”
Essentially, allowing herself to empty the negative thoughts out in a safe and welcoming place, so she could have room again to fill back up with something more palatable.
That’s when another student shared an analogy that really struck me. I will paraphrase from memory to the best of my ability, but essentially he said this:
“A potter spends time and effort making a clay pot. They are careful to build a strong outside but keep the inside empty– so you can fill it with the things you love.”
Something about that image struck me. And it’s staying with me.
As I write this I can’t help but think, that whether I’m at therapy, or at the gym, or on the dance floor– this practice of letting myself “empty out” physically or emotionally, is actually an act of grace.
And it is crucial to my growth.
It’s not about just piling on more good stuff. It’s also important to empty out the bad.
In essence, I am like a clay pot. My sides are crafted with strength and care and purpose.
And sometimes the insides need to be emptied.
So they can be filled again with love.