Fight/Flight or Feed/Breed? I decide!

This morning I went to a yoga session and for an hour all we did was move tiny little muscles in my core and Edith was like “This is NOT a workout. Wasting money.” She doesn’t like yoga, because after an hour of breathing deeply I can often tell the difference between my voice and hers. In fact, after an hour of yoga, I usually feel like I do after really good sex: smiley, secure in the positive power of pleasure and the beneficient nature of the universe to make things turn out.  All of which Edith hates.

But, I don’t do get to do the big yoga that delivers the blockbuster endorphins anymore, apparently. My back has been saying NO.

Instead of doing the big yoga and the big progressive campaign work, I am doing the little work of this story, this initiation, this rebuilding myself, literally from the inside out. I don’t mean literally the way it is often used for emphasis, as in “my ass was literally on fire,” which could only be really true if you’d just had a lighter fluid enema.  I mean literally rebuilding myself from the inside out, starting with deep abs and the tiny muscles around the base of my spine called multifidus. I like “mutifidus.” It sounds like a village, or a hive. Little hive of slacker bee muscles that are not doing their job holding my hips and spine steady so that I can do giant macho work and yoga moves.

It’s made me a little angry.

So, today I went into the yoga studio for a private session to learn how to do the little yoga, so that I can silence Edith and get stronger, and the whole time I wanted to crank it up!!

But then Beth, my teacher, said an interesting thing. I’d been following her coaching, sticking with the breath and the core for about 20 minutes, and then I felt this wash of warmth down my shoulders, ribs and waist and over my hips.

“Well,” she said, “if you are anything like me, carrying around a little anxiety, that’s your nervous system switching from fight or flight to feed or breed.”

“Did you just say ‘feed or breed’? Did you just make that up?!!”” I got so excited that I sat up, probably defeating the work we’d just done.

But I love this idea! I do think that the junction we are facing now as a world is this choice, which can be said in so many ways… You’ve heard “make love not war,” no doubt. This is the same choice that is described in the Chalice and the Blade, which does an awesome job of presenting the archaeological evidence that as a species, we have a lot more history and success with love than with war. Also, I remember hearing Diana Gabaldon talk about this on a panel once. She is the author of the Outlander books, which has been turned into a very sexy series on Starz. (One friend of mine credits this series with reviving her sex life with her husband.)

But Gabaldon also has a PhD in Behavioral Ecology. and knows about our basic animal nature. She was talking about why she writes about sex and war, saying that we can’t turn away from those things. “I guarantee you, if you were walking down the street and you saw someone having sex or fighting, you would stop in your tracks,” she said.

Fight and flight or feed and breed? I think I’ve been driven by the former, living a hectic, fast-paced way that drowns out my inner voice, my connection to my intuition. And the story of Baba Yaga’s inititation of Vassalisa is, according to Estés, the story of a woman retrieving her intuition. I think that’s what this is about: rebuilding so that I am living for, choosing, working for a feed or breed life and world. I think this has to start with me feeling feedy-breedy instead of fighty-flighty.