Thursday, 21 November 2013

An Ikea Chair, A Downward Dog & How I Gave Up & Came Undone

I just have to share this. I am not sure how it is going to sound when I express it out loud in words, especially as the main ingredients of the story are a picture of a failed chair construction and a yoga class. But I am going to give it a go because this is a BIG undoing that is happening for me.

If you have kept up with my blog, you will know that I am what I like to think of as a Recovering Perfectionist. Which means that I am very committed to the journey towards Bliss and Self-kindness rather than Getting Things Right. 

It's an interesting journey. 

And I have been reflecting on it more than usual lately. I have thought about it and watched the evidence of it in my reactions but, until last night, I had not really felt the shift in my body.

Cue the yoga class bit. I rushed there, late, having managed to just about get one small person to sleep and felt so tired that I struggled to keep up with the moves I usually find quite straightforward.  My Downward Dog was more like a Downward What-Exactly-Is-That. But slowly but surely, as I stayed in this position breath after breath, I finally dropped into my body after a pretty busy and emotional week. 

And then something happened, which I can only describe as a full-body experience of absolute Love and grace. And it started with the thought of the woman in this photograph and the words underneath, which I had seen the day before and had not been able to stop thinking (and laughing) about:

OK, so stay with me. A strange picture I know. And not one you would usually associate with bringing about a state of Bliss. If you look carefully, you will see a woman who has given up. She has screwed the legs on upside down and has gone past the point of knowing what on earth to do.

And for me, somehow, this picture sums up my whole life - a whole life of trying to get everything right, of giving myself a hard time when I don't and being in the grip of Perfectionism - and the stage I am in now, of relaxing into the messy, imperfect fullness of life.

(And if you have ever assembled an Ikea chair with one of those alan key things, this is just hilarious anyway.) 

There was such catharsis in my laughter. I felt like I was back at school again, or in one of the many church services I have laughed-cried-hiccupped-snorted my way through as this kind of uncontrollable Laughter hits. I only kept it quiet(ish) for fear of putting off the two nervous-looking New People in the class, who seemed like they were still working out if yoga was just a step too far into the Weirdness for them. I decided my snorting collapse would have been a step too far. 

By the time I relaxed into sivasana, I had come completely undone. I don't know how else to describe it. Waves of blissful laughter were interspersed with waves of great sadness and compassion for myself and I could literally feel my angels cheering: She's done it, she's really done it! And then, as usual, we were asked to curl up on our sides for a moment as we prepared to sit up - and I found myself in precisely the position in which this woman had arranged herself after giving up any hope of putting together a chair that anyone can sit on. 

From this position, I really felt myself giving up on constructing the Great Ikea Chair of Life. I let go completely. And what I found on the other side was all the Love I had been missing. 

I share this with you because maybe you will get a download too. Maybe it will ease some of your own tightly-lodged perfectionist ways, your need to get things right, your control. 

I hope it does, because, truly, there is a bliss garden awaiting us when we do. A space where we can finally breathe in the Love that holds us.

I will leave you with Ingrid Goff-Maidoff's poem on this subject as she articulates this exact process so beautifully:


  1. Hols, it's so funny how our process is connected. Before yoga last night I had a coaching call with James which was all about how I suddenly feel this freedom from assessment thing. Where I am looking at myself and everything in life afresh, like it's all just objects, words, movement rather than anything I can know anything about or have a view or opinion on. And I should write about this too. I love you hols, and all I could think was that you should have laughed even louder in the yoga class!!! xxx

  2. I absolutely loved reading this Hollie, I laughed out loud and I cried a bit too. A lot, in fact. Thank you for inspiring us! Lisa (Schlesinger) xxx

    1. Thanks Lisa ! How come you are called The Baker?! x

  3. Hollie, I love your story! Thank you for sharing! It gives hope to another struggling recovering-perfectionist that it can be done!
    I especially loved this part:

    "And for me, somehow, this picture sums up my whole life - a whole life of trying to get everything right, of giving myself a hard time when I don't and being in the grip of Perfectionism - and the stage I am in now, of relaxing into the messy, imperfect fullness of life."

    I think I am still somewhere between the two, not quite relaxing in to the messy, imperfect fullness of life, but closer to it than I have every been!

    Thanks Hollie for all your inspiration, your words are truly life-changing :)

    1. Thanks for writing Clare. So pleased this was helpful. And good to hear from you! x

  4. Mmmmm, it's been a while since I've popped in for a visit and now that I have and read your latest post, well I'm all smiles. it would appear my angels are doing whatever they can to help me 'let go' and reading your post is just another reminder, a gentle guiding hand. Thankyou.