In life one of the things I find the most difficult is to ascertain when something is a challenge or a warning. How does one tell the difference? It takes a lifetime of running off the road, finding one’s wheels spinning in the sky before one begins to understand. I still don’t.
However, there are things that as Douglas Coupland points out, are not worth it. He said, “Find out what you don’t want to do and then don’t do it.”
Sometimes, nevertheless, by walking away from difficulties we shrink. We shrink from learning to push on. We shrink in size because we didn’t stretch our bodies, our minds, our spirits. With students, I am frequently encouraging them to think step by step. I ask them to remind themselves that they are “the worst you will ever be at…. (fill in the task) today. Tomorrow you will be better as you practice.”
It is very difficult to assess yourself without criticism… at least for me. My expectations are frequently so expansive that I run aground on the shoals of my own ambition. Competitiveness also puts me in a place whereby I am judging both others and myself to see who is “ahead.” This attitude is poisonous. It is like a long-distance runner who turns to check others in the race. All track and field coaches point out that that split second when the runner’s mind is off of the race, is when he or she loses. The athlete loses the ability to focus. The runner loses the ability to “be” in his or her body fully and efficiently. He or she loses a connectedness with the ground, the air, the energy flow. And it is given over to the other runners. In a meet if this happened not one runner is present. In life, we who have a tendency to judge and be competitive lose the opportunity to be present.
So how best to work with these tendencies? First of all being aware of how one is feeling is crucial. To observe the emotion gently seems to go a long way to loosening their grip on me.
A warning that one is running on the wrong track comes from a sense of being trapped, of a closing down of the body, of a lessening of energy. Sometimes if one persists and increases skill, one can push through the initial resistance.
On the other hand, when the resistance persists. When the task is increasingly frustrating, it is best to take Coupland’s advice and hand it over to another who joyously and fairly effortlessly can help you. So the final observation that I am making in my life is that there are others on the team, in your tribe who can assist. But there are times when… one must take on the challenge and keep on going on in order to grow.
It is much like working out. If you are in pain the next day and can’t move… then you have done yourself an injury. If you feel warmth in your body and a revitalized energy, you are on the path. I am looking for that feeling in everything I do.
Wish me luck!