Finding Connection through Small Kindness

Original published by Open Gate Sangha as part of the Peace Room Project

Before the isolating constraints of the COVID-19 virus, I lived and worked alone. Mostly, I do solitude well, feeling any sense of loneliness in the evening, feeling into the emptiness when purpose and pleasure are set aside for the day. So the current constraints are not significantly different for me now in terms of habit, even if radically different in terms of the wider social, economic, and health spheres surrounding me. I have lived with a fairly simple guideline—do what I can do, whatever that might be.

So, as a daily discipline, finding creative ways to connect is now my new normal: a card to my mother, with fold out paper hands and arms to provide the hug I cannot now give as she is locked down in a long-term care facility; screen calling friends to share a book passage; a virtual/local walk apart-but-together; or a simple check in. I found one Sunday morning, walking by myself in a park as it snowed lightly on the geese gathered there, how exquisitely aware I was of the quality of the connections I have with friends, with neighbors, with family. With everything I could see and hear in the park. With everything.

In making space to connect every day, what would normally be forgettable small kindnesses now seem full. While I would like to be able to tell a story about offering great acts of kindness and love, what is truer are my choices to be present in an online circle of friends, gathered in meditation, with the intention to bring light to a person or situation. To gather in an online book study to deepen my understanding of Aikido and the harmony of nature. To join a family member in troubleshooting a problem with her computer without knowing if I can help, both of us finding care in our shared attempt. To offer free online Feldenkrais sessions and recordings to support those who want a little support.

I am still most likely to feel lonely in my solitude in the evenings as I settle out of my day’s pursuits. There is no one in my bubble. But I notice a subtle sufficiency growing within me, of things being enough, just as they are. Out of this, I can be more present to the salesperson who needs to process her anxiety when I call with my request for something; to a friend struggling with today’s bad news; to the fear rising for my mother who will likely not survive an outbreak; to the hard, careful, work of the health care professionals doing their utmost to stop virus transmission on their watch. To the vulnerability of what comes next. I don’t know what wisdom this is—just that it is following the flow of each day.

What is it to be human?

Photo by McKenna Phillips on Unsplash

I started writing this as a description of a multi-day learning activity I participated in during my last Feldenkrais training segment.  Today, with the physical isolation and daily evolution of our global pandemic, this learning activity is taking on a new meaning for me.

To start:  The learning activity was set up like this:  You are encountering a humanoid looking being.  How do you explore what the humanoid can do?  How do you discover how they can move, how they react/interact with their environment and your presence? 

Day 1: I played the role of the humanoid being which meant I lay on my side on the ground as my team members role-played their exploration.  How did it move?  What would it do if approached?

We had a lot of fun.

 As the activity played out, I realized that they approached me the whole time as if I was a hostile alien.  I felt an inner sense of conflict – here I am lying on the ground, playing the role of a being in an unfamiliar environment and my first experience with other beings is being treated as a dangerous stranger.   Strange feeling. 

I am feeling the same thing this week when I walk in the park and sneeze.  People anywhere close to me look at me and withdraw, their gaze concerned.  At the beginning I would try to explain, “Irritated sinuses – happens every winter!”  But people who don’t know me are not convinced.  As a being who sneezes, I represent a threat.

Day 2: This time I get to be the expedition leader so I can guide my team mates in exploring the humanoid looking being.  I began my exploration of our being from a place of building connection and trust.  Not touching the being but inviting the being to initiate touch, seeking touch without imposing it.  The way was a slower pace of exploration, one that included seeking consent and slowly bringing our being into the spirit of discovery together.   Treating my being like a person, not an object.

In practicing functional integration, the hands-on Feldenkrais approach, I had always felt fear.  I had in subtle and not so subtle ways organized around my fear.  It was such a stark contrast to enter into uncertainty while exploring another being: operating from fear or operating from connection.   In experiencing my exploration of this being, I could see how different I was, when my first concern was connection, building relationship and trust – I tended to listen for rather than impose the next moment of contact, to look for the possibility in the next movement rather than make movement happen.

Shift to today: I have taken to walking in the river valley park close to my home daily as a way to exercise, get into nature and feel more connected to people.  As someone who lives and works alone, I am used to a certain amount of solitude.  In this pandemic mode, I am having a good level of contact with people by phone and computer.  What I miss are the conversations with neighbors, with people at stores, the casual connections that fill in my sense of connections to other humans.  Right now, dogs are having a good time!  The off-leash section of the park has become a place of casual community, greeting dogs and people while maintaining enough physical distance to feel good about it.   Connection with caution.

Day 3: In our learning activity, we were asked how we would interact with our humanoid being to remind them how to be a human in gravity? On this day, the backstory had our humanoid taken and then returned to Earth after a long period of time.  How could we help our humanoid being discover how to be human again?

By Day 3, as the learning activity involved, I started to see what a big deal it was to be a being, a human being in an environment.    If I had to relearn how to move, how to interact with an environment through my senses, what would I need to know?  What would I need to experience?  All of a sudden, the concept of a Functional Integration session being a lesson on how to be human had a new kind of meaning.  How has the history of our life changed our shape, the ways we know how to move, the ways we know how to be human?

What does it mean to be human? 

How does this learning activity relate to being a human right now?  In a pandemic-organized environment, we are living in physical isolation.  We are asked to be self-reliant, leaning on the resources immediately surrounding us.  We are cut off from other resources – friends, co-workers, for many their place of work, the recreation center, the sports club, from family.  For me and for some people I know, we are disconnected from the flow of our livelihood as workplaces have closed or contracts have vanished under state ordered bans on movement and gathering in spaces that connect us.

Seems like we have some choices about how we play the role of human. 

From fear, we hoard toilet paper.  Same with food and other goods we fear will not be available.   When I went to the grocery store a few days into pandemic shut down, some shelves were empty, not everything I wanted to buy was available.  Some shoppers had loaded carts, stocking up so they could have resources if the situation become worse.  I admit that when I put groceries away at home, more items than I typically buy but not even a full shopping cart, I felt a niggle of fear in my belly recede – feeling more comfortable in the resources I now had at home. 

From fear, we shut ourselves away, numbing out on Netflix binges or sifting news sources with a hyper-vigilant attention.  In the body, self-protection patterns tend to leave us constricted, isolating parts of ourselves, sometimes contracting to limit movement to prevent further injury.  Movement based from fear is uneven, some parts of ourselves working harder than others and usually takes more effort, more energy to maintain.

From connection, we can care for ourselves and check on people around us looking for ways to support one another.  One friend orders food online from locally owned stores.  Another starts a neighborhood site to coordinate people who volunteer to help neighbors and neighbors who need help.  And another friend asks to start a gratitude meme to thank health care professionals.  (Trees of gratitude for health professionals  Movement based from connection is more easeful, freer, more related to what is happening in front of us. 

Krista Tippett the host of the On Being project has said, “This is a species moment.”  We may not get a choice on getting sick with the virus, or how we are constricted in our homes or at work.  I am pulling for our human capacity to make choices, to connect, to support, to find creative ways to stay human, together.

I also offer access to a free recording, a Kind Movement lesson to support you to reclaim your calm in this occasionally disorienting, disturbing time – take care of yourselves – we are all in this together.

Check out my Calm under Pressure free recording at:

Drip Lessons – Why Practice is Important

Photo by Adrien Converse on Unsplash

As I mark my half-way point in my Feldenkrais formal training, I am interested in the assumptions we can hold about learning.  I have worked most of my adult life in education and remember playing school as a girl in small wooden desk on our family farm.  That early play, mimicking the adult world, cast learning as taking tests and producing answers.   When my sister marked my test sheet correct, that meant I was a good student!  But good for what? 

I am preparing now for a different kind of test, a demonstration of aikido techniques to transition into 2nd kyu.  (That means I get 2 stripes on my brown belt – 2 more tests to go for the coveted black belt).   In my school, we have an encyclopedic number of technique variations to learn as brown belts – sort of like a finishing school to prepare for deeper study.  The approaches to learning I used sitting in my school desk don’t work as well here.  I am drilling through movement almost daily to load the fundamentals of the techniques into my body/mind and refining my understanding of why they work.  How can I be a good student here?  Good for what?

I am hip deep in learning two traditions that many might say are on a decline – Feldenkrais and Aikido.  Both are in a similar place generationally.  The founder/creator of the school has passed away; the people who studied directly with the founder are elders and the generations of people coming behind them to practice is thinning out.   It is reasonable to ask, “what are these traditions good for?”

In reflecting on my progress to become a Feldenkrais practitioner and a more seasoned aikidoka, I have a perspective on learning that seems to apply to both learning contexts.  I will call it “drip lessons”.
Drip lesson #1 Courage to Fail (over and over).

On the surface, in aikido I am learning dynamic biomechanics, lessons of force management, and a perspective of how to organize and coordinate my movement to achieve a result.  What result?   I train to remain calm and potent as I respond to an attack in a way that diminishes the intensity of the attack towards a balance point where peaceful options become available again between myself and my attacker.  Sounds pretty cool – people I know who are into mindfulness and consciousness raising activities usually like descriptions of aikido and its philosophy.   And if that outcome is like a shining temple on the top of the mountain, people look up and admire it. 

But the lessons had while trudging on the path are the hidden lessons.  I call them “drip lessons” because as drop by drop of experience happens, the lessons can shape you, just as water eventually shapes a stone.

In aikido practice, I mostly fail.  Not because I am a bad student but because I am practicing a way of being in movement that I do not know fully yet.  My Feldenkrais practice has been a sweet boost to my failures as I can distinguish in finer and finer ways how my body is aligned, how I use my perception so I can ask myself for more complex coordination and organization patterns.  In class recently, I worked for over 30 minutes with another person, who has a black belt, on a technique that required a new-to-me kind of coordination and organization.  Without it, the technique just didn’t work.   I found this new state 3 times in 30 minutes.  Can the word do without my learning of this technique?  Of course.  But the drip lesson of failure gives me gifts of gold.

I am:

  • Learning to rely on my curiosity and ingenuity as a learner to identify and remove what prevents me from progressing.
  • Learning to name where I am stuck and what I need help with to take on the challenge.
  • Managing my frustration to stay in and learn in the face of a challenge I can’t solve right away.
  • Acquiring patience and persistence.
  • Letting go of my ego’s need to be right, to perform well each time.

This drip lesson is kind of vital for my life as a solo entrepreneur as I explore marketing strategies, business technologies and ways to grow my business.  In this venture I have struggled and failed, over and over again, improving as I go because of the lessons of each failure.   I can apply this drip lesson to my Feldenkrais practice and pretty much any challenge in life worth doing.
Drip lesson #2 Facing fear

As a woman, dealing with force, falling, using strength for power, much of this territory is new.  I didn’t wrestle or fight as a child, not physically, so when I face dealing with force, I am often uncertain and fearful.  Both of getting hurt and of hurting others.  While I particularly like the way aikido deals with force, the lesson about how to deal with force is only part of the picture.  The drip lesson of finding myself triggered into fear and finding my way back to calm is a life skill that is starting to infuse who I am.  While I can see that I might have a slightly higher threshold now to feel fear (still don’t like snakes too much!), I have a greater capacity to move through and beyond my fear. 
Drip lesson #3 Expanding sense of what is possible

I turned 50 a couple of years ago and I am struck by something I have noticed about acquaintances and friends.  The people around my age are in the process of “smalifying” or expanding.  (Thanks to Paul Linden for the word).  I watch peers age in front of me, their lives getting smaller as they stay with what is comfortable, safe and convenient.   I watch other peers expand, even in their 70s, as they stay open, invested in what is possible. 

The practice of aikido is an expansive practice – literally opening up my body, my mind and my heart.   I am working with new members of our club on a novel way to learn how to roll.  Rather than putting beginners into the position of trying out front and back rolls right away, we are breaking down components following a Feldenkrais lesson on rolling, so beginners can learn to trust themselves in movement and trust their contact with the floor.  

It’s a classic collision of habits and practice – when I learned to roll, I was afraid of going over so contracted and stiffened myself to prevent myself from getting hurt.  This bracing habit is exactly what hurt me as I thumped my way through the roll, banging my shoulder multiple times in just the way I didn’t want to do.   What is needed instead is the ability to expand through our shape, so that we become as round and connected to the ground as we can.   I pick on this activity because it is one where I can see for the beginners an expanding sense of what is possible.  Again, the ability to roll or not roll may not be urgently important.  But the drip process of starting something that is not possible and learning how it is possible is kind of what learning is all about.  Learning something that you do not already know how to do.  
So to answer my own question, “Good for what?” I need to make a distinction.  Both aikido and Feldenkrais are practices that carry extra cargo.  There is the content of what you can learn and there is the capacity you can develop, drip by drip, experience by experience.   I know long ago I gave up being a small expert for being an expansive explorer.   Why is that important?

I recently saw Martyn Joseph in concert – Martyn is a hard-working, Welsh folk singer in the tradition of calling out, passionately for change and singing the songs of the people who don’t get heard in the halls of power.  So taking a cue for Martyn, here is my passionate outburst for today.

In the uncertainty of today’s current pandemic, economic downturns, environmental distress, a small expert just doesn’t stand a chance.   Things are changing too quickly.  The experts, the authorities we look to for answers don’t know.  We need people who can stand their ground in the face of complexity, crisis and the threat of chaos and stay calm. Curious. Expansive.  People who can thrive with failure.   We need the kinds of practice lineages that cultivate this kind of person.   Today more than ever.

On a personal note, stay safe!  I support decisions people feel they need to make to preserve their health.  I am through my 14-day waiting period after my recent trip to Seattle for Feldenkrais training and have not shown any symptoms.  My seasonal sinus irritation that happens every winter is fully present.

I am offering the option to join my classes online – it is possible using a smart phone or a computer so recently gave a class to a person on the west coast, a person in another country and made a recording so a local person could catch up – she was self-isolating to protect herself with a non-virus related respiratory issue.   As we live in a social isolating way, I want to urge you to continue to find ways to remain connected with others and to stay connected to yourself and your environment.   From a grounded, connected place you will have more resources to manage the risk and to find your way back to calm when fear gets the upper hand. 

My current and upcoming classes – if you find yourself self-isolated or mandated to be at home, consider joining in a class online – I can help you get connected to the session and yourself.

Exercise vs Learning

Why did I start training to become a Feldenkrais practitioner? 

Working with people in their bodies, I intuit people want an answer something like this:  I have been interested in body-based practices for years – Martial arts like karate, Tai Chi and aikido, Pilates, gym workouts and physical hobbies like kayaking, hiking, swimming, walking.  So I wanted to become an embodiment professional. That is partially right. 

I want to age well and wisely.  Movement is part of that life plan.  Feldenkrais writes in Awareness through Movement, “The ability to move is important to self-value.”  As I age, this becomes more and more apparent – my choices to move and explore what I can do physically feels like a choice to value myself, a vote to become a rocking, lively older adult.  I don’t seek a fountain of youth; I do practice what brings a fountain of vitality.

What is truer is this –  I love learning.  I read voraciously as a child, I learned well in school, learned to play musical instruments, learned languages, learned my way through a Master’s degree in Education, learned software programs, learned about human development, learned to become a coach, I could continue this list.   I remember walking through fields as a child – forays through nature surrounding me – learning here included my senses, smelling, touching everything and listening to the wind through the wheat stalks. 

Feldenkrais is primarily a learning method.  Moshe Feldenkrais chose movement as a medium for learning because of the immediacy of the feedback loop from brain to body. Improvement in motor pathways, the connection from senses to nervous system to brain to nervous system to muscles can show up quickly.  He wrote in The Elusive Obvious, “Organic learning is essential,…,slow and unconcerned with any judgement as to the achievement of good or bad results.  Organic learning is individual, and without a teacher who is striving for results within a certain time, it lasts as long as the learner keeps at it.” 

This is the baby, the toddler who learns everything through play, persistent attempts, only taking in feedback on what functions more or less well. 

What is our purpose, our goals when we exercise?   

I started with a new student this week in my latest offering, Learn to Fall Well.  At one point during our first lesson she said, “This is like the opposite of going to the gym.”  She is active, doing several activities every week.  She is aware of herself and the movements she knows.  In the lesson, I asked her to do movement that was different from what she typically does in her workout classes.  I asked her to attend to strange moments and relationships, “Notice the moment when moving your R leg that your left leg is called to follow.”  Or “Notice the point of no return, when to go further means you fall onto your right side.”  I am not asking her to roll side to side 30 times, although we probably got to that number of repetitions by the end of the lesson.

What assumptions do we carry when we exercise?  How do we improve our performance?   In sports performance, athletes strive to improve skill, strength, endurance and recovery. In this context, exercise strives for an outcome.  I can do 50 lunges, I can play a whole game of soccer.  I can shoot accurately from a certain distance on the net.  I am strengthening my muscles, maintaining my bone density, improving my flexibility.   

In his teaching at Amherst, Feldenkrais talked about exercising and learning. He asked and answered: “[Do] You know the difference between exercising and learning? [Exercising] means that you know the final result, what you want, and you keep on doing until you obtain it”.  Learning, as defined by Feldenkrais, is a process, an inquiry into the quality of movement, into possibilities for how to move that supports how to function in the environment. 

Learning happens when you discover something you didn’t already know.

Before you jump to the assumption that I am for Feldenkrais over exercise or vice versa, what I am more interested in is how they are related to each other.   How do we improve our performance, our capacity to move? How do we move towards mastery? What is of interest to me, is when people decide to stop learning, when we decide we have mastered sufficient skills to obtain our objective. 

What satisfies you when you exercise?

Moti Nativ, a martial arts instructor and Feldenkrais teacher brings a lovely way to situate the relationship between learning, exercising and training.

In the context of a martial arts class, learning is often acquiring a technique, learning it until she/he has learned to perform it.  In my experience in aikido, I often watch, mimic, make errors and through several attempts come to approximate the technique I am being taught.  This is a kind of outside-in learning process – seeing a movement, being shown a movement by a teacher or trainer and attempting to replicate the movement. 

When do I own the movement? When can I say I have learned it? When is my task of learning the technique completed?   In many learning contexts, the teacher has the say for when a student has learned a movement.  In this context, exercise then is repeating what I have learned, until I can perform it competently with confidence, accuracy and speed based on a teacher, a coach’s feedback. 

When I have exercised enough?  When is my performance of a technique good enough? 

I can stop when I reach my goal – 50 lunges per day, enough stamina to run through a soccer game, adequate precision, strength and control to shoot accurately at the net.   If it is true today, I can assume it will be true in future games, in future workouts, yes?  No.  The problem with holding exercise in this way, is that we can assume success in one set of conditions will predict success for us in another set of conditions.

Moti distinguishes exercise from training.  This is another level of exercise – performing the technique in demanding conditions, in a more challenging and stressful environment.  Under attack from a partner, in the presence of a player on the defensive team, on uneven surfaces.   In training when is my performance good enough?  When I can perform the movement, the technique when challenged by my environment, the conditions?

In Feldenkrais, exercise means using my awareness, attending to my inner and outer sense of movement, of myself as I interact with my environment.  Exercise means attending to the process of the movement, not the goal.  How smoothly can I move?  Where do I encounter resistance, restrictions in my movement?  How can I find a possible, even easy way to carry out a movement?  How much of all of me can I attend to while doing the movement?  Can I attend to something in my environment and within myself at the same time?

One way to talk about what this difference is about is by looking at the question, “How do we build our capacity for quality movement?”  Exercise would answer – by repeating movements, sequences of movements so I can perform competently, with confidence, with accuracy, with speed.   Training would answer – by challenging performance of our movement in more difficult, more variable conditions.  Feldenkrais would respond by increasing the precision and consciousness of what I am doing, the ways I can move, exploring options for functional movement, finding ways to distribute work across more of myself.   I can become more functional because I know more ways to move, know more about how I can move, know more about how I work in different positions, different conditions.

At the end of one of our lessons exploring how to move from a chair to the floor and back again, my student said, “I feel lighter when I keep my head down.”  I could have had my student repeat a sequence of movements, created an exercise for getting down to the floor and back to the chair.  But I would have robbed her of this discovery, this way to find and own for herself a better way to move herself.  This was her process of learning, using her senses, using her own experience.   I am in it, this Feldenkrais gig, to create the opportunity to learn.

By finding a way to use the weight of her pelvis and her head in better relationship, she changed the perceived work of lifting herself up onto the chair and down to the floor.  We explored one better way to move from the chair to the floor and back again.  We could explore other ways as the medium to develop her capacity to discover and move for herself.

As an older person, I could ask her to repeat exercises to build leg strength, to maintain flexibility so she could get up from the ground after falling.  In working in this way, in this Awareness through Movement way, I also supported her to build her capacity to find the answer for herself. 

I am becoming a Feldenkrais teacher to support people to build their capacity to find the answers for themselves.  Through movement.  Through their bodies.  It’s one of the ways to support people to become more whole, more resourceful.  More able.

Emotional Balance: Riding the Wave

In considering content for my blog, I often write to provide what I hope are stimulating and helpful compilations of wisdom from my many life teachers, a little personal experience and coachy questions that you can choose (or not) to consider for yourself.

This blog called me to write from a personal experience – what happens when I experience anxiety.  So acknowledging my sense of embarrassment and vulnerability that shade my writing for this blog, I want to offer this reflection on emotional balance.  My personal Feldenkrais practice is leading me to exercise greater and greater discernment in my experience.  So I am called to Feldenkrais the hell out of emotional balance.

Monday morning I jumped into a 2-day wave of anxiety.  Two challenging conditions (worries about money and loneliness) in my life collided and I was locked in.  Back to basic self-care – breathing, staying with my emotions and a part of my consciousness watched me rolling over and over in this wave.   When I was absorbed in some part of my daily work, I could surf.  When I shut the laptop, shut the door after a meeting, I was back in the blue, rolling over and over, coping breath by breath.  One version of staying functional while riding an emotional wave.

Emotions – they come and they go.  And sometimes it feels like I get locked in an emotion capsule, stuck until I can find a crack to open up to a more spacious feeling, to let in light, to re-connect with a larger horizon.  I am fenced in by my own feelings.

Our language points to assumptions about emotions as a kind of pressurized energy – something we need to release. 

I boiled over.

I needed to vent.

The language of emotional self-regulation sets up an idea of our emotional experience – as if we have an internal pipeline that can only take so many emotional pounds per square inch (epsi) before we are in danger of blowing.

What happens when you feel a strong emotion?  Is it less like you having the emotion and more like the emotion has you?

I have, in the past, struggled with some perspectives of processing authentic emotions. 

The authentic emotion mantra: Feel your feelings.  Feel them fully.  Fully processing them will allow them to pass through.  Failure to acknowledge or feel emotions fully can lead to states of depression, of anxiety.  (Note to self: what did I ignore to end up in a 2 day anxiety wave?). I struggle with the way this mantra implies a kind of closed-system structure for processing emotions – that all of the experience, all of the attention, all of the personal care work happens within.  

I learned early in life that expressing strong emotions was a burden to others, unwanted intensity and part of the bucket of bad behavior.  Nice girls don’t have strong emotions – it is just so unpleasant for others. Maybe you can relate. 

I experience my emotions within an environment. My concerns about making a living and living with solitude are ongoing ones.  There are skillful means at play to address them – working, growing towards creating sustainable income in work I love and flowing love into connections with people in my life.  And the conditions persist.  In this dynamic life experiment, my emotional balance teeters.

In my multi-decade journey towards abiding with my authentic emotional experience, I have known something was missing for me.  I always wonder about the kind of energetic hangover I feel from fully acknowledging my emotions.  In feeling fully, I tend to feel unbalanced.  It is tempting to only go inside – to ruminate over my feelings, maybe find fault with myself – like throwing another bucket of water into the wave of overwhelm.   Talking through emotions with others helps but rarely do I feel balanced after a good processing talk with a friend.  Just emotionally hung-over.

In my last blog post – What you don’t miss until it’s gone, I looked at physical balance from the lenses of intention, environment and structure.  Physically, balance is dynamic; when falling, my choice in movement is not reversible but I can choose to respond to my intention, my environment and to manipulate my own structure, to change the process of my movement to go with the fall. 

What if we explore emotional balance through the lens of reversibility?  Can I feel an emotion and reverse it?  Can I make choices in how I go with the flow of my emotions?

When I fell into anxiety, I felt swept away, an emotional momentum that took me until finally passing through me. Could I go with the wave, staying with the shape, the feel of it so I can choose how to exit it? 

What are the resources that would support me to meet that wave, to meet the moment of feeling?  When I acknowledge my feelings coming into a state of anxiety, I can feel I am afraid, I sense something intangible that doesn’t feel right.  I feel my need to be vigilant, alert, dreading the first splash, my attempt to withstand the surge.  I tense up, literally tightening towards my head, losing sensation in my feet and hands. Bracing against what comes amplifies it.

I find I get lost in a strong emotion like anxiety when I lose touch with my intention.  My recent experiencing tumbling in waves of anxiety comes from feeling fully my confusion and uncertainty as I navigate a new path for my business, for my life, encountering new situations, dilemmas and not knowing what to do next. 

Noticing the arising need for grounding (putting my awareness into feeling my feet) and centering (putting my hands, my breath into my belly) and re-creating my felt sense of self from the ground up is useful when I am swept away.

When grounded, I can connect with my purpose.  Why I am here trying to make Kind Power real and not somewhere that feels more secure, feels easier.  Intention gives me a vector, a direction to navigate when I find myself rolling over and over in a wave of emotion. I can put my intention on, even while teetering, while falling, to change the shape of how I move through feeling unbalanced.

This way of abiding within my emotional experience includes staying connected to my environment – both a feeling in and a feeling out.   My intention becomes a life line connecting my unbalanced self to the ground, the ground I sense within and without.   I can roll with the wave, feel what I feel and not get stuck.

So one discernment is noticing my sense of spaciousness – the tighter I hold my anxiety, the more I am locked into the content of my emotions.  I need a sense of space to roll with my emotions – within and without.  Balancing my internal experience with my external environment gives me ground to have my feelings so they don’t have me.  Having come through this wave of anxiety, it is relatively easy to point to the personal resources that support me how to meet the overwhelming wave of fear, dread, despair, the compounded way my experience of anxiety presents itself.   It is relatively challenging to locate them while rolling over and over in each wave of anxiety.  Emotional balance seeks space to have and hold what seems overwhelming, to choose an intention to follow when it is hard to know what is up and what is down. To keep breathing, keep feeling the earth.  To open up the space for the self that knows it is more than this crippling anxiety to re-create myself from the ground up. 

What don’t you miss until it is gone?

Photo by Mega Caesaria on Unsplash

What is something you don’t miss, until it is gone?   One of my favorite lines from an old movie, The Paper, has Marissa Tomei sneezing as the very pregnant wife of the newspaper editor in the movie and say, “You don’t appreciate bladder control until it is gone”. 

Balance is like that – we know it most when we lose it.  Physical, emotional, life balance – we feel the lack of it as we lose it or when we end up on the literal or metaphorical floor.  

Balance is immediate – we know when we have it and we know when we don’t. 

Balance is intangible – what it actually is, how it is affected, what supports it is a little more elusive.   

What feels like balance within you?  In your life?  What do you do when unbalanced?

What restores your sense of balance?

How we experience balance and the loss of balance can show up in different forms.  I could feel more unsure, move in more tentative ways.  I can lose trust in myself and may shrink from some activities.  I can feel diminished, feeling the old in my aging process.  I can feel afraid, bracing against what might come.

I lost my balance once buying corn at a road side stand.  I stepped back from the counter, connecting my calf with the wooden brace extending out of the front of the stand.  In one moment, I was buying corn and in the next moment, I was falling backward.  I felt a sense of control, then felt out of control.  I was falling before I could think I was falling.

How we look at balance yields a view into what it is and how we can inhabit ourselves with a sense of balance.


Alan Questel says, “When we lose or regain our balance it is mostly recognized through how we move.  We move as a result of our intentions.  When we are unable to fulfill our intentions, it may show up as a loss of balance.”    We have an intimate, often unconscious relationship between our intentions and our actions. 

Have you had the experience of fumbling with your keys, to orient your key into the lock?   This small struggle moment is when intention and action are not relating well.  When I want to get through the door and I fumble with my keys, my intention does not include the process of lining up my key, of inserting it in the lock and turning the lock to release the door.

I am focused on the goal of getting into my house, getting on with it so I skip over my intention in the act of unlocking.  And depending on how many re-usable shopping bags or weapons bags I am holding, I swear a little!

So how do we find the way to fulfill our intention when we move? 

We use two personal resources, perception and manipulation, to fit intention to action.  We tend to focus on manipulation as the skill that needs improving. I find how we use our perception is more often the initiator of the problem.

How well, how accurately, how precisely am I perceiving what is in front of me?  Am I using an existing mental model of the lock in the door to guide my movement?  Or am I having a full, unfettered experience to perceive what is there – my key, the lock so I am set up to do the manipulation needed. 

What perceptual hygiene might be called for to clear away what is getting in the way? Am I absorbed with a rumination about a conversation?  Am I drunk?  Am I absorbed in thinking about what I will do next?   Am I sucked into the sensations of an exhausted body budget?

Try this out – put your key into your lock but see how it would be possible to slide the tip of the key precisely into the slot of the lock without tapping, without bumping the key tip on the outer rim of the lock?  What kind of attention would you need to bring to make a clean insertion? How slow or how quickly would you need to move?

So part of inhabiting a sense of balance can be expressed as a harmonious relationship between intention and action. 

To return to my unbalanced corn buying story, I intended to back away from the stall and encountered an obstacle.  My balance was broken.  I didn’t intend to back into the wooden brace so there is another piece to looking at balance – how we interact with our environment.


Why is unlocking the door important?  Our environment determines how we act in the world.  What about choice?  Free will?   I could leave my door unlocked, removing this need to unlock it.  But I don’t, because I live in a neighborhood with a steady stream of people in my back alley looking for bottles and sometimes the opportunity for something more.  So I engage in this ritual to lock my door that feeds my sense of feeling secure. Growing up on a farm, we never locked our door, because a neighbor might need something when we were not at home.  Different environments, different actions.

What creates balance walking up and down stairs?   Do you look down at each stair as you step?  Do you look straight ahead?  Going down stairs, we often look down, literally rounding down to cope with the felt sense of risk while descending.    Stepping down stairs feels less risky than walking down a muddy or icy slope. 

A friend shared her experience of slipping down a muddy slope in a haunted house, losing her balance on the dark and unpredictable surface.  How can we find balance when our environment gives us conditions that are not stable?  What does it mean to have balance when we don’t know what is going to happen next?  What if balance isn’t a state but a process, a response to each moment?

I admit I love watching parkour.  For anyone who hasn’t seen parkour, here is a short glimpse.

This example includes high levels of athleticism but in its most basic form parkour is the practice of moving in your environment.   

Playground environments are a familiar form of parkour – monkey bars, balance beams, climbing walls.  Watching a child navigate a climbing structure, I see the same close attention, the regard for precisely what is possible for the next handhold or foothold, all within the comfortable range of his own reach, his body’s dimensions within the space.

In navigating uncertain surfaces, we fare better staying open, responsive to our environment.  To brace, to become more rigid in reaction to fear of falling separates us from the information we could be receiving, the sense of the small ridge under your right foot, the slight slope down to the left.  What if balance was the process of an unspoken, felt conversation between the person who moves and the environment she moves through?   How well do we listen to our environment when we move? 

An odd thing happened a couple of weeks ago.  I spent a couple days checking my feet – it felt like something was stuck to the bottom of my feet – I could feel something there.  Then I realized, I was simply feeling more with my feet.  When I opened my awareness, I could feel the grain on the hardwood floor, feel the ridges on the linoleum, feel the texture of the welcome mat to a degree I was not conscious of before.   I don’t have a well-defined “why” for how this increase in sensitivity has come to be; I do know that I have come into a better sense of balance by feeling more.   


This leads me to focus on a third lens on balance – the question of our structure.

Back to the corn stand.  I am falling backward, tripped over the wooden brace at the corn stand. This story is memorable for me because of how I fell.  Somehow, maybe in some kind of early whisper of my aikido practice to come, I found a way to fold and roll gently onto my back. I was surprised.  The woman selling corn was surprised.  It just happened.  No time to think.   What happened?  Why didn’t I just fall backward, flat on the pavement?

The question for structure and balance is – can we regain our balance once we have lost it, once it is compromised?  And can we do something about our balance before it is a problem?

Clearly, we need to go beyond an understanding of structure as the form or the shape our feet, legs, hips that lets us be stable, to stand without toppling.   All of that is important, but in order to live, to function fully, we need a structure that can move and be balanced. 

Falling is different from movement in its reversibility.  When I step forward, I can choose to pause and step backward at any time during the movement.  When I fall, I can’t reverse it.  At the corn stand, I was going down.  I have an opportunity though, to alter the process and direction of my movement as I fall.  A stumble became a roll.  I was able to move in the direction I was already going and change my action.  Dynamic balance involves a responsiveness to the combination of intention, environment and manipulation of our structure, a kind of flow power to create moment by moment anew our intentions, our actions.  We shut this flow down when we contract, when we brace against what the moment brings.  When we inhabit ourselves with a sense of balance, we call out our capacity to adapt, adjust and find postures of support. 

Brace or Embrace? That is the Question.

Photo by Jennifer Bonauer on Unsplash

You know quite well, deep within you, that there is only a single magic, a single power, a single salvation…and that is called loving. Well, then, love your suffering. Do not resist it, do not flee from it. It is your aversion that hurts, nothing else. (Herman Hesse)

What was the last time you had something happen to you that you really didn’t want to happen?   That thing that created in you a kind of digging your heels in, push back on reality kind of bracing.  “That is not what I needed today!”    Like driving to a car preventative maintenance appointment and having your car break down on the way.   Or finding out someone you believed was a friend has been spreading untrue stories about you, behind your back.   Or getting a health diagnosis for a loved family member that leaves you feeling powerless and devastated.

Life happens – when we brace for it, we are saying with our bodies, with our whole selves – “This is not what I want to experience, not these emotions, not these sensations.”  This is my reality and I want it the way that I want it.   In this moment of bracing against the reality we are actually experiencing, this moment of tension soaks up considerable energy, considerable attention – a proverbial square peg in a round hole as we protest how what shows up does not fit in our template of what we feel should be showing up.

So we should just accept what comes, right?  I hear and feel the calling, the higher self that can express in the moment, like a cosmic voice over, “Everything is all right as it is.”   The call to step back, tune in, expand out and feel that this road block, this upset, this unexpected change in fortune is all alright.  Yes.  Yes and…..I acknowledge I am my highest self – right now and also the self who is balancing connection with the people in my life and the list of priorities that come with work, with school. With caregiving.  With self-care.

I visit my higher self and live daily the really real with the rest of me.  I find it is often the mundane moments that bring out my tendency to brace rather than embrace, the spilling of the coffee grounds, the aftermath of taking the wrong turn on an unfamiliar road, the gap between small expectations of how time shared with a loved one will be and what actually happens.  Even when not identified with the clash of expectations and experience, I can’t claim to occupy the kind of spaciousness to embrace fully.  Sometimes.  Sometimes not.  Maybe you can relate.  I can go with the flow, finding that easiest when I don’t have a plan, when I am not following purpose.   But bracing happens when something that matters is at risk, when we project our fear of what could happen onto the event unfolding in front of us. 

What does love have to do with it?  The core of embracing what “shouldn’t” be happening comes from love, from warm attention, from greeting the experience.  From acknowledging what I have here, including my reaction to the experience as part of my experience.  A reaction that can flow into a response.  No extra baggage, no sticky labelling of the happening, the start of a story that surrounds your experience.  Just naked experience.

Being naked might feel freeing.  Or make you shiver.  Bracing stops the flow of our experience.  Puts on the brakes.  Might feel more stable.  Much harder to move from there.  We might feel the freedom to flow from one experience to the next, having our reactions without stopping the flow of our experience.  The flow of unimpeded tears, the flow of frustration mingling with ongoing curiosity and attention to what can happen next.

When you notice yourself next in the posture of brace, is there space to pause? To soften?  To open up just enough to breathe into the moment?  I’m not saying you shouldn’t care about what happens, to let go of what matters to you. You will have so much more available to you from a posture of embrace, so much more than hunkering into a defended stance.   I feel this choice strongly, in the daily work as an entrepreneur, the daily invitation and the daily discipline to invite openness into my purpose, especially when the networking connection fizzles, the client cancels.  This is a form of personal leadership to receive, without relinquishing, to connect without being overwhelmed.  To embrace what is at stake for you when things are not working out.  To lean in, to discover again what is valuable and maybe in that space another way will become visible on the path to your purpose.  

This is a personal leadership that can be with what feels like chaos, the breakdown of our predictions – the familiar tool of projection we use to withstand not knowing what will happen next.  We brace because it feels too vulnerable to embrace the unknown, because it feels slippery and we are afraid of falling, of losing what we would hold close.   Compared to our habits of bracing, embracing can feel defenseless, weak.  So start with embracing the mundane unwanted things, the car breaking down, the spilled coffee grounds.  Find out what is on the other side of embracing your fear of what you don’t want to happen. 

Time for Integration

I live where it feels like, at this time of year, pretty far north.  This week I have watched leaves start to turn colors, weather forecasts start to hint at near frost temperatures, I daily contemplate the likelihood that my squashes will grow big enough to be harvested before a hard frost.  Do I need to cover them tonight, prolonging my hope for a harvest? 

Summer, typically, has been a time for integration for me.  A time to step away from the pace of doing I commit to the rest of the year.  A time to sit in utter stillness in my kayak in the middle of a lake with pelicans and gulls as my only companions.  A time to look into a fire in the cooling evening, letting everything be.  A time to pause, watch the sky under the guise of reading on the back deck.  A time to allow. To let come.

I had a different kind of integration experience this summer, a positive disruptive one.  As part of my May training with the Feldenkrais Training Academy, I had a one-on-one Functional Integration lesson with Jeff Haller, our educational director.   Functional Integration is a hands-on lesson, where the practitioner creates learning through touch.  The situation I presented him – I am feeling coordinated, well organized with good alignment – experiencing pleasurable movement….on my left side only.  My right side was fighting like hell to not be that.  My right knee, hip, shoulder ached regularly.  My right foot too.  In my aikido training, I regularly have a kind of Jekyll and Hyde experience – an aikido-like feeling on the left and an awkward, shoving strength experience on the right.   Jeff asked me to do a basic move from aikido (shio-nage for my aikido audience) to highlight for me how I was organizing myself differently on each side.  Then he asked me to lie on the table and explored through touch my body’s organization.  Ten minutes into the lesson I felt in some palpable way more like a whole person.  The how of this part of the lesson is still to be learned; the what of this part of the lesson is with me still.   Soon he easily had my right leg swinging as if I were a skeleton, with no history of sciatica, no muscular knots in my hip and buttock, no learned patterns to cope with pain, stiffness and numbness.  By the end of the hour, I felt connected, balanced, and structurally whole – we repeated the aikido move from the beginning of the lesson and Jeff told me, “When you are organized like this, there will never be any openings”.   Structural strength and ease.  Super cool.

What interests me even more than the lesson, is the process of integration that followed.  I left the training session in May with a new relationship with my right hip, with at least two viable options for how to move it while I walk, how to stand, how to shift my weight – my habitual way of moving and the more efficient way Jeff taught me that allowed for lighter weight transfer, for quicker walking with less effort, for greater stamina – walking uphill became almost easy, like I had a new power source within me to just glide up the hill.   But I was returned in a way to being like a toddler – either pattern could show up.  In the process of integration, I found that I was becoming stiff and sore almost every time I moved from sitting to standing.  I played with options, how to apply what I had learned so far to change my experience. (Because I am going to make this better!)   Some days I felt 20 years older each time I stood up.  A senior toddler – stiff, wobbly, a little confused about how to move from here. And frustrated – – why was this happening to me?  How was this better?   This integration process felt much more like disintegration.

I tried several things with limited success – morning exercises to stretch and open up the mobility in my hips – good for an hour or two.  I changed how I sat, focusing on lengthening my legs, letting go of tension I held while sitting – this worked better but it didn’t change the pattern from happening.   I found some ways to move that didn’t hurt; other parts continued to protest.  I felt the pressure from an internalized, societal idea – this is just what happens when you are over 50. 

What I hadn’t tried is a core part of applying awareness to my movement – slowing down to really sense what was happening in the movement from sitting to standing, in the shifting of weight into my feet.  I slowly came to study this moment in my movement. 

This August, my integration process was supported by another one-on-one lesson, this time with Chrish Kresge.  After presenting my current state, she observed me and asked, “What are you over-using?”  I didn’t know the answer until she asked.  “My knees.”  She led me through a lesson that I was familiar with about the movement from sitting to standing and brought together the ways I was not quite yet integrated.  And it did come together, I came together.   Wonderful.

What can I glean from this integration process to take into my life more broadly?   A key harvest is the role of attention in being with my movement.  I am fully conditioned to use my attention to determine my state of being – how does this feel? It hurts.  If it hurts, how do I make this movement better?  This kind of attention may be an expression of self-care, self-love, but expressed through a corrective kind of care.  There is a subtle kind of limit I place on myself here by pursuing attention anchored to the agenda: how do I make my movement better?   It’s the attachment I put on my curiosity – curiosity to know what is happening to “fix” myself compared to a free, unencumbered curiosity to know.  This attachment changes my attention, changes my relationship with myself. A small difference but the impact on how I treat myself is powerful.

Let’s compare the two.

Closed form of curiosity:  Why do my knees hurt?  What do I need to do differently to make it better?  I could work on strengthening my thigh muscles, on opening the flexibility of my ankle joints.  I could wear knee braces to keep my knees moving in good alignment.  

Open form: What is happening when I stand such that my knees hurt?  What do I notice?  I could notice the placement of my feet, the direction my knees move coming to standing.  I could notice where my head is in relationship to my feet and knees, what arc it makes.  I could notice where my eyes move, where the weight of my head is placed and the work needed to keep it upright.  I could keep going in this form of curiosity, in exploring possibilities.  I could also keep going in the closed form of curiosity but I can see an end to what seems worth exploring.  If my knee hurts – will I look further than the next set of joints for the cause?  What about how I am using my spine, how I organize the weight of my torso over my knees?  

A closed curiosity, an attention attached to a “fixer-upper” agenda is just more limited. I am formed by decades of corrective care – from myself and others. The pause to allow for open attention is to notice what I notice. To allow for repetitions of unproductive patterns.  To learn.  This is the habit of attention that is more important than exactly how I make my movement.  How can I relinquish the driver’s seat on the quality of my movement?  Because the body likes and embraces what works better.  I am my body. My attention determines the nature of our relationship together.

Real learning, doing something that is actually new and different than what I have done,  is situated in this kind of love – this attention in the form of open curiosity to my state from a stance of acceptance, an embrace rather than a bracing against what is present.   What kind of love is this, that attends to how I am?  

Power Traps

Let’s talk about power.  And powerlessness.    I found myself a wee bit triggered the other day, seeing another Woman Warrior offering land in my digitally enhanced attention stream.   The online course called on women to feel into your inner warrior, to stand in your truth, increase your confidence, find your voice and access deeper courage.   Warrior as a kind of soul stamina – to be your true self and have the clarity and strength to manifest your desire in the world.

This is attractive to many women.   I call this flirtation with the feeling of inner power.  There is a titillating quality, like pink fuzzy handcuffs in the bedroom.  This is an attractive story of power, the me that feels empowered on the inside, that feels she can face whatever she needs to face and keep that warm, clear inner feeling of big authentic self, a badass.  And I think the belief below this story line is that if I just feel this clearly enough, then others will feel this difference in me and respect me.  Maybe.  I have seen my share of women supporting each other for undergoing this kind of inner warrior journey.  There is something in my gut that always feels – something is off here. 

It’s a kind of Wishful thinking Warrior – a Warrior Princess whose first move is to go inside herself.  She busies herself, making all of the right alignments, attunements, all of the changes inside her heart that will make her the kind of precious, valuable and worthwhile woman in the eyes of others.   I am powerful because I am deeply connected, deeply conscious, deeply centered. This feel right. My personal gut niggle is that it also feels like only part of the story.

Where is the power located in that story?  This kind warrior may feel like a True Sourced Diamond but it still is a jewel that can be locked into a treasure chest.   This feels like a variation of the journey to become a Perfect Princess – if I just work on myself enough, I will be perfect and perfectly acceptable to others.   Smells like a power trap. 

I hate feeling powerless – a lot of my life has been developing my resources to avoid the moment when I feel like there is nothing I can do. I recently went to pick up a friend from the airport – I love my friend but he doesn’t believe in cell phones as a valuable tool for communication. I waited for an hour – no friend. The flight number he gave me didn’t match any of the incoming flights. I checked in with the partner airline and wasn’t able to get any information. I had to come to the place of powerlessness – there was nothing I could do. As I was leaving a message on his home phone (because I was committed to doing something even though it was not in any way helpful), my friend walked through the gate – held up in the line at customs. I had a disproportionate emotional reaction – a kind of upset usually reserved for lost puppies. I hate feeling powerless.

I am all for inner courage – I fully uphold the inner battle to find my way to feel confident, to stand up for my ideas, my rights, my values.   The courage to represent myself clearly and effectively.   To take credit for my contribution and the difference I make as a woman, as a worker, as a loved/loving one.   I am also in for soul-sourced, Spirit-connected integrity.  The path that increasingly surrenders my ego-conditioned self to my self as a part of the Whole.

This inner feeling of courage, of inner resiliency and strength is important, necessary.  But it is not enough to actually be powerful.  Or to avoid feeling powerless here in the world. Volunteering at a children’s aikido class, I worked with a group of some of the smallest girls in the class in an activity called, The Whirling Towel of Death.  Basically after teaching principles to maintaining a calm sense of self inside, the test was to walk through a rope with a towel tied to the end, keeping calm and timing their walk to avoid being hit by the rope.  For many, trying to avoid getting hit tends to increase the changes of contact.  A rubber meeting the road, or the rope moment. A very sweet girl, breathed in a big breath, screwed her blue eyes shut and started to walk blindly through the rope.  I stopped her and said, “Open your eyes.   You need to deal with the danger.”

The power trap of this inner work-only approach to cultivate your warrior self is that it only engages the dangers on the inside.   This feeling of security is fragile when confronted by conditions outside of ourselves that trigger our body systems.  The thinking/feeling story of strength and security is usurped by our sensory systems.  This warrior can flee or become frozen when she feels overwhelmed.   She can become traumatized or re-live trauma when she becomes immobilized by a threat, even the prospect of a threat.  This experience can be held as feedback, learning what will stop me and learning how that edge can change over time.  But more often, someone doing an internal approach to warrior-ship will take this feedback as failure, and may keep repeating the process to come back inside, to criticize herself for not doing it well enough, long enough to be a real bad-ass.

It is poor preparation for real life outside challenges – asking for a promotion, standing up to a difficult family member, defending a personal boundary.  Starting a project, starting a family, starting a movement.  There is something to be said for learning how to be in a challenging interaction, a difficult situation and stay functional.  It is not comfortable.  And important, initially to find places and communities that are safe enough to experience the discomfort.   To stay in the emotionally charged conversation with a co-worker and stay present – to your feelings, your reactions and what they are saying, doing.  How you respond and how that feels.  To take your place, your space at a meeting, at the dinner table.  To take on a challenge that stretches you.  And to stumble, to be flawed, to feel what is flabby, what is shaky, where you don’t feel solid.   To fall and get up again.  Real strength, real power comes from coming through challenges, from dealing with the difficulty. 

Using personal power takes practice.  Practice failing.  Practice missing the goal in a way you feel good about.  Practice in using power poorly.  The equivalent of kids wrestling – not every move is going to work.  Sometimes you end up pinned and have to tap out.   Without the work to gain a thicker skin, to learn how far you can go, the limits of your power and how you feel about the moments of powerlessness, you do not know how powerful you can be.  Let me repeat that.  You do not know how powerful you can be. 

When you have some inner and outer power practice behind you – things change.  You can accept the experience of someone prevailing with more focused, more practiced power over you as just that – a difference in power that does not immediately transport you to identify with your inner victim.  You know your own resourcefulness in a different way – finding the ways you can work with your limits.  Shifting the ways that you can’t to how it is that you can.  I talked recently with a friend from school who exclaimed her feeling of helplessness over how to effectively take the notes in a program that engages in hours of body-based study.  She appealed for help.  I didn’t know what would help her but shared one way I took notes – to write some version of a log after teaching a practice session before going to sleep. 

My strategy comes directly from my personal limit. I struggle to retain some details of body-based exercises so find my richest retention is supported by capturing some kind of account within the day that it happened.  In reflecting on that tactic, I realized how helpful it was to accept the limit of what I can’t do, stay curious about how that capacity changes in the process of learning and mobilize an approach that works well enough.  Refine it from there.  Other people in my class have far superior abilities to retain sequence of movements in their memory and knowledge of the body and how it functions.  Compared to them, I am relatively weak in this cluster of competencies.  Doing nothing and feeling badly about it doesn’t support progress. 

There is no shame in seeking support.  I am blessed to learn in a community of people who model curiosity, resilience, care and honesty in the process of learning.  One thing that can happen when you internally put attention to your inner sense of limits and externally seek out support is you keep your self limited.  Your self-image, your sense of your self, your story of who you are is re-published, re-posted in the light of this limit.  This story of Weak Woman will not be replaced by a story of Warrior Woman, however you work to renovate it within yourself.  Your story needs to be acted out in real time, real places, with real characters.  A Warrior Woman comes into being when you bring real attention to the you who is coming to this moment.  No projections, no story – just you doing what needs doing.

So do the inner Warrior work if it calls to you, if deepening your alignment and accessing deeper courage feels essential to your growth.  Can you also find some way to work your inner Warrior into your everyday self?  To find some small front line, some edge to test your limit?  I am coming to learn that it really does not matter if that edge is speaking up when part of your lunch order is forgotten or public speaking in front of 200 people.  If it is your edge, it matters for your growth.  Then it is not the idea or the story of courage – it is the practice of courage.   That is a practice that leads to real power.

How do you orient to difficulty?

Photo by Jukan Tateisi.

What is difficult for you?  What happens when you face something difficult?  A conversation? A strong,  emotion emerging out of nowhere.   A task you don’t know how to do.  Or a job you’ve been working on for a while without getting anywhere.   Or does the thought of how difficult something might be stop you cold?

We are creative geniuses when it comes to confronting difficulties in our lives.  In a moment we can project a full color, surround sound movie of how hard it will be, what the other person will say or do in response, how badly we will do, with exquisite details tracking out our most villainous traits.  Or the dramatic pathos of ourselves as a victim of this circumstance.  Against the backdrop of these kinds of personal projected movies, what is most likely to happen when we encounter a challenge, an unpredicted bounce of Fate’s ball?  Stop, quit and roll.  We take the emergency exit off of difficult highway.

I’d like to say that I meet difficulties now with grace and grit where needed.  After 2 years of what I call my f**!!king equanimity practice,  I can say I am more conscious when drawn into my swear-a-thon protests when I can’t get something done – usually trouble-shooting something on my computer or on fix-it projects at home.   We can get so creative in our catastrophizing natures, preparing the script for how our life goes when we know, deep in ourselves just this.  “I can’t do this!”

So if our creative intelligence knows how to play the life game of difficulty with moves like “This is too hard!” or “Why is this happening to me?”  –  Can we learn how to adapt our game?  Or create a new one?

There is a really handy concept coming out of Feldenkrais work.  It’s called making a first approximation.  Moshe Feldenkrais, the creator of the approach, used to say, “Learning is what we do when we don’t know what to do.”   One of the by-products of the approach to learning we are familiar with (e.g. learning from teachers and other sources of authorized knowledge) is that we come to understand learning as applying what we know to the situation we are facing.  If what we already know runs out without solving the problem, we are conditioned to look to an authority outside of ourselves to resolve the problem.  I can’t do this!

Self-taught people and entrepreneurs already know this – learning is what you do when you don’t know what to do.  Try something and learn from there. 

How can you allow your first approximation to learning how to do what you don’t know how to do?  One of my teachers tells it this way, “Gather information, make the plan, work the plan, adapt the plan.”  Repeat as needed.

This is a process of learning, trying and learning that relies on a felt sense of our own resourcefulness, our ability to find some way to complete the task.   I dearly love the people in my life that come with their own perfectionist programming.  But it can be a pretty tall stakes to require new tasks to be easy, simple, to require ourselves to do them with a high level of skill.  We all have some part of ourselves that is ready to criticize when we fail, when our efforts do not yield the results we want.   We want to stay within our circle of competence, our comfort zone where trying and succeeding come together.   As I see the world from the other side of 50, I watch that circle get smaller for some, one way we can contract with age.  For others, their circle widens, as they invest in new skills, new possibilities.  New ways I know how I can.

The first approximation leads to the second approximation.  And the third.  We can refine and improve our effort through this process of learning when we do not already know what to do.   We can shift our little engine that feels it can’t to a little engine that knows it can find a way up the mountain.   Increasing our sense of resourcefulness is the journey of several mountains that started as impossible, impassable obstacles and become possible.  And maybe even easy.   We all faced these mountains of can’t when we learned to sit, to crawl, to stand, to walk, to run.  This resourcefulness is within us. 

So I leave you with a possibility challenge – do you have the courage, the curiosity to explore what is possible for you?  Can you re-examine the edge of the limits you know?  Can you include in your image of yourself, the you who doesn’t know the answer, the you who can discover it?    If you dare, please share on my Kind Power page .