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Posts Tagged ‘body’

Stretching Feels Good, Once You Get Past the Uncomfortable Part

December 14, 2010 Leave a comment

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. ~Lao Tzu

Last week while I was practicing a really intense stretch to improve my back flexibility, I got a cramp.  I quickly backed out of the stretch. My body wasn’t used to working in such extreme ranges of motion and my mind’s tendency is to resist against such new and unusual requests. Whatever the mind thinks, the body takes as direction.  Stretching shows me where my current limits are and reaching beyond those limits is always uncomfortable, extremely uncomfortable.

I needed to convince myself that I was okay, that nothing bad was going to happen to me and that my body was safe from harm.  I had to earn my own trust, physically as well as mentally. Even though it was totally counter-intuitive, unless I leaned in to the discomfort, relinquished some control and believed that I was doing the absolute 100% correct thing, not only would I miss out on achieving my goal of becoming bendier, but I would also risk injury. With that in mind, I performed the stretch again. Every time I thought the stretch was becoming too intense and I got uncomfortable, I instructed the muscle that was threatening to tighten up to relax and then I waited for it to release the tension.  Once that happened, I was able to move deeper into the stretch.  By acknowledging the discomfort of the stretch and letting go of the resistance to the discomfort and practicing a great deal of patience, I had earned my body’s trust and cooperation. We were on the same team, working toward the same goal and it felt amazing.

I can apply this lesson to other areas of my life as well and I need to. I sometimes hold on tightly to an outcome and muscle my way through the process, even when it’s clear I’m making things worse and more painful by doing so. I lose my patience when things aren’t happening quickly enough and that delays my progress. I let myself get distracted with minor annoyances and forget to focus on the greater goal. Admittedly, once I step outside of my body and into the real world, the scope of the challenges and skills I wish to master can feel overwhelming at times, but they don’t have to. Instead of backing out of the discomfort I feel when I’m challenged, I can move into it. I can find the one issue or area that is most uncomfortable and sticky and be committed to unsticking it without distracting myself with drama.  I can wait for that moment when patience and persistence subdues the resistance and then relax into the solution that has been waiting for me to discover all along.

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There Is No Finish Line

April 12, 2010 4 comments

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. ~Winston Churchill

When I lose the extra weight, I’ll feel good about my body.  When my career takes off, I’ll relax. When I’ve accumulated enough money, I’ll feel secure.  The most recent one I heard, when I find a romantic partner, I can get on with my life, made me chuckle.

We tend to see our goals as static objects: once we reach them, we’re done.  The truth is that our goals are living organisms.  This is especially true for our long-term goals. Reaching a goal is just the beginning, then it’s about looking after it, caring for it and doing our best to make sure it thrives.  Achieved goals require maintenance.

So many of us are in love with the happily ever after concept.  It makes for tasty, tidy Hollywood endings. It’s fun entertainment, but it is a crappy model for goal setting.   Then there’s the concept of maintenance.  At best, we tend to think of maintenance as something that is boring and unsexy (like getting your car’s tires rotated), at worst we confuse it with something that is a struggle and painful (like holding on tightly to a challenging relationship or a new dress size).  It sounds really un-fun.  But I think we need to change the way we think about maintenance, because it’s what works after the movie has ended. Maintenance requires effort, no doubt about it, but it should never feel like a struggle.

I’ve lost weight and struggled with maintaining it, and then I’ve lost weight and put in effort to maintain it.  The latter feels much better and far more satisfying.  Why? Because when I approach maintenance from a place of effort (as much or as little as I want to give) I’m in far greater control of my life and my circumstances.  I like that.   When I struggled with my weight, I was working against myself: forcing myself to avoid this or that food, soldiering through extra workouts to work-off any extra calories I may have consumed and punishing myself if I did neither.  Not enjoyable at all.  Putting effort into my weight maintenance is different.  It’s not about how much I move or eat, it’s about checking in with my mindset.  The real work happens inside of my head, not outside of my body. When I catch myself feeling anxious or stressed about ANYTHING, I know there’s a thought that needs my attention and I make the necessary adjustments right then before I end up anywhere near the kitchen in a feeding frenzy. I have learned that there is no upside to avoiding my feelings and thoughts and that there is tremendous value in addressing them and authentically changing them when necessary.  I could just distract myself: sit and watch TV, surf the Net or eat. . .but the few moments of effort I put into my kind of maintenance keeps me from ever struggling with maintenance.

If you have a goal you really want to achieve, first get clear on how badly you want it and why.  Are you clean about it? By this I mean do you feel happy and excited about it (clean)? or do you feel anxious and stressed about what will happen if you don’t achieve it (dirty)? Once you achieve this goal, will you want to give it the love, care and attention—the maintenance–it requires?   Or are you just hoping for a happily ever after ending?  One choice empowers you, the other choice leaves you feeling powerless. I know which one I choose, and it’s a choice I practice making over and over again.  It is effort, it is clean and it is beyond worth it.