If you choose to be fearless, then be fearlessly authentic not an imitation of someone you envy-
Walking into my final yoga class yesterday, a thought crossed my mind – That we live in a world where competition is valued above all else, and that personal achievement is directly tied to self-worth, in essence we have fallen prey to the belief that in every competition, every yoga class, every red light, text message battle … There are two possibilities – Better and Best.
When I was a young lad, maybe six, I arrived home from school one fall afternoon and innocently looked into my fathers eyes and asked if I was “the best?!?” The week prior at school, we had been learning about comparative words like “better” and “best,” and I was innocently curious if I was “the best” at something, perhaps burping, armpit farts or cleaning my room? My kind father calmly replied, “You’ll never be the best at anything son. The world is a magical place with like millions upon millions of people; it’s impossible to be the best. Just do your best, and you’ll be fine in life.
Focusing on continual self-improvement, rather than being the best at “something”, has allowed me to have a more realistic and insightful look into my true self.
Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change-
The first step on this “journey” of mine, was simply getting to know myself once again.
Before I competed in my first Gravel Worlds, I focused on “building strength” and training for the rigors of a 150+ miles gravel ride. A little over three years ago, I was struggling post surgery to get back into my cycling groove, needless to say I felt rather unprepared and woefully out-of-place. The week leading up to the chilly predawn start just outside Lincoln, Nebraska, I tried to imagine all the possible situations and challenges I could, and would encounter, and the associated mindset(s) I needed to adapt to them. I did not realize during the moment, that in doing so, I inadvertently found myself focusing on my true inner weaknesses – on the things that I need to improve, and on the behaviors that have eluded me for so long, that I pushed aside to compete, that did not come naturally to me … Anymore. Shortly after an early August rain shower, and two punctures, I quickly realized that I can allow myself to feel confident about my ability to deal with what the road had in store for me, for my life. Albeit not the strengths the stereotypical Lycra clad/carbon fiber cyclist, a little smile here and there, and a deeply rooted sense of humor kept two wheels up and spinning along into the evening.
Quiet simply, being yourself, being authentic – Is pretty inspiring!
Then there is the other secret. There isn’t any symbolysm [sic]. The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The shark are all sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know-
Do you have a favorite “thing” to which you identify with? Cycling, yoga, running, under water basket weaving? Listening to music? Flags? Religion? Sports teams? Society is increasingly being swallowed whole by the symbol based experience – I’m a cyclist, a super flexi-wanderlust-yogi, a weekend 5k master and a LvL 5 underwater basket weaver. Dear Reader, it’s time we remembered what we truly are – Timeless beings, trapped in a physical body. How much time do we spend doing “something” that does not signify something else, to someone else? How often do we take a break from our intensely representational world?
When I arrived home yesterday after work, I had the sense that I needed to “tune down” the processed, symbol based day I had so far, to a fairly unprocessed natural evening. I quite enjoy practicing mindful meditation while walking our dog. Thinking of nothing is really hard as the two of us meander along in the rain … “Why are our neighbors hopelessly obsessed with keeping their yard pristine? Oh this is nice! A sprinkler system running during a rain storm! This elm tree is interesting, I wonder how many cicadas are calling it home at the moment? Why are cicadas so damn loud? Really Dude – You are seriously going to pee on their trash bins?!?” I do remember one wonderful meditation experience I had recently in Utah, when I was able to just be aware of my physical self and surroundings, apart from the cultural and the social layering of interpretations the world flippantly heaves upon us. That is to say, I understood what I was as a being, not as a social identity – A middle-aged white male from Nebraska. Someone who is often associated with competing because I enjoy riding a bike and racing. Some dude who goes to yoga class to be “seen” … This experience was wonderfully freeing, and when I ended my session, I felt that I had returned to my life, – Being, with a renewed sense of energy, because I was choosing to take up my name (Jeremy), and eschewing everything else that society neatly fits me, us into. In stillness, I placed my name down for a short time, laid down all the symbols that help me process and live in this cruel world, and for a moment, I was able to just – Be.
I said aloud to our dog as we stepped back inside – “My identity ultimately does not depend on these “things” in order to exist.” He looked at me inquisitively and proceeded to lick his belly.
The real world, a world without symbols, mass shootings and senseless violence. The world outside of “whatever”, outside of our roles? Is more splendid than we know it to be.
the only things I remember about
New York City
in the summer
are the fire escapes
and how the people go
out on the fire escapes
in the evening
when the sun is setting
on the other side
of the buildings
and some stretch out
and sleep there
while others sit quietly
where it’s cool.
and on many
of the window sills
sit pots of geraniums or
planters filled with red
and the half-dressed people
on the fire escapes
and there are
this is really
something to see rather
than to talk about.
it’s like a great colorful
and surprising painting
not hanging anywhere
Gaze into the fire, into the clouds, and as soon as the inner voices begin to speak… surrender to them. Don’t ask first whether it’s permitted, or would please your teachers or father or some god. You will ruin yourself if you do that-
There are many misconceptions about the role “results” play in achieving our goals (whatever they may be.)
We should define a couple of words before we move on – outcome and process. An outcome is centered on results, beating others and posting it on social media. A process involves focusing on what we need to do perform our very best, such as how we prepare and nurture our souls, training, or even practicing mindfulness. Notice how an outcome is focused on “things” outside of you. While in contrast, a process is focused entirely on you?
Most of us think that (myself included at times), in order to get the results we want, we need to focus on those results. Wanna get better at yoga? Gotta be more flexible! Loose a few pounds before summer begins … When does the outcome of a competition occur? At the end of course. If we become obsessed on the outcome, we are not focused on the process – What we need to do to perform our best from the start to the finish. What makes you nervous before yoga class or a big ride, the process or the outcome? It’s the outcome, and more specifically, a bad outcome such as not performing well or tumbling over trying to reach your “peak” pose. When we focus on the outcome, we are far less likely to get the outcome we want.
When we pause to focus on the process, we increase the chances of achieving the results we so richly deserve.
Sometimes, I can’t shift my heart from the outcome to process, the best thing I can do when this happens, is to get out of my mind completely. In other words, I go for an early morning walk, bike ride, or like yesterday morning – yoga practice in a quiet park. These moments gently take me from thinking about the outcome to, feeling the process.
An elephant herd of storm clouds
trample overhead. The air vibrates
electrically. The wind is rough
as hide scraping my face.
Longhaired rain occludes the pines.
This storm seems personal. We
crouch under the weight of the laden
air, feeling silly to be afraid.
Water comes sideways attacking
the shingles. The skylight drips.
We feel trapped in high surf
and buffeted. When the nickel
moon finally appears dripping
we are as relieved as if an in-
truder had threatened us and
then walked off with a shrug.
What could I say to you that would be of value, except that perhaps you seek too much, that as a result of your seeking you cannot find-
– Post inspired by a conversation recently, discussing compassion, kindness and intention. Nothing groundbreaking to be found below, just a few thoughts that really stood out to me personally and I hope they inspire you as well. The conversation started with one seemingly simple question: How can we communicate good intentions in our community, without them seeming woefully self-serving?
When we express genuine compassion and kindness, maybe leaving a note in your child’s Star wars lunchbox letting him know you packed a few extra cookies just for him? It’s your good intentions, not just your nice behavior, that significantly improves their day.
When we express ourselves openly, and smile, it truly feels awesome doing nice things for someone else. Although we need to be sure to let them know the “behind the scenes” feelings that are driving our actions. I tried a little thought experiment recently where, for example, instead of simply serving up a tried and true yoga routine for a friend. Rather, I said, “I know how much you love hip openers after a long weekend of riding, so I crafted this series just for you.” Our tone and physical gestures can communicate a wide variety of messages, so it pays to pay attention to them.
The more opportunities we explore to convey goodwill towards others – Family, friends, co-workers, some random rider or fellow classmates – The more the better! I suppose it all boils down to this: Being able to improve physical experiences, simply, by expressing compassion and kindness.