unpolished thoughts 2/8/2019
I’m really amazed that I keep writing these posts every day.
Every morning I wake up, sit in meditation for 15 minutes, get some coffee, then write for 20 minutes. I take what comes out, work with it a bit more and publish it before the day is through.
It may actually be the first time in my life that I’ve had such a regular and consistent routine.
By publishing on a daily basis, I also get to experience a small sense of accomplishment every day.
That too is entirely new for me.
I found a formula, something like:
Every day, do the amount that you know you can do and keep doing it.
The little victories add up over time. A different attitude develops and, every so often, I increase my estimation of how much I can do.
There is actually a place inside of me that knows how to act like a winner, but it has often been hidden way below the surface..
During my teenage soccer days, I remember how Wendy Textor, the only female coach in our league, would tell us before the game, “Score in the first minute.”
Quite often, we would – and not infrequently I was the one who made the goal.
Wendy knew that more than just putting our team in the lead 1-0, we were creating powerful momentum that was likely to propel us onto victory.
By scoring in the first minute, we already felt like winners – and that completely changed the way we played the game.
But I’ve had many experiences in three decades since then that didn’t exactly make me feel like a winner.
Rediscovering an internal feeling of success and learning how to nurture it began about seven years ago when I began practicing the Feldenkrais Method.
Graduating my first Feldenkrais training in 2016, then continuing to train further and build my practice gave me the opportunity to grow that feeling even more.
Then, last year, I really came out of my shell.
I taught 12 public workshops over the summer and my first ever online classes. At the end of the year, I turned another corner, and began to write these posts on a daily basis.
It was as if I said to myself, “Yes, I always have something useful to say and there are people who are eager to hear it.”
I must have had some nerve!
(Then again, so did Wendy Textor – and she was good at winning.)
But I’m still working on finding comfort in this new posture.
Just like the old days, when it’s wasn’t always possible to score a goal in the first minute (or win the game) I’ve had to learn how to find the silver lining when things don’t turn out as planned.
This morning when I began to write this post, something didn’t feel right.
I felt like I was acting. I caught myself trying to play the role of being a “winner” when honestly I didn’t really feel like playing the game.
After writing the first few lines of an earlier draft of what you are reading right now, I had a thought.
“Who am I kidding? This is total BS!”
That saved me.
I started writing something else.
Now I felt less like was promising to score a goal in the first minute, and more like I was reflecting where I actually was in the moment.
I stopped trying to “deliver value” for a moment and allowed myself to listen to what was really happening inside.
It was as if I stopped lying to myself in that moment.
I admitted the truth: “I don’t know what I’m doing.”
In so doing, I reconnected with my curiosity.
I felt my body change. I let go of my sense of performing and seemed to find a bit of an easier breath.
Then I discovered an interesting question.
I was glad to have escaped the sense of performing – but I wasn’t going to feel better by giving up on my task.
In the past, I never would have dared to write these daily posts. I never would have dared to place such a value on myself. I might have even scolded myself for having the audacity to do so.
But I don’t want to go back to being that person.
Whether or not I can score a goal in the first minute, I’d like to show up on the playing field reliably day after day.
The truth is, I’m still struggling to become the person who can do that. It doesn’t always “feel like me.”
Which posed the question:
How can I transform myself if I’m so attached to the feeling “like me”?
When you practice the Feldenkrais Method, you come up against this conundrum again and again.
The practice can lead you to discover a new way of being in the world that appears to work better than your old pattern – the problem is that it really doesn’t “feel like you.”
At this point, the challenge is to convince yourself (not just on the intellectual level) that this new way is enough of an improvement that the confusion is worth it. You have to be willing to struggle a bit with the unfamiliarity of the new feeling if you aren’t going to allow your old habits to come back in full force.
One potent way to do this is to deliberately move between your old pattern and your new one while observing your breath.
There is a wordless wisdom inside you that isn’t swayed by logical arguments. It simply understands that it’s always preferable to be in the place where your breath is free.
So I paused from my writing this morning to make an experiment.
I closed my eyes and listened to my breath, while silently repeating one thought.
“I am a winner.”
Then I continued listening as I repeated something different.
“I am a loser.”
Then I went back and forth a couple of times, comparing the two experiences.
“I am a winner” was the winner – when I said this to myself, it was easier to breathe.
But is it really true that “I am a winner”?
That’s a different proposal than the observation that my body feels better receiving that message than the alternative.
So I did up a follow-up experiment.
You can try it too if you like.
Breathe, and listen to your breath, while you silently tell yourself things about your life that you know to be true
You can start with simple things like stating your name and your age.
But then perhaps you can commit too a little bit more than that.
For example, you can list the names of the people you love and the people that love you. You can list the names of people that you can’t stand – even if you are always nice to them.
You can speak more directly about the nitty gritty experience of being you – as long as you know that what you are saying is true.
Now listen to what happens when you tell yourself deliberate lies.
You can start small with this too. Invent a new name or age or place of birth.
Then turn up the volume. Defame the character of someone you admire. Pronounce the political doctrines that you oppose as if they were fact. Reverse the story of the things you love and hate.
What happens to your breath?
I don’t know – it’s your experience, and it’s just an experiment.
Was it a worthwhile experiment?
It’s not for me to say. I trust that you have your own answer to that question.
I make up experiments like this all the time. I’m not attached to them, but I do notice when the experiences create new insights that feel useful. When they do, I usually return to them to see if they can generate consistent and reliable results. Often I will develop them further.
In this case, I have read enough to know that there are parts of the human brain where language functions meet the limbic system. Putting names on feelings is something that our species has developed to know how to do. So I know I’m asking questions about something that is real.
I know that telling the truth and telling a lie don’t feel the same in my body.
I know that my ability to breathe freely and fully at any given moment indicates something about the overall state of my nervous system.
In the second experiment, I breathed better when I told myself the truth. That made it easier for me to believe the results of my first experiment, that it appears to work better for me – on a deep biological level – to move through the world as if I’m a winner.
It doesn’t mean I should blithely predict success for myself in all situations, but it means that carrying myself with the confidence of Wendy Textor is a much better way to show up each day than my old pattern.
One thing seems obvious: this exploration helped me write a blog post that I could feel good about publishing.
Observing how that happened helps me clarify something else.
I’m not here to tell you, “This is the way to win.”
I write these posts to share my experiences and offer you options that you might not have considered before.
With this approach I can simultaneously feel that I have something useful to say and that I’m not trying to be someone that I’m not.
But I am still very much in pursuit of my own transformation. So here’s my own personal conclusion after today’s experiments:
In order to rewrite the story of who I am and how I move through the world, it’s not enough to simply change my words.
To make the new story “true”, I have to actually become the character in the next chapter – just a little bit more each day.
If I want to live my life like a “winner,” I have to create regular opportunities for small victories – and celebrate them.
I need to give myself the felt experience of word and deed being the same, even as I begin to use new words.
That feels true for me right now – especially now that I can celebrate getting to the end of this post!
Does it feel true for you too?
Could you create an experiment to help you get clearer about what you feel?
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