I am working on a new skill. I feel deeply out of my element.
I often coach people to learn new skills such as swimming, or strength training, and now yoga. I tell people it’s ok if it feels unnatural, awkward, or counterintuitive.
I say “Nice, good job. Do it again.”
They give it a try and I can see the struggle and frustration.
And I say “It’s ok. Do it again.”
They try again and there’s a split second where it came together, then immediately falls apart.
I say “Better, good! Do it again.”
The tables have turned. I feel very much like the student. Intellectually I totally understand how good this will be for me. But gosh dang it, this is hard.
On the advice of my Yin Yoga teacher Michelle PW I am pursuing meditation. After a 3 hour workshop with Li Si Ming last April I’ve been going to the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center. I even have a meditation mentor. Recently I did a two day retreat. It was long. It felt epic.
I was a champion fidgeter. In a room steeped in stillness I felt like a hyperactive two year old. Inside I was like: Be still. Don’t move. Itching, pinching, cramping… Allow it to pass… I’m doing it! I’m doing it…. I crack my toe. Damn it! Start again…
Stilling my mind is even harder.
Being still is a skill. It felt like intense vigilance without action or reaction. Watch the thoughts and sensations pop up, but unlike Whac-A-Mole you’re just supposed to let them go. By 6pm, 12 hours into the retreat I was exhausted from trying so hard to do so little.
I learned that I am comforted by trying hard and working hard. I am used to discomfort directly relating to measurable improvement. One of the scariest hardest things for me was simply to be OK. To be ok with just “being” and not “trying” because being myself should not be a struggle.
It felt unnatural, awkward, and counterintuitive. I did it again, and again, and again. I had fleeting teasing moments of clarity, and then it would be gone. Try again.