What did you think about this week’s earlier post? Did the idea that your ego might not always be doing you favors when it comes to redefining your limits maybe not sit so comfortably with your….well, ego? We like to think that it’s always about going full steam ahead, reaching as far as we can to get whatever the very tips of our fingers can touch. And while the pursuit of our own personal version of greatness can enable some of life’s most powerful experiences, part of the challenge that journey presents for us is recognizing the difference between overcoming obstacles and ignoring them. As the saying goes, the journey is the destination, and the obstacles actually provide some of the most beautiful vistas along the way – even if only in retrospect.
The mindfulness challenge is to trust the path, and lean into the discomfort. Sound like something your limits can handle? Well, there’s one way to find out.
Mapping out the right steps on the path to get you where you want to go starts with understanding where you are. If you can wrap your head around that as a starting point, then your best guess about how far you really can and should stretch is probably going to be a good one. You won’t let yourself slack, but you won’t miss your target, either, by aiming for someone else’s idea of true north.
To find this balance between courage and compassion, you have to first find your breath.
- Before you begin this weekend’s challenge, set your intention. This is different than a goal, which might be to do this activity for a certain number of minutes or achieve a certain score on an exam. An intention is a quality or idea you’d like to cultivate more of, or introduce into your life. In this case, it might be something like clarity or calm – whatever you think might make it easier for you to be a good judge of where you are, and where (and whether) you should go next.
- Next, take a deep breath. Inhale as deeply and fully as you can, and exhale completely with your whole body. Let this initial breath help you create space between whatever was keeping you occupied before this moment, and the activities and concerns that may find you later on. Right now, you’re right here, which is exactly the right place to be.
- Bring to mind a place in your life where you feel a bit stuck. This may be something going on in your career planning, on your MBA path, or maybe even a relationship or other area of personal growth. It’s a space in which you think you’ve been pushing ahead, or at least you want to be, but you either can’t quite figure out how or are burning energy with few results. Hold an image that represents this area to you in your mind.
- As you continue to breathe regularly, begin to scan your body. Slowly shift your internal focus from the center of your breath in your chest and belly to your shoulders, neck, back, and arms, and then your torso, hips, legs and feet. Take as much or a little time as you need in each place to connect with what’s going on there.
- Breathe into the tension. As you scan, whenever you find some holding – whether hunched shoulders, tight hips or clenched hands – imagine your breath traveling there internally, and when you exhale, try to let some of it go. Release your breath, and let that corner of your body go with it.
- After you’ve checked in across your body and gotten rid of any internal cobwebs you may have created through holding, bring that image representing your “stuck” spot back to mind.
- Take 5 deep breaths while focusing on that image, feeling the difference in your body and your breath after the clearing you’ve done.
- Say thank you to yourself for engaging in this exercise, and gently head back into your day’s activities.
- Notice any changes you may be feeling about this “stuck” area as you go about your day, knowing it’s ok if nothing comes up right away. Maybe try this exercise again tomorrow, and then again on Sunday, to see if the cumulative effort brings about any shifts for you.
There is a saying that “energy goes where intention flows,” and this exercise has the potential to show you exactly how that works. Getting “unstuck” in our bodies can be a powerful precursor for yielding the same result within our lives. First, you figure out where you are, and it becomes much clearer where you should go next.
You’ll see it, you’ll know, and then – without a trace of ego or hesitation, you’ll go.
Photo credit: Mali Maeder