Well, I made it through my karate belt test on Saturday. I actually really enjoyed my belt test. Yes, it’s true.
In last week’s blog post, Overcoming the Illusion of Fear, I wrote about the anxiety I experienced after my last karate belt test that led me to fear and dread the next one. And I also wrote about what helped me get into a mindset that would allow me to finally feel ready to stand in the fear and do the thing I was afraid of. If you would have asked me a year or two ago what victory would have been, I would have told you it was making it through the test without getting hit in the face. And I didn’t get hit in the face, but that’s not what I feel most victorious about.
You would have thought from reading last week’s article that the whole test was sparring and grappling. In fact, I’m told it only lasted a total of four minutes (though it feels like an eternity when you’re in it). The actual belt test in its entirety was five and a half hours long. Yes, that’s right – 95% of my anxiety and fear was about a four minute portion of a five and a half hour test, a fact that was pointed out to me and other karate students in class two days before the test. It was a startling realization. As I reflected on it, I became aware that it’s not the first time I’ve gotten so worked up over something that I poured more of my energy into worry and anxiety than anything else.
“I’ll feel so much better when that presentation is behind me.”
“I just want to get that project done so I can relax.”
“I won’t be able to enjoy myself until I have that dreaded conversation.”
Do you ever say things like that to yourself? Check the box, and then feel grateful for having checked another box. The trouble with that mentality is that it leads us to withdraw ourselves from the very things that we need to be most present for. We get so attached to the outcomes that we cheat ourselves of the experiences and the real gifts they offer. Sure they’re uncomfortable. Of course we look forward to having them over with. But the real victory is not in winning the trophy, it’s in having played our best game. And to do that, we must be fully present – while the game is being played.
We can prepare all we want. We can rehearse. We can plan and practice. And all of that is good. But really, the outcome of any of these things that spin us into a frenzy is directly linked to what we do during the experience itself. We have to detach ourselves from our plans and carefully rehearsed versions of whatever is about to unfold. Because the reality is that we can never fully anticipate what is about to happen. We need to be in the moment, tuning into the people we are with, the things that are being said and done and what we are being moved to do in response that may not have anything to do with what we rehearsed. We need to trust in that part of ourselves that will direct us in just the way we need to go in the moment.
The key benefit of practice and preparation is that we get our minds around the fact that we have everything we need to rise up to any challenge we will be confronted with. In short, we must believe in ourselves and our ability to respond to whatever is taking place even if we’ve never experienced it before.
Merriam Webster defines “victory” as 1: the overcoming of an enemy or antagonist, and 2: the achievement of mastery or success in a struggle or endeavor against odds or difficulties. The true enemy/antagonist in my battle was the part of me that didn’t believe I could handle the karate test, or any test for that matter – the one that just wanted to get it behind me so that I could go onto easier, more enjoyable things. This is the enemy that created the greatest odds and the most horrendous difficulties.
The biggest thing standing in the way of our ability to achieve whatever we endeavor to do is the part of us that keeps us believing we cannot pull it off. True mastery and success will occur for each one of us as we endeavor to rise up in the midst of this opposition and do what is ours to do. And as we do, we will create something we can be truly grateful for – the experience of discovering and unearthing that part of ourselves that can remain calm in the face of any opposition and access the best possible solution in the moment – any moment. This victory is the only kind that is lasting. And each victory of this kind builds on the one that came before.
A toast, to victory! And to every experience, for better or worse, that gives us the opportunity to truly experience it.
I would like to personally thank the Center for Humane Living and every person who is a part of it for enriching my life, and that of others in so many profound ways.
For more on achieving Victory:
Checklist image by Rawich.
Jumping silhouette by Biansho.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you suddenly realized you were in way over your head? Maybe you weren’t sure you were ever going to get through it and had no idea what to do. This week’s video post is about an experience I had like that – on the ski slopes. It’s something I remember whenever I find myself in a jam, or consumed by fear or worry. I hope you enjoy it!
Here’s what I said in the video:
A few years ago I had the opportunity to go snow skiing, which I love to do and hadn’t done in years. I couldn’t wait to hit the slopes, and I knew I needed to start slowly because it had been a really long time. So I started off with easy runs and it wasn’t long before I said, “The heck with this, I’m going straight for the black run.”
I picked a run and got to the top of the hill. After pushing myself off and getting about a third of the way down I realized, “Oh my God, this is SO over my head!” There were moguls everywhere. I’m talking about three foot in diameter and about three foot high little hills — all next to each other.
To make things worse the slope of the hill was almost vertical. It was awful. I got about a third of the way down the hill and realized this was a mistake. I looked up and knew I couldn’t climb back to the top. And just at that moment this fog rolled in — fog so thick I felt like I could grab it and hold it in my hand. I couldn’t see more than three feet in front of me.
I panicked. All I wanted to do was get down the mountain. So I thought, “OK. I’m just going to go for it.” I pushed off and plop, came smacking down to the ground, skis flying in different directions. And then it took me 20 minutes to find them because I couldn’t see anything. I finally got my skis back on and tried it again and thwhap — same thing.
I thought, “I just have to figure this out from where I’m at.” I realized just about all I could see was the mogul in front of me and if I could just ski around the edge of the mogul and bend my legs in such a way that they absorbed the shock, I was able to get around that mogul and stop. Then I could look at the next mogul, ski around the edge of that and stop. I was making some progress. And then I looked down toward the end of the mountain and guess what? Totally wiped out again.
I realized, “If I’m ever going to make it down this mountain I’m going to have to forget about reaching the bottom and take one mogul at a time and trust that I’m going to know exactly what I need to know how to make it — one mogul at a time.”
What I learned from that is to get out of fear you can’t go back into the past, and you can’t get preoccupied with what needs to happen in the future. You have to stay right in the moment and take it one moment at a time. And when you do, you will have everything you need to get through it.
You have everything you need in this moment.
You’ll have everything you need in the next moment too.
BE where you are.
Mountain photo by Sarah Nicholl from Dreamstime.com.