I was always curious about yoga. It wasn’t until it was offered at our community centre, by a dear friend, that I finally decided to participate. I was told to dress comfortably and to bring a yoga mat.
I entered the room on that first night and laid my mat down in the tidy row. I stood ready in my baggy tracksuit and running shoes, waiting instructions. If you know anything about yoga, or even if you don’t, you’ve probably observed it is practiced in bare feet. Needless to say, the first instruction was to “lose the shoes.”
And so I was, and here I am, still stumbling toward enlightenment.
“Stumbling Toward Enlightenment,” is the title of a wonderful book by Geri Larkin. It’s a deeply personal and very funny account of Larkin’s own path in becoming a Buddhist priest. Her journey began with a stress-induced eye twitch that would not relent. Her doctor told her to get rid of the stress or spend the rest of her life on Valium, suggesting meditation might help. Help indeed. Oh, but what a journey!
Through her story, Larkin delightfully gives the reader permission to stumble, doubt, fumble and fail on their spiritual path, as she has and still does.
As a coach, my job is to help people close the gap between current reality and their desired destination. I facilitate the journey, so to speak. The journey is rarely ever a straight line from Point A to Point B. It’s usually more of zigzag, get on the band wagon, fall off, get back on, change direction, fall off . . . until such time that there is more time on the wagon than off and the direction is clear.
If you are stumbling towards great health, as long as you still have a pulse, it’s not over. Here are five very important key points to practice.
1. Accept that when you work toward any pursuit you will stumble. Stumbling is part of the process, part of being human.
2. Accept yourself as you are – no matter what. Self-acceptance is something you give to yourself. That’s why it’s called self-acceptance. Without it, results will be short-lived. You will sub-consciously find a way/reason to go back to the way you were.
3. Set small goals. Small goals set you up to succeed and success begets success. When your goals are very large or possibly unrealistic you are more likely to jump right off the wagon and give up in discouragement and disgust. If you have a large, over-arching goal, feel free to cast it out to the universe and forget about it, while you work in the present on the small steps.
4. When you fall off the band -wagon, jump back on as quickly as possible. Clients often tell me things like, “I used to run/meditate/cook great meals and I loved it. I don’t know why I stopped.” Because life happens and if you don’t quickly re-engage after your lapse, competing priorities sneak into that space and the desirable habit fades away. If it’s been a long time since you’ve exercised with any regularity, for example, you will be challenged to develop the habit and structure all over again. The quicker you get back to the desired behavior, the less challenge you will experience returning. Luckily, it’s usually easier to re-instate than create habits, having had the initial positive experience.
5. Build in Support. Be it a coach or a co-worker, enlist someone who will dust you off and throw you back on the wagon, among other things.
I have no memory of what I was expecting that first night at the community centre. It really doesn’t matter. Running shoe yoga is a great reminder to think not about how far I have to go, but how far I’ve come. It’s much more amusing.
In Geri Larkin’s words, “So take the next step. That’s all. You’ve come so far. Too far not to, really. And if you have to start your stumbling all over again a thousand times, then start a thousand times. If you need more, there’s time.”