Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Difference between possible and impossible

I joined a new pilates/yoga studio a couple of weeks ago and go often, partly because it's energising, partly because it's direct debited fortnightly for unlimited access, so I better get value for money!

I've practised yoga sporadically for five years now (sometimes multiple times per week, sometimes not at all for a month or two) and it's an activity where you gradually and reliably see the change in your skills, flexibility and balance. Slowly, slowly at first, but faster once you get the hang of it. Of course the main purpose is to learn to be more mindful, calm and centered, but the physical, fitness side is a great addition, too.

Yesterday, someone new joined my pilates class: an overweight 50+ lady. She struggled to keep up, which is more than understandable. Starting from zero is always hard, and it takes courage to join a class where you feel others are more fit and skilled than you. The teacher kept encouraging her in every turn and teaching her different methods to not make it all too challenging.

However, the new lady kept finding reasons (excuses?) why she can't do more than a couple of repeats per move. Instead of at least trying and persisting, she complained about cramps, panting, sweat, how it all feels uncomfortable. With every change of body position, she shuffled a good long minute longer than others - which made her drop out of the others' rhythm, then apparently feel she can't catch up anyway so she simply waited for the beginning of the next series of moves. And the same shuffling, delay and drop-out again, throughout the class.

This sounds judgemental and I admit I struggled with not judging her, but she was only harming herself by giving up from the get-go. Any type of exercise feels awkward and uncomfortable from the start, when you're not yet familiar with how it should feel and how great it can feel afterwards. She wasn't pushing herself, because she had not (yet or ever?) learned, that developing strength, balance and flexibility takes a few weeks to notice. Rewards don't come immediately and you don't even get the post-workout euphoria if there's no proper workout.

Of course I can't know what were her reasons for not persisting. But I've heard many times before people complaining how they exercise or diet and no results come. There is a good chance the exercise is not actually done as effectively as it should be: attending a class is not the same as actually doing a workout, pushing yourself, challenging and persevering.

The moral #1 of the story is not to judge anyone who's struggling with weight of fitness. It's to remember that everything in life takes work, effort, energy, time to succeed.

Yoga has actually taught me the meaning of the Hanged Man tarot card: it's about self-sacrifice, voluntary yet frustrating waiting, changing one's viewpoint instead of changing one's circumstances. Sometimes you must stay in an uncomfortable (yoga or life) position for longer than you'd possibly like, because it's good for you in the long run. And you'll only see the benefits later, after sufficient time - weeks, months or years.

The moral #2 of the story is: whatever we tell ourselves, we believe, and that becomes our reality. "It's too hard, it can't be done, I'm not fit enough, I'm not skilled enough, I don't know what to do anyway, everyone else is better than me, I can't succeed because everything and everyone is against me, I just have a body type that won't allow me to change, etc."

I've worked in four different fields, tried and played any sports I can think of, moved to new countries and travelled wide and far, because before embarking on any of these quests, I've told myself: "others have done it, I can do it too." And believed it. The usual limiting suspects, such as time, money, lack of skills etc. are not an actual, physical barrier, if you plan and prioritise differently.

Very few things in life are outright impossible, but a good number of things are at least semi-possible if you set your heart to it and stick with it. No excuses, no dodging, no giving up when the first roadblock comes or the first cramp hits.

If you can't achieve your full dream, maybe you can achieve at least half of it? 

With weight loss, maybe half of your target is better than no loss at all? Acquiring new skills: learning the basics of a new language is better than not learning at all. Changing jobs: finding a lower-paid position in a field that interests you is better than no change at all. Dating: putting yourself out there to learn confidence and socialising skills is better than not even trying, even if you don't find the Prince/Princess Charming immediately. And so forth.

And here's a tarot spread I created for identifying roadblocks and ways around them.

Pull 1-3 cards for each question depending on your interpretation skills and reading preferences

  1. What change or achievement I believe is not possible, when it actually is? 
  2. What can I do to make it happen?
  3. What negative situation or trait in myself I believe is permanent, and it's not?
  4. What to do to change it for better?
  5. What change or achievement for now is out of my reach? 
  6. What can I do to achieve or change some of it? 
  7. What trait in me helps me achieve goals?
  8. What trait in me hinders me from achieving goals?
  9. What to focus on to be the best possible version of myself?
And a sample reading:

1)  7 PENTACLES. This card is often read to meant "waiting for results", as it shows a person waiting for fruit to ripen. I read this to mean here: accumulating wealth, as my card shows a mother and a child ready to pick massive, plump apples.

2)  EMPEROR. This card means a structured, organised and assertive approach; stability and permanency. I think it means: accumulating wealth can happen with hard work, logical approach and wise investment decisions.

3)  7 WANDS. The uphill battle I'm currently in with my PhD studies and work. I'm doing my best to tackle all challenges, yet it feels I'm not moving forward at all. More issues and tasks pile up on me no matter how fast and well I work.

4)  9 PENTACLES. The card of enjoying one's freedom, independence, wealth, experience, achievements. Maybe I should take more time for myself, to enjoy my freedom and things I like. And also remember and appreciate the fact that I'm actually quite free both at studies and at work to handle things as I please.

5)  8 WANDS. Fast-paced action and messages bearing good news. I'm waiting/hoping for good news from multiple fronts regarding my studies and a creative project I'm undertaking, but clearly the action won't be fast in those areas. Well, good to know.

6)  3 CUPS. Find like-minded people, join "my tribe", enjoy company of friends. My friends, indeed, are helping me with the creative undertaking. Also, I should do more research online to find the best community, as I'm trying to find a University department to join next year as a visiting scholar.

7)  4 WANDS. The card of home, completions, celebrations. I work full-time in the office but I also work at home on my own stuff, which I truly enjoy. Also, I divide tasks into chunks that are easier to complete than the whole project, and I mark the mid-completions with celebration. It works!

8)  LOVERS. I believe I should only focus on things / people I love in life. However, this is not possible, because many tasks are simply boring, but necessary steps on the way to bigger achievements. For example, I'm much more prone to fiddle with my tarot cards in the evenings than read PhD material... and I should not let my heart dictate what I do so much!

9)  5 WANDS. The card of conflicts, frustrations, competition. I don't think I should be more anxious or frustrated, but maybe I should put myself out there to compete more: I can't achieve goals if I shy away from competition. However, as I am quite competitive already, I'm inclined to read this as a reminder to keep an eye on this tendency and only use it in appropriate occasions - fight for your goals when needed, but let others win where necessary to keep the balance right. 

I hope this offers interesting insights! 
Forge your own path marked with successes and joy. Photo (c) Tarot for Change.

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