This week I’ve gained valuable insight into what I’m aiming for and why, and how to get there.. even when I can’t fully get there.
I took up archery this week (hence the inspiration for the name of this post) and the biggest thing I’ve learned so far has nothing to do with my bow. New hobbies have a way of opening our minds to new ways of thinking and understanding. I’m just starting out with archery so it is easy for me not to expect myself to hit difficult targets, or any target at all for that matter (I’ve already somehow lost an arrow in the abyss of my backyard). Learning something new takes patience, understanding, and compassion. It’s easy when you are a beginner at something to accept that, and hand it over willingly. Unfortunately this willingness to accept where we are is not so forthcoming when it’s something that isn’t new to us.
The resistance we have to accept where we are is fueled by our good ol’ friend comparison. We compare to our own past performance, where others are, and where we think we should be. This leads to pushing ourselves too far, expecting too much, not giving ourselves what we really need, and ultimately setting ourselves up for failure. I have found this in many different aspects of my life.
During yoga class I notice this when I automatically push myself to where I was able to get last class- without even paying attention to where my body is that day. I assume because I know where I was able to get last time, that I know where I should go this time. I’ve been mindful of this tendency over the last few days and instead try to approach it as though I’ve never done it before. It has been great practice for staying in the moment, honouring where I am, seeing the judgement that arises, and letting it go.
Being mindful of where I am right now and responding to that non-judgmentally and with compassion is helping me with more than my downward facing dog.
I reached a low point this week after having a bad panic attack at ballet class, which forced me to leave early. I spent the rest of the night wallowing and beating myself up. I was extra frustrated with myself because ballet is one of my empowering activities, and now I’ve made myself afraid of it. I was petrified that this was the marker that the dragon is dead.
The next evening I was supposed to go to another dance class. All day I was anxious and contemplating whether to go. I was scared to go because I knew it was likely that I’d panic again. I questioned whether I should even go because if I had to leave again I’d only further perpetuate this panic response to dance. I almost had myself convinced that it would be healthier to avoid it. Thankfully that morning I had an eye-opening therapy session and the truth of how vital it is to my life to stay the dragon was clear in my mind.
My goal then was to figure out how I was still going to be a dragon, panicking or not. The first inclination was to set the target to where I was able to succeed before (go to class and don’t leave). Failing to be present and accepting of where I am was only digging the hole I’m in deeper. By looking at myself honestly and compassionately, I realized this was too much for where I am right now, so I adjusted the target.
Just keep showing up. I decided that would be my mark of success. That will be how I’m still a dragon. I’ll measure my success by my perseverance in showing up. Not on if I panic, not on if I leave, just showing up.
This was a light bulb moment for me. One thing about panic attacks is it feels like they control your actions. They feel debilitating because if you have a panic attack in one place, you will likely have one there the next time, and it becomes easy to assume you need to avoid these places in order to avoid the panic. This can feel like panic is forcing you to lose what you love, and can make your world very small. What I realized is with my “Show Up” rule I am taking control over my actions. Despite whether or not I have a panic attack, I am going to continue to show up. It also takes the pressure off my ability to not have a panic attack or to be able to control it once it happens. For now, I’ve decided I will just be in control of whether I show up. This felt doable and empowering.
Since establishing the “Show Up” rule I’ve managed to show up for another dance class and four yoga classes. As a bonus I was actually able to stay for all of them, but what I’m most proud of is showing up to them at all.
I’m still aiming at targets, but now I’m being more mindful that they are targets I can hit.
I invite you all to try being mindful of where you are at any given moment and respond to that with compassion.
Are there targets in your life that may need adjustment?