the power of balance

I crashed my bike the other day. Maybe at nearly sixty it’s time to stop jumping curbs at high speed. I scraped my leg up a bit, washed it at Mcdonald’s then rode over to Target and bought some hydrogen peroxide and poured a couple doses over the cuts. The feeling one gets when they pour the hydrogen peroxide into an open cut is a tax. My family calls it stupid-tax, the price we pay for doing something dumb. Still after the taxes were paid, my friend and I rode forty miles at the lovely Indiana Dunes Park.

We started at the Calumet trail, and rode through mud and puddles and ruts until we could cut toward the lake.

mud in Indiana on the Calumet Trail

mud in Indiana on the Calumet Trail

As my wheel spun and surfed I tensed, grasped the bars tightly and nearly caused additional crashes. I had lost faith in my balance. It made me tense, reluctant to savor the moment for whatever good or ill it might bring. I think that when we lose our faith in our balance, we begin to shrink. We don’t dare much, and our world becomes confined to a smaller and smaller environment we trust. On my bicycle I was doing it, shrinking my enjoyment of the moment.

Emotionally we can lose our balance. The world becomes a fearful place where trust is foreign. We shape ourselves by fear and slowly, slowly disappear into a safe but empty place.

It doesn’t have to be that way. We can crash and still ride on. We can strengthen our balance and trust it. New roads lead to surprises, even on a bicycle.

by Indiana Dunes Park and Lake Michigan

by Indiana Dunes Park and Lake Michigan

the value of perserverence

Each Thursday night we would hold stances, the foundation of lower body strength and footwork in Kung Fu. With military elocution Sifu Mohr would bark out each stance, hold to the right, then hold to the left and then rotate from side to side on his count. Once we had class outside, and as we held the stances, thighs parallel to the ground, a minute per side the heat and sweat rose from us like steam into evening’s air.

Some classes he would call out hundreds of side to side rotations. Staying low, tennis shoes squawking in the pools of sweat collecting beneath us, we would rotate in place again and again until the world was merely the fire, the agony in our legs and Sifu Mohr’s voice. More than once I was among those whose legs collapsed, or cramped forcing us to stand, stretch and then drop back into the stances.

Once after a grueling session as we shared hot tea Sifu mentioned perseverance. Improvement is not incremental and steady. Plateaus are part of the learning process. We plateau when we have not fully assimilated the techniques necessary for the next level which might be footwork, or strength, or mental understanding. So we practice over and over feeling like a failure. In fact most people quit when they hit a plateau, and it is often just before a breakthrough to the next level would occur. That practice is not wasted, it is part of the assimilation of new abilities. The thought proceeds the action, but after a thousand repetitions the thought becomes the action.

May you always persevere, a thousand times if need be.