No Limits

Why is it that we all have no problem with ignoring the limits that are placed on how fast we are allowed to drive but will avoid doing things that may challenge us because we have already placed a limit on our potential for success?

            We turn away from difficulties largely in fear. We are afraid to embarrass ourselves, we are afraid of failing, we are afraid to try. There are so many great experiences in life that require a leap of faith to bridge the gap between sitting on the sideline and actively participating. We are all to frequently having our route towards joy blocked by our own ego. Trying something new means accepting that you will not be good at whatever it is when you first try. The first time you pick up a bat and stand at home plate the odds are against you hitting a home run. But not excelling shouldn’t be an excuse to try. Everything begins with a first step.

            Being willing to fail is the first hurdle in the climb towards success. If you can get over yourself and make that opening move towards being a participant instead of a spectator then you have already won your first battle.

            Those first steps generally come with some nervousness and that is how it should be. My brother once said to me that when you are nervous it is not about trying to get rid of the butterflies in your stomach but instead its about getting them to fly in formation. Taking that nervous energy and channeling it teaches you so much about facing your fears and doing it anyway. I remember the first time I had to break a board with a punch when I was beginning my training in Taekwondo. I was terrified that it would be hand that ended up broken. I faced that fear and used all that nervous energy to deliver the force necessary to break through the board. Over the next decade I broke hundreds of boards, eventually moving on to breaking two inch thick pieces of concrete and finally stacks of concrete. When I stopped training I had gotten to the point where I was able to break through a stack of concrete 20 inches high. If I’d never risen to the challenge of breaking that first board then I never would have been able to discover what I was capable of.

            Every time I am faced with a new challenge or experience I simply say to myself, ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ In almost every case the worst is only scary when it is imagined and not so bad when it is actually thought through. All too often the worst case scenario is more about looking foolish than actually hurting myself.

            There is no doubt that there are real physical limits that will stop anyone from going forward. But I’m not concerned about the fact that I will never be able to run a four minute mile. What does matter though is that I am willing to run a mile and check the clock to see how long it took, so that the next time I can work towards running it faster. I don’t care that other people will run it faster or that I may look funny as I struggle with my stride, as long as I am trying my best. If I give all that I have then there is nothing to be embarrassed about. And if I continue to run more miles then I know that I will get faster. I don’t say to myself I can only go this fast because the truth is just by doing the run I am already ahead and by committing myself to trying it again then I am preparing myself for future successes, regardless of physical limits because I know those limits are not set in stone. Those limits are moveable and I can push pass them if I try.

            Life should be about feeling free to try and not about being afraid of failing. Let your instinct take over and step up to the plate, feel the weight of the bat, the sun on your face and when that ball comes your way just swing away. You never know, you might surprise yourself and hit one out of the park.

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Spirit

We all come into contact with many different people. At work, at play, or just out doing whatever but I find it fascinating how some people will resonate with you. I think a lot of it is that sense of spirit that we all have. I do believe it exists in everyone but some people have buried theirs deep inside while others project it out to the world.

            There are people who have such a wonderful spirit that you cannot help but like them immediately. They exude a warmth and cheerfulness that cannot be ignored. Sadly there are not enough of them but maybe that is why they stand out so much. It is their uniqueness and joyfulness that we are drawn to.

            Letting that spirit come out is a gift not only to yourself but to those people you come in contact with. I think it’s a simple thing. It starts with a smile. An easy gesture you can share with anyone. That smile is like the signpost to your spirit, open it up and people will be interested in looking further to seek your friendship.

I’ve always been lucky and been able to connect with people easily, maybe I’m too open but I would rather open myself up to others than hold back and remain guarded about my conversation and behaviour. I’d rather be an open book that maybe gets a bit dog-eared from use than be a pristine book kept up on a shelf out of reach and out of touch.

            I love being around people who spread their aura like a golden glow when they walk into the room. That kind and caring nature shines like a spotlight guiding others to them. I have been very fortunate to come into contact with a number of people recently who have so much spirit that it spills out of them like a river that won’t be contained. I’ve enjoyed an almost instantaneous bonding with them that makes me smile when I hear their names.  They are all beautiful souls and they inspire me to be a kinder, more generous person so that I might live up to this wonderful gift of friendship they’ve given me.

            The chance to open yourself up to others has no time limit. You can start embracing those qualities inside you and sharing them with whomever you choose anytime you want. It can simply start with a smile.  

Ripples

Life is full of random elements. We do something and it leads to something else. If you never took the first action then you probably wouldn’t have gotten to next one and your life would have been different because of it. Sometimes those actions build on each other like the ripples in a pond after you’ve thrown in a stone. I love those ripples. I love how they bring me to new discoveries and new connections.

            I find it interesting to look back sometimes and examine significant things in my life and trace the ripples back to the stone and wonder about how different things might have been if I’d never thrown that first stone. Putting yourself outside your comfort zone is a way of throwing a stone. Stepping forward to try something new on your own and being willing to open yourself up to the possibilities that come from the action.

            Ripples meet other ripples in this vast pond we all live in. It is amazing to me how we meet other people and how that person can become so important in your life and still it can be traced back to that random element of how you met.

            Some years ago a woman I work with, knowing I had recently bought a motorcycle casually mentioned that her husband had also just gotten back into riding. We took a ride one afternoon and then later on that summer decide to ride together to San Francisco. Well, we did that trip and for the next ten years have done other trips together every summer and now we are bonded together like brothers.

            I did my Crossfit training for years in West Vancouver and that caused ripples that connected me to some terrific people, and the strongest of those ripples still resonate in me. But sometimes a ripple will run its course and when I felt I needed to leave the conflict that had developed there with the owners I was once again a smooth stone ready to be thrown into a new pond. I was so lucky that I hit a bullseye when my stone landed in Deep Cove. From the first ripple of going into Pure Athletics to train in a few classes I was so warmly welcomed that I knew everything was going to work out. The opportunity to have my ripples cross over and meet the ripples of so many wonderful people who had made their own toss that brought them into this gym has been a remarkable experience. To have so many new friends, people I care about, who brighten my day and make me a better person just by knowing them is an incredible gift.

            I never would have received that gift if I’d settled for less and stayed in a situation that was not making me happy. If I’d been unwilling to start over and afraid to try something new then I would have denied myself the enrichment that has happened to me in the past year.

            You never know where the ripples will take you but one thing for certain is that if you don’t toss that stone then the surface of the pond will remain unchanged. 

Health and Fitness

Why is that we only really appreciate things we’ve had after their gone? I don’t think there is anything this applies more to than your health. When we are young we carry on like our health is guaranteed and we needn’t pay it much attention. We enjoy the benefits of youthful fitness with no future plan. For the lucky ones this extends longer than others but sooner or later everyone is faced with that reflection in the mirror that announces you’ve lost it.

            For me fitness and health go hand in hand, they are the perfect companions. I don’t understand anyone who will be concerned about the type of food they consume but won’t exercise, or the other person who will workout but then load up on fast foods. I like to apply the same principal to my body as I do to my motorcycle. I want it to perform to its full potential and to help that happen I am only going to put the best fuel I can find in it. I push my body hard but I try to restore it through healthy eating, which for me means buying organic produce and meat, choosing healthy snacks like nuts and fruit and staying away from processed foods in general. Of course I’m going to also enjoy chocolate but when I do it is good organic chocolate and in small amounts. Currently chocolate buttons are my favourite.

When I see, as I did recently, two superb athletes get sick and end up with pneumonia it serves as a reminder how fragile our health can be. When I hear of someone getting a lethal disease I am saddened and respectful of the gift of health. The human body is such a remarkable thing and capable of amazing feats. It is something to be grateful for every day. Each of us have been given a genetic combination that created the figure we grew into. We are all unique and beautiful. I think we should celebrate that beauty by trying to be the best we can be. This doesn’t mean that our goals should all be the same and we should strive to try and shape ourselves into the vision of someone else’s perception of a healthy body. You don’t have to starve yourself so that you can attain a chiseled look just because that is the image presented on the cover of magazines. Work hard, eat healthy and moderately and your body will naturally evolve into a wonderful package. It will allow you to do things that will enhance your life.

Treat yourself well and it will be the gift that keeps on giving.

Inside my helmet

            I’m riding across a vast desert basin in Nevada. The road ahead looks exactly the same as the one in my mirror. Its straight, its flat and its hot. On either side of the highway the sagebrush grows with the occasional cactus standing up to breakup the monotony of the landscape. In this arid inferno I ride and I’m content.

            My bike, a BMW GS1200 purrs beneath me. It doesn’t seem to matter whether I’m going 60 or 100 mph, it’s all the same to this bike and I cruise or accelerate as the mood takes me. There is no other traffic and I haven’t seen another car in a long time.

Deciding that I could do with a snack I gear down and stop. I don’t pull over. I swing out the side stand and get off the bike in the middle of the road. I can see miles down the road and there is no one coming in either direction. I take off my helmet and smile.

            It is rare to find this kind of solitude and I absorb like a special vitamin going straight to my soul. The vastness of the land around me flows past me and through me. I take off my helmet and listen, there is no sound, no wind disturbs the air, no birds fly overhead; there is just my bike and me.

            I enjoy some nuts and a drink of water, take some photos and put my helmet back on. The road is still all mine and I turn the key and start the big engine, clicking the gearshift down I am once again in motion.            

            In this space my thoughts float gently through my consciousness. I’m focused and aware of the bike, the speed, the feel of the asphalt passing below my feet but I’m also detached, open to memories and ideas, willing to examine whichever one comes to call. I love this mental freedom that comes with the long distance ride. It never happens right away, as the start of any road trip carries the extra concerns of the regular routine that has been left behind. But as the miles pass and the needs of the road become more important then a rhythm and calm envelops me. I get up in the morning, ride all day and do it again the next day, its wonderful. I feel very lucky that I can savour this quiet and personal time. I’m happy to make a journey on my own or to share the experience with a friend because even riding with another person I will still enjoy the solitude from inside my helmet.

            There is so little time to think in a regular day. Obligations, distractions, demands on your attention are forever pulling you outward and there is very little pulling you back into yourself. I wish everyone could find something that gives the serenity that I find in the long distance ride. I know it is worth the effort.Image

Dogs know best

            I watch my dogs with envy. They are always ready to have fun. When there is nothing going on of interest they stretch out and relax, generally on the most comfortable thing they can find. They come willingly to you in order to share affection. They don’t appear to dwell on the past or worry about the future. They live in the now.

            To let yourself be completely involved in the moment you are in is a wonderful trait to have. So often we are not really there, instead our minds are thinking about the next thing we’re going to be doing. We push ourselves to multi-task so much that we become fragmented and unable to calm down enough to truly focus on just one thing.

            When you do let it happen and you achieve that state where there is only the activity you’re doing and nothing else, a calm can envelope you to the point where you are now performing at a much higher level. I love that feeling and have always migrated to things that will bring that out in me. I tend to push hard to find that focus. I don’t like to cruise when I ski, I’d rather head down something steep that pulls me into the moment so completely that my entire being can join in the side of that mountain. I love to ride my motorcycle fast and head into the corners looking for the outside edge of my tires and that lean angle that requires absolutely all of my concentration. I love to be drawn into a hard workout that pushes me to my full capacity and blocks out all distractions.

            Physical activities that challenge you to find your limits are great for bringing you completely into the moment. It is much harder to do it in the day-to-day activities. We are so easily distracted and can miss so much because of it. I try very hard to be focused on the people around me that I’m interacting with and not let my mind wander off. If I’m talking with someone I want to be there and connect with them, very much like my dog wants to connect with me when she comes over and leans against me.

            It is an ongoing challenge but one worth the effort. I want to do better. I want to live in the now, and I’d be happy to have my belly rubbed too.

 

 

(Freckles relaxing on the sofa)

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