I didn’t skin my knee; I fell on my ass.
Yesterday, I wrote about the willingness to skin my knees on Life.
This morning on a hike, my foot slipped on mud and tree roots. I didn’t skin my knee, but I did fall on my ass.
It was one of those “this is going to hurt later” kind of falls. But what was interesting is what happened after the fall, as we hiked the rest of the trail down.
I caught myself, before a challenging step down, in a brief hesitation, feeling the impulse to tread gingerly, more gingerly than necessary, to hedge against any additional falls, as if each step forward from my fall had become steeper, more precarious, and more needing of care than any step prior to the fall. In that brief hesitation, I caught myself feeling (just ever so slightly) less capable. Trusting myself less. Giving focused attention and thought to something that had, moments ago, been second nature: walking a trail.
And I thought: isn’t interesting? How many times do we do that to ourselves . . . stumble and then make a habit of treading lightly? Can I not tread lightly? Can I return to my usual stride with confidence?
It was the briefest hesitation—what my guru has called the bardo, the gap between our habitual thoughts, our habitual actions—in which I could choose how I would walk the trail, and in that, in that seemingly little thing, I could change my relationship with myself, my body and who knows how many other things.
I’ve always been in a bit of awe (and a bit of envy) of my brother’s confidence and trust in his body to be strong and agile. There is no question, no hesitation about his ability to undertake anything athletic. I remember when we learned to ski. He just hopped on the skis and went. He didn’t care if he knew “how.” He didn’t care how he looked. He didn’t fear getting hurt. In fact, in talking to him as adults, he remembers the day that fear crept into him about anything physical. He was over 35.
That natural, unquestioning confidence for me has been in my mind. (The only exception I can think of to this is playing field hockey in high school.) I have never questioned my ability to learn and creatively and successfully execute anything. My father has asked me about a couple of projects: “What made you think you could do that when you’d never done it before?” And I answered: “It never occurred to me I couldn’t.” Business has worn this down in me: it does not fit my learn and creatively execute success pattern. And that—my relationship with that experience—is the curiosity (and the teaching) that came through clearly on the trail.
I’d like to have more of that physical confidence my brother has, yes, but most importantly, metaphorically, I want to stumble, fall and go forward again with confident, easy strides.