Don’t get on that train! I said to myself this morning about half way through my run. There it was, the train that takes me down a track that limits me and I what I can do. “I’m getting tired,” it started. “Maybe just slow down a bit,” it continued. “Just get to the turn around and you can walk for a bit,” it said. “You’re just getting back to it, it’s ok,” it went on, and on. I started to fight back, “No, I’m good, I can do this, just keep going.” The push back got louder and louder and before I knew it, I was on the train called failure. Then I had the thought, a short burst across my neocortex… breathe.
I turned my attention to my low abdomen, relaxed my shoulders and chest. I focused on creating just the right amount of tension below my belly button. Breathing in, not sucking air but just a clean breath. I could feel my lungs fill from the bottom up. At the top of the breath I gave up trying to control anything and just allowed gravity to take the breath from my body, I let it just seep out. Near the bottom of the breath I looked around. I watched thew ripples in the water of the bay, heard the birds coming alive for their morning songs, I hear the traffic off in the distance, I was here, just right here.
I was back, back at the train station and off the train of failure. I didn’t need to cheer myself up or kick myself in the ass, I just needed to keep doing what I was doing, running. That was it. Just run.
Doug and I often like to refer to thoughts as trains and the present moment as the train station. The goal is to always be in the train station but you will get on the various trains from time to time. If I get on a train, I’m no longer present, I’m off somewhere in my future or my past. I’m indulging in thoughts that have zero value in the present moment. Was I tired, yes, but does that thought hold any value in the middle of my run? No, and, of course I’m tired, I’m running. And am I really tired or am I just starting a pattern of justification for what I really want to be doing which is relaxing and drinking my coffee?
The trains will always run. You can’t stop them. They work on a 24 hour a day, 365 day a year schedule. They never run out of fuel and they will go as far and as fast as you will let them. It’s useless to attempt to stop them although we all try our hardest. Your best option? Take a breath, look around, anchor yourself in something that is happening right this minute, then take the next action.
Your thoughts and feelings don’t determine your performance, your actions do, so get back to now and see what’s next. One foot in front of the the other. That’s it.
I found myself in my breath. Turing my attention and concentrating on that controlled breath in and then gently giving up control to allow gravity to take my breath out while looking around allowed me to step off the failure train and come back to now. What now? run. That’s all I had to do, just keep running. I wasn’t dying, I didn’t need to stop, I didn’t need to slow down, I just needed to get off that fucking train and get back to my next action.
There’s a deeper process that is going on that I go into in my article The Third Element, Understanding the Self and how it relates to our performance.
So what’s the take away? What do you do when something triggers you and you get on that train? Get off! Ok, but how? Well, here’s what I want you to try. You can do it anywhere at anytime but I will say, doing it regularly is what enables you to recall it, come back to it and utilize it when you need it most.
First, know you’re full of shit 99% of the time. Sorry, just had to say it, but it’s the truth. You are, I am, we are… not one of us isn’t. Best thing to do, just accept it. It makes life a lot easier.
Next, find the tension in your abdomen just below your belly button. It will feel like you’re tightening as you expand your belly outward. Once you know what that feels like then I want you to practice breathing in without using your chest, shoulders or back.
You can breath in and hold it for just a moment or two.
Now, I want you to let gravity take the breath out. Don’t force it. Relax your jaw line, and just gently let it go. Repeat this a few times until you get the hang of it.
If you’re super anal and want to be proper, then sit upright, head, shoulders and hips in line. Maintain your head upright with your chin parallel to the floor. Repeat.
Now, as the breath leaves your body I want you to look around. See what is there right now. Be curious about something that is happening and then come back to what you are doing.
Then, just ask yourself, what do I need to do next. That’s it. Before you know it you’ve gotten off the train and come back to the train station (i.e. the present). You’re here so you can actually see what needs to be done.
Practice this in every moment you can. Practice it with others around you, try it when you go home. Breath, be curious and see what’s next. Remember, don’t fall in the trap of creating an internal argument, it has no value right now.