An article written originally for http://www.tinybuddha.com
“When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.” ~Unknown
The spiral staircase has always intrigued the yogi-designer in me. The visual draw, similarity to DNA, and cosmic patterns, as well as its mathematical genius could be enough, but the structure can also mean more.
Picture yourself tripping up in work, life, or love. You’ve made a mistake, said the wrong thing, or didn’t come through with your end of the bargain.
You think: How did I let that happen? What a (fill in the blank) I am. I can’t believe I did that, AGAIN. If only I could rewind.
These aren’t the greatest feelings—it’s true. However, we live our lives in irony. Though we dislike how we feel having just tripped-up, we continue to beat ourselves up way after the fact.
We cause our own suffering. Furthermore, we seem to forget that when we make mistakes, we grow. An atmosphere of growth is integral to happiness. So create happiness by seeing mistakes as true growth opportunities.
Although yoga, psychology, and conventional wisdom about parenthood scream at us to live in the moment, I say we are not just the present moment.
We are very much our past in the most rich and helpful way. We can use past mistakes to yield a shiny new perspective and, in turn, create a new outcome.
If we allow them, our mistakes can fuel our awareness. In helping us decide how to act and react in a fresh and fruitful way, they can bring us closer to happiness and further away from (causing our own) suffering.
Picture a most beautiful spiral staircase in Rome, Paris, London, NYC, or Barcelona. Visualize its ample room.
Now visualize yourself on this staircase, midway up. You’re accomplished. You’ve come all this way. Look up at where you’re going and down at where you’ve come from. Peek around and up at the spirals of stair above; over and down at the spirals below.
Now comes the part that we don’t like that’s part of being human.
You’ve suddenly tripped up and missed a step, and you’ve probably done something similar before. Look down at your feet. Yes, you are here, right now, and it’s close to before—but, not exactly.
You are wiser today than yesterday. Though you might feel bad because you’re encountering the same or similar problem, this time it’s with a different view and varied perspective.
Accept where you are. You will immediately suffer less. Remember this is merely one moment in time. It only defines you and your worth if you choose to make it a defining moment.
Look down the middle of the staircase at what you’ve ascended. Keep hold on this view of yourself and see where you are now in comparison.
Yes, this human moment has come to find you again, but you’re now higher up and can respond from a different place, literally, figuratively, emotionally, and intellectually.
Ask yourself: How can I respond from this higher place instead of causing myself pain?
Welcome to your new spiral staircase-inspired mantra: I have a view. I hold wisdom. I use both.
Think it. Say it. Act on it. Let it create your new character.
I’ve practiced this mantra and used the visual of a staircase for a long time; however, it’s newest for one particular aspect of life these last two years.
In sports and yoga I have always asked a lot of myself. I’ve competed with myself and failed to listen to my body.
I journeyed close to one year+ with a sports hernia, then chronic SI / low back issues, and a tear of my adductor during a restorative yoga pose (of all times). I could go on about my wrists, my left shoulder, my neck, and the running injuries, but I think you get the picture.
I did an A+ job at beating myself up, which only added to the extreme sadness of not being active each time I made myself suffer.
But that was then and this is now. I now have wisdom that has changed the way I treat my body. I have proven that I can be gentle (to myself) but still strong.
Also, I have learned an insane amount about the human body. Though I still like to push when I know it is “healthy” to do so, I assess from that higher place. I assess where I’ve been, where I am, where I really want to go, and how I want to feel.
On that next spiral up I remind myself there’s no final or “perfect” destination off the staircase of life. It is merely a journey with many similar situations. However, with growing wisdom and a richer perspective, we are better able to deal, enjoy ourselves, and suffer less.
It’s freeing to know that we are acting from a more intelligent place today versus yesterday, don’t you think?
As I sit here typing while icing tendonitis in both arms, I challenge you to give yourself a break next time. Woe is not you. Wisdom is.
Here are five ways to change your perspective:
1. Find strength in the visual of a staircase.
Make it your new BFF. Yes, you’re confronting something similar again, but this time it’s higher up the staircase. Trust and respond from this place. Ask yourself: How can I react differently this time given the learning from last time?
2. Remember that everything transforms.
Connect with the fact that with up comes down, with light comes darkness. With down comes up, with darkness comes light.
When you find yourself smack in the middle of a day filled with disequilibrium, remember that your equilibrium must be right around the corner. Trust in the flow of your life and that of the universe.
3. Adopt a growth mindset.
Accept the idea of a failure en route to your goals. In essence, plan for some roadblocks, nod when they come (you knew they were coming), and move on as quickly as possible.
If you Google more on a growth mindset, you’ll see the myriad of benefits it has for your continued success in all aspects of life. Exhibit the mindset in your thoughts, words, and actions, and teach it your kids.
4. Practice saying “I’m sorry,” especially to those you wouldn’t normally say it to.
Saying these words filled with meaning forces you to move from your comfort zone and look at things from a different side. Healthy, yes, but more importantly, it also brings you closer to the people who make life worth living.
5. Do a headstand or down dog.
Here’s another instant way to change your perspective. It’s difficult to feel and see things the same way if you’re upside down.
Namaste. And remember, when in doubt, take the spiral staircase. It really is the most pleasant route.
June Momtra: There are no mistakes, repeat 3x.
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. ~ Samuel Beckett
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Photo by sjdunphy