I like to adopt new practices and try them out for a year. Last year I practiced deep breathing for the whole year and wrote about it each month. (You can read more about this here.)
This year I adopted the practice of monkey bar hanging.
I made some progress the first couple of months, and then progress slowed. I was a little discouraged, but I could feel some positive momentum building–namely, I could imagine myself doing really well on the bars, and I could sense what it would feel like. I felt excited about that. (You can read about this here, here, and here.)
And then this month, I hit an obstacle: I hurt my back.
I don’t think I hurt it playing on monkey bars, but I definitely hurt it, and playing on the bars was making it worse. So, I decided to take a break.
I felt disappointed. My year of beautiful breathing last year went extraordinarily well, and I was sure that my year of monkey bar hanging was going to bring the same results.
So far, it hasn’t.
I think I have had more failure than success.
Sometimes I feel a little embarrassed about that. However, one of the most important things I have learned in the last decade is that mistakes and failures are our friend, not our enemy, if we handle them well. (I will refer to mistakes and failure as failure for the rest of this post.)
Here is what I have learned from my monkey bar failure:
1. I am not as strong in parts of my body as I would like to be.
2. I probably need to strengthen my back.
3. I would like to work on my overall body strength so that my muscles are more balanced.
4. I want to keep playing on monkey bars and doing other fun physically challenging things–like climbing trees–all my life.
5. I did a lot of new challenging things last year–like walking long distances. So, maybe my body needs a rest, and I need to take building up my it a little more slowly.
It is possible to gain wisdom without failing, of course. But every failure is a chance to gain wisdom if we approach our failure with openness and self-reflection.
These are some lessons I have learned from embracing my failure with monkey bar hanging.
I have also learned that embracing both failure and success in our physical endeavors is one of the ways we start playing joyfully in our bodies again, and joyful play is one of the ways we become more powerful and confident.
By the way, the philosophy paper I presented last week at the conference in Santa Barbara was about joyful embodiment and play. In philosophy, the study of play is called ludology. (Ludology derives from the Latin verb ludere--to play.) Play and its purpose for human beings is one of my favorite philosophical topics to ponder.
So this month, I have been resting a lot. I didn’t play on monkey bars at all. I have been focusing on my breathing again. I figure that if all else fails, I can practice breathing.
I have been doing my favorite exercise videos by Ellen Barrett that are a combination of ballet, pilates, and yoga. They always help me build overall body flexibility, fluidity, and some strength.
This is one of my favorite videos by Ellen Barrett. It is a half an hour, and it is really gentle, playful, and imaginative. Ellen Barrett focuses a lot on using exercise to feeling more powerful and confident in our body, rather than using exercise as a way to punish ourselves.
I am working on developing a consistent strength practice.
I am not sure how next month is going to go, but we’ll see, and I’ll write again soon.
What have you learned from mistakes and failures? I’d love to hear about it below.
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