When I stepped into an awareness practice, I began to notice that whenever I started something new I would tell myself, “this is hard.” Relationships are hard, surfing is hard, meditation is hard, reading is hard, languages are hard... In many ways, it was. After just a bit of practice, these things became easier and easier. And seriously, how could I expect myself to be a master, let alone proficient, with something I had only just begun? That’s completely unrealistic. I’ve never heard an infant complain about learning how to crawl, walk or learn a language. They just do, endure and cry when it hurts.
What I realized is that the thing itself didn’t change, I did – or rather, my relationship with it changed. Things weren’t intrinsically easy or hard. They were what they were and they are what they are. I was the one slapping labels and judgments on "it" making them something scary, challenging, easy or whatever. With a slight shift in my mindset I was able to take a load off - many times that load was a bit of a burden. Just by saying “it might not be easy, but it doesn’t have to be hard,” gave me that shift. It allowed me to choose the degree of difficulty.
The shift was as simple as patting my head and rubbing my belly. My body can mechanically do it, but it certainly poses a challenge if never done. At first the brain doesn’t have the neural connections, but with a little practice, I’m patting and rubbing away. The brain creates dendritic connections, or pathways, and the more we do something the deeper and stronger these pathways become. I guess that’s why Malcolm Gladwell suggests that it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at something. It’s the pathways in the brain that need time to develop, grow and fortify.
At first, I noticed how I felt when I would say or even think, “this is hard.” My confidence would skirt away, bits of worry, stress and anxiety would flood my sphere and my posture would shrivel. All sorts of feeling sensations arouse. I realized that being in that feeling state when things were “hard” was not optimal for accomplishing what I was doing. The relationship with whatever it was became a bit crunchy as well.
This mindset was a self-limiting belief. It was a story, a script, a tape, a program playing in my brain that wasn’t necessarily true, limited in scope and working against me. (I wonder what other pathways I’ve created that are detrimental to my being?) When I started to kick the mindset of this “hard” thing, learning became far more enjoyable. Tackling challenges became joyful journeys filled with growth and opportunities, as opposed to difficult and laborious.
My mental acuity has sharpened because I am now alert when my mind goes “there.” Damn, this pathway runs deep. Sloughing off the emotional anxiety helped with my general state of being as well. This practice of mindfulness turned around my emotional state and began to inculcate greater states of mind, body and spirit harmony. The realization that my mind could affect my feelings and my feelings could inform my mind was huge! It certainly is a two way street and I’m finally now moving in both directions.