This morning when I woke up, I did my usual. First, I reached for my Blackberry to peruse the email that had loaded up during the night and then I reached for my running shoes. Uncharacteristically, I reached for them begrudgingly. I didn’t feel like running…which is kind of odd.
But, I shoved my lethargy and fear of the cold, winter wind that is likely to plague my island for at least 2 more months aside and headed out the door anyway. Because I know how good I feel when I walk back in. Triumphant. Accomplished.
By the time I reached the end of my road, something wonderful happened, so wonderful that it is, perhaps, the runner’s holy grail. My body lit up, it felt light, strong, powerful, fast. I felt good, and despite the running blahs I woke up with, my run was going to be good too.
Oh how the brain will chatter…
When I run, I think a lot – my mind is never quiet. I write, I analyze, I have long debates with myself, I replay old memories, I study things…it’s like the steady pounding of my feet is a morse code to my brain that says, ‘Let ‘er rip’. Sometimes I’m in there talking back, fully conscious…while other times, I drop down into my body and just listen to the conversation as it rolls up and down my brain and my life.
Today, I was in listening mode and I was fascinated to hear what I had to say. At first, my brain was ecstatic that I had so much energy, that my body felt so vibrant. But then – shockingly – my brain did a 180 and started sending out orders like it was fighting for its life. “SLOW DOWN!” It cried. “Conserve your energy! Don’t use it all up now or we’ll never make it home! We’ll be stranded, we’ll be cold, we’ll be hungry…WE’LL DIE!!!”
My most beloved yoga teacher, Tarika, and Seth Godin would call this the lizard brain – that segment of our brains that cares purely for our physical survival. In yoga, the reptilian brain needs to know how long a pose will be held, where the restrooms are, when the class will end. On my run, this snake needed to know that my burst of energy was enough to make it home. It was terrified that it wasn’t.
This got me thinking about reserves. Are they necessary? And by dampening our performance today in order to save some for later, are we really getting any benefit? Or are we just missing opportunity, turning down our light, buying into the fear that we can’t possibly be that fantastic.
Does this happen to you when you write? Because it doesn’t happen to me. For some reason, when I start writing and it feels really good, I never, ever look back. I go with it and I go for it. And I watch it build on itself, this phenomenalness. The words just come faster, smoother, better the more of this beginning fuel I burn – it’s self-fulfilling, self-recharging, self-fueling.
So, why would the run be any different? Why would any pursuit be any different? Physical, mental, emotional – I don’t think it makes a difference. Whether the good energy lasts or it doesn’t, it does affect some part of your trip and that influences next steps. Don’t save it. It doesn’t work that way. Savor it. Take advantage of the gift.
In the case of my run, I jumped right into the lizard brain’s face and bellowed: Seize the energy. RUN! If we glide like a puma gloriously for even one mile, it will be worth it. We can walk home. We can hitch a ride. We can run slower on the way back ’round. We will not die. And we might just fly through all six miles.
Ha! Look at that. I did…I flew the whole way.
Image credit: Nieve44
Hey y’all! Check out The Daily Norm – my interview blog – for a new and stunning interview with Artist & Painter – Traeger di Pietro…
Join the discussion 13 Comments
Great post! It took me years to understand why, when in the midst of painting or any other artwork, I would lose track of time. Standing at an easel, pulling litho prints, stitching book registers–no pokes from that lizard brain. And then someone explained “flow” to me, which didn’t change the experience–but rather gave it a name.
As I tell my students when I see them hesitate before taking another piece of paper–it’s only paper when it sits on the stack. When you use it–even if you fail–it becomes artwork.
.-= Julianne Fuchs-Musgrave´s last blog ..Hearts of hope, hearts of peace. =-.
Julianne – that is so beautiful! Thank you! And be sure to check out the interview on The Daily Norm (link above) – it fits right in…xox
In terms of writing I don’t hold back because it feels so good to get it out. I am ALWAYS thinking and talking to myself in my head. These days if I don’t write it down I lose it. I can’t begin to count the amount of posts I have lost because I don’t have the time to write it down. P.S. Awful picture! Perfect for the post, but hate it!
.-= Andi´s last blog ..I am a Nicaraguan warrior =-.
I know! It was so awful that I had to use it!!! And, yes, perfect for the post. I love me some Creative Commons!
It seems there’s a very fine balance between ignoring the lizard brain and listening to that inner voice that really does know what’s best. I’m not sure where I’m going with that. I suppose I should give a “for example,” but that’s all my inner turtle is willing to cough up at the moment.
.-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..Life is a Struggle, a Wonderful Struggle =-.
I think you hit that one dead on, Alisa. Your inner reptile is definitely a turtle – but one of those monstrous and graceful sea turtles. I think mine’s either a python or a pterodactyl. I can’t decide.
I think there is a part of not holding back in your writing that you need to write and get it out there. In the past I have written several things “for myself” that I swore would never see the light of day. Mostly it was poetry because my dad could never approve of those types. But I wrote in secret and then my girlfriend found out and she has a bunch of cheesy stuff that really isn’t that good but it must have worked because she married me. I learned a lot about just putting it out there. I have seen that on the blogs as well. Sometimes the uncomfortable makes for the best work.
Thanks for the great read Julie!
.-= Justin Matthews´s last blog ..Groundhog was wrong, It’s time for Yardwork! =-.
Justin – that is a great story. It reminds me of the little squat guy in Mary Poppins (when they’re in the sidewalk drawing) who tells MP that he said ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ to his girl and ‘now me girl’s me wife’!!!
One of the mantras I live by is, “Give it all up, get it all back.” Translated to writing this means, “Put it all on the page.” And, you are right–this doesn’t always translate to the rest of my life. Hmmm. Thanks for a good reminder.
.-= Charlotte Rains Dixon´s last blog ..Three Rules =-.
I often don’t know what I think about something until I try to write it down. I am a lizard, but I defy the lizard brain:0
.-= Josh Hanagarne´s last blog ..A Question Of Priorities =-.
Wow–I really needed to read this. Since the beginning of the new year, I’ve been striving to re-shape my life, including facets like diet and exercise and de-cluttering.
Why hadn’t it occurred to me until now that I need and want to re-shape my writing practice?
The first comment here was beautiful in its own right. I’ve often experienced that flow in my artwork, but not always as often in my writing. One specific time when I did successfully achieve flow in my writing was during a month-long challenge at WD’s Poetic Asides blog, when I wrote a poem a day (this past November). Something about that no-excuses dailiness really helped break through.
Anyway, long comment, but thank you so much for this post. You’ve given me much to ponder.
.-= Amanda Fall´s last blog ..deer and dreams: Thanksgiving Thursday =-.
Hi Amanda! It’s a great comment. Thanks for chiming in. For me, blogging opened up my flow – so easy, so mine, so daily. Happy pondering…let us know how it turns out (sounds like great blog fodder!)…
With running and with writing, too, I often find that if I can just force myself to get started, push past that initial inertia, then everything will eventually flow.
I love the parallels you draw between running and writing. I do both myself but always considered them to be completely separate activities. For the first time, I am recognizing and appreciating their similarities. Thanks!
.-= Susan Greene´s last blog ..Home =-.