Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What Comes First, The Apple or the Seed?

I've never been a big fan of mantras.  I believe in transformation from the inside out; as I think therefore I am.  Or, as my husband likes to say, "actions and emotions flow out of core beliefs."  I don't believe a person can repeat words enough to change what they truly believe.  I think it takes stepping out in faith on an idea (or, said differently, taking action on a thought) until that idea becomes a deeply held core belief.

Let me give you a real life example.  When I was young, I fell off a rope swing in my back yard.  It wasn't high up, but the fall was enough to knock the wind out of me.  For the next 15 or so years, I became increasingly afraid of heights.  It finally got to the point I couldn't be on my first husband's shoulders (he is 6'5") without having a near panic attack (even in a swimming pool!).  Until the fear manifested into a phobia, I would have told anyone I was NOT afraid of heights...but my actions told a vastly different story.  My deeply held core belief was that it was not safe to be high up because I might fall.  Saying I wasn't afraid didn't change what was going on inside of me much less my behavior.  The only thing that would change it, was action.  (I have a degree in psychology...I had learned about desensitization.)

So...armed with the idea there was nothing to fear about being high up, I began to step out (or in this case UP) on that idea...testing it out if you will.  Now, if I had fallen and gotten hurt, my fear would have most likely solidified.  However, as it were, after some time, I was eventually able to take a job as an insurance adjuster (read: climb many tall and/or steep roofs in a single day!)....and even skydive!  It wasn't the act of SAYING I wasn't afraid, but the ACTION of acting as if I wasn't, until I truly wasn't.

So, I'll say it again, I just don't buy into "mantras".  I will never win a race by saying "I can win, I will win"....unless I already believe it's possible.  However, having said all that...I think mantras can have an impact on the "stepping out in faith" phase of the process.

For the longest time I could not (would not) believe I had earned the right to be called a "runner".  I didn't think I had run long enough, fast enough, far enough, well enough.  Even in yesterday's post I said I "still have doubts I am a runner."  However, the truth is, my actions are showing otherwise.  I run.  I coach.  I (for the most part) don't quit at the first sign of fatigue.  I do believe I am a runner, or I would not run.

I can't say when the real turning point was...but I think it may have been when I came back from (almost) five weeks off.  Even my husband couldn't believe I didn't quit.  I couldn't keep holding onto the belief I wasn't a runner because the fact was undeniable ...I was in fact running.  The continued ACTION of doing the thing has (almost) solidified it in me. 
Scottish Thistle-hardest weed to kill

There are still times, however, the old (long-held) belief of "I can't run" pops back out like a deeply rooted weed.  It's in those times the mantra of "I AM A RUNNER" can help-- but only if coupled with the ACTION of continuing to run.  It's the ACTION that is doing the real work, but I think repeating the mantra while in action helps dig out that root of doubt and allows the fruit of the truth to grow.

I didn't think all this through the other day before (or during) my trail run...but as I said in yesterday's post, I did actually use a few mantras on that run.  In addition to "I am a billy goat" and "I am a hurdler"...there were two others I repeated over and over.  One I'll devote a whole post to, tomorrow.  The other one was "I CAN.  I WILL." 

The idea I'm about to (a) run the longest distance I've gone so far, while at the same time (b) running a VERY HARD trail race is daunting to say the least.  I have had doubts I can finish.  Beyond that, I've had doubts I can/will finish well.  I'm not saying I think I have any shot at WINNING even female masters.  Competition is tough.  (There are no age group awards.)  However, I want to believe I CAN/WILL not only finish, but finish well.

The action of running strong (which I certainly did the other day, and have all the times I've been on those trails recently) coupled with the mantra "I CAN.  I WILL." is (hopefully) driving out the old belief of "I can't.  I won't."  The new belief came first...otherwise I would never even try.  It might have been a seedling of a thought at first, but when fertilized with the action of stepping out in faith -acting as if the belief were true- the seedling can grow into an apple tree full of fruit. 

"Finish" doesn't have multiple meanings, but "finish well" certainly has a variety of "flavors" (some more widely loved than others).  But, for the moment...I'll continue to nurture the apple tree of belief that I CAN and I WILL finish McKay Hollow, and finish well.
Apple tree-to-be

I'll write about my favorite mantra from the run, tomorrow.  Until then...tell me what you think?  Do you use mantras?  Are they words you already truly believe but need a little reminding in the moment?  Or are they just encouragements for moments of struggle ("beer at the finish line", "run to eat"...)? 

Thanks for stopping in, come again tomorrow...for the rest of the story!  :D

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