All things are difficult before they are easy.
~ Thomas Fuller
Every other Wednesday at 7am, I meet my friend Howell at Greenberry’s for coffee (him) and genmaicha tea (me). For two years, we’ve been meeting to offer each other encouragement to live with heart, authenticity, and creativity. We support each other as we create the art of our lives. Meeting with Howell has helped me find the courage to write a blog, take a sabbatical, write a book, and be an artist. Everybody should have a Howell.
Turns out that on Wednesdays at 7am a bunch of runners get together for breakfast at Greenberry’s, too. In all seasons and weathers, they stride in with their long, lean limbs dressed in Boston Marathon jackets, sweat-wicking leggings, and super-high-tech sneakers. They kick back, dig into breakfast burritos, and catch up with each other. They have a community, these runners, and I love seeing them hanging out together.
Recently, I overheard two of them chatting as they waited for their coffee. A tall, tousle-haired woman and a 50-something man who looked like his heart beat maybe once an hour leaned against the counter. “So what’d you do today?” asked the woman. “Oh, I just did an easy 7,” he answered casually.
An easy 7.
I laughed into my tea. Easy? Nothing about running 7 miles would be easy for me. But for Once-An-Hour-Heartbeat Guy? Easy peasy lemon squeezie.
No matter how long he’s been running, though, at some point in his life, I’m guessing that 7 miles wasn’t easy for him, either. Maybe when he first started, 7 miles kicked his butt. Or when he was recovering from an injury or an illness, perhaps 7 miles felt endless. But the morning I was eavesdropping on him? It was easy.
A Nia student has been taking classes for about three years. In the beginning, class was tough for her: every step and combination felt complicated. At the time, we were getting ready to do a flashmob in Charlottesville and every week we would practice the flashmob song in class. She really wanted to participate but she struggled with the steps. She practiced and practiced, and when it was flashmob time, she was right there in the front row…rockin’ it.
A couple weeks ago, we did the old flashmob song again. Afterwards, the student laughed and said, “When we learned that song, I thought it was so hard. But since then, we’ve done much more complicated stuff. Now, that song’s easy!”
What is easy? What is difficult? It all depends, doesn’t it? It depends on what experience I’ve had before, how much I’ve practiced, if I’m healing an injury, or if I’m distracted. It depends if I’m nervous or relaxed, happy or stressed. The same routine I’ve done a hundred times feels much more difficult if my teacher is in the room.
For training and conditioning the body and mind, the best place to practice is along the line between challenge and healing. Am I putting in enough effort and energy to challenge myself, while still retaining the healing power of breath and balance? Can I feel the powerful sensation when I push myself enough to feel my edge, yet take care of myself in the process. Discovering and remaining on the edge between challenge and healing is the key to growth, learning, and living our potential. And it’s true not just for Nia and physical pursuits but in all areas of life. Step into your next meeting, decision, conversation, and feel the challenge of pushing your possibilities while breathing deeply and staying balanced.
Is it easy? Is it difficult? The words are meaningless since they are completely relative.
A more interesting question is where is the edge between challenge and healing for you right now? Hang out there. That’s where the juice is.