I went running this morning at one of my favorite parks. It’s close to my house and the scenery is breathtaking, so when the stars align and I am able to get there for a workout, I feel grateful. These days I’m trying to be outdoors more (and on the treadmill less) in order to improve my fitness and raise my vibration.
This park has several miles of woodland trails for running and mountain biking. I normally run the mountain bike trails because they’re wider, and because there’s a nice canopy of trees that shields me from the sun a bit. The downside is that there are tons of giant tree roots, and the canopy seems to hold in all the humidity, so some days it feels like running through a giant sauna obstacle course.
Today I decided to run a different route, to challenge myself and keep the ol’ neurons firing. I parked at the exit, grabbed my pretty pink pepper spray and my cell phone, and set off down the road. Little did I know, spiritual growth was waiting right around the corner for me.
Having grown up in this city, one might expect that I know a thing or twelve about this park. The number of trails, the length of those trials, elevation, length of the road, etc. Useful things. I don’t actually know any of that. The positive to this is that so far I have learned something new on each run, which I actually find exciting, so I’ve decided to stick with this “discovery-running” strategy. I have heard that there are 5-7 miles of trails in this park, though it’s also possible that I have made that number up completely. (A quick Google search did nothing to help clarify.) Anyway, I started running knowing I had somewhere between 5 and 7 miles of road to go on, and I wouldn’t make it that far anyway, so my plan was to run as far as I wanted and turn around and run back to my car.
Running through a gorgeous park on a Saturday in Georgia is a glorious experience. I said “hello” and received similar greetings from walkers, runners, bikers, kids, grandmothers, disc-golfers, and a lady carrying a casserole in one hand and a baby in the other. I could hear country music coming from the speakers of a pickup parked down by the lake, kids laughing as they played in the waterfalls, and friends encouraging each other as they cycled up a steep climb. The whole place was abuzz with activity, and I was buzzing along in the middle of it. I felt like I was in a movie, in one of those opening sequences where the camera starts out in space, and slowly zooms all the way into the town where the story takes place, until the focus is on the main characters. That thought made me smile.
As I was making my way up and down the hilly pavement, mindful of cars and trying to keep my breath steady, I thought about how far I might run today. 1 mile? If I turn around then, it would be 2 when I reached the car. It was pretty hot out. Maybe 1.5? That makes 3 total. Maybe I’ll just go .75 and then turn around, but I’ll run it faster than I’m used to. I have to go to work tonight and I don’t want to be tired and sore at the beginning of my shift. I knew I couldn’t run the 5-7 miles to the entrance even ONCE, let alone do it and turn around and run all the way back to my car.
Suddenly, just as that negative “I can’t” thought was forming, other thoughts popped up, as if to banish it before it planted roots in my brain. These other thoughts were encouraging, motivating thoughts. For example:
- The story about Bruce Lee and his friend running 5 miles, and Bruce’s philosophy on life. (The story can be found HERE.)
- Kathy Freston’s book Quantum Wellness, in which she says you should always go farther than you believe you can.
- The reality that part of me was trying to give up before I’d even truly begun.
What happened was simultaneously anti-climactic and miraculous:
I simply decided to run the entire path, from exit to entrance. My legs felt strong, my breathing was pretty good, and even though I had never done it before, I decided that I would do it.
That’s it. Hardly worth mentioning, right? And yet, in that millisecond that I made the choice to “just do it”, my life changed a little bit. My mindset rotated from “can’t” to “will”. There was never a question after that whether I could make it, just a quiet, confident knowing that I would.
The rest of the story is that yes, I ran it all. Guess what? The road in it’s entirety ended up being a little over two miles, beginning at the exit gate and going “all the way” around the the entrance. Yep, this thing that I had negated and barred myself from ever doing was only two miles. I had never taken the time to find out the actual distance, because I already believed it to be further than I could run!! I had counted myself out of the race without ever starting. This got me thinking – How many times in my life have I done this? With work? With friendships and relationships?
Here’s a funny thing about enlightenment, acceptance, and finally letting go of old beliefs: oftentimes we are standing on the precipice of greatness, and once we step off the edge, we can finally see the beauty of where we are headed. Before we take that first step, though, all we see is the edge. We see danger. The unknown. The unattainable. We see the can’t, won’t, shouldn’t signs all around us that discourage us from trying. So we don’t. We don’t try, we stay safe, and we continue to live our lives as we’ve always lived them, because that’s comfortable.
I’m writing this blog today to encourage you to GET UNCOMFORTABLE. Whatever edge you find yourself standing on today, take the leap! Take a step. Do something outside of your comfort zone and just see what happens.
Small picture, I ran 4 miles. This, in itself, is not a big deal, I know. The bigger picture is that I came away from this run with just a smidge more enlightenment than when I entered. A mental barrier was overcome. My perspective was significantly altered. What is can’t? What is too hard? What in life is truly unattainable? I learned an invaluable lesson about belief, ability, and being willing to say “Geronimo!” and jump off the edge, even and especially when I can’t see what’s coming next.