You never know how your presents will be wrapped…
I’ve heard that Chip Kelly used to say to his players, “Be where your feet are.”
Climbing Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park today, we set out for a hike, which is not a big deal. How high can a mountain on the East Coast be? I love hiking. I have hiking shoes. I’m covered in sunscreen, a long sleeved shirt, a hat and long pants. The temperature is perfect for this hike and I’m excited to get exercise, and also excited to get to the finish line. Après hike is as good as après ski, but being in Maine, means lobster with the beer!
So, we set out, all gung ho, on our merry way. Four of us in a line with our fearless leader, the eagle scout/nature man extraordinaire, leading the pack. We go through some beautiful forest, and within about 5 minutes, I notice we are literally out of the woods, but not figuratively. We are now on rocks that are huge, slippery and spaced a leap apart. I start to get nervous. I know it’s a 2.5 hr hike. I can’t see where this terrain ends. I am crawling on these rocks using both hands and feet, making my way across this very scary place.
After about another 5 minutes, which feels like forever, I look behind me. There is no way I can go backwards. I look ahead of me and can’t see anything, except more rocks. Rock that are higher in altitude! I feel really angry, a common feeling when I believe I’m trapped. I go right in to blame mode, “we should have known better this is no place for us to be.” “We have no equipment, we’re not trained for this kind of hiking.” “I can’t do this for another 2 hours, no way.”
I am so mad. I feel my heart beating faster and the voices in my head competing with the screaming fearful thoughts. I feel emotionally, mentally and physically hijacked.
As a coach and devotee of learning, I know that breathing is key to shifting the nervous system from fight or flight to calm and centered. I take a deep breath; then another, and another. Dave asks, “Are you ok?” He wants to know how I am doing and why I am stopping.
This is when I look down at my feet and say to one of them, “Okay, you are here and you’re okay. I see a safe place for you to step to next. Let’s take one step at a time and see how that feels. Okay, you did it, now the other foot, let’s talk to her and get her to join us over here…that worked. Is everybody okay? Yes!” Then, I do that again, encouraging one foot after the other, to inspire that foot to make the move and the part of me that is petrified stays calm. I promise the feet and the frightened one that we never have to look up, “Just be where your feet are. Stay with your feet, one step at a time, no looking back, no looking ahead. We are here now, where our feet are, and we are fine”.
Within 20 minutes, we are off those rocks and the rest of the hike is like a walk in the park. Lesson learned. Be here, now, where your feet are. This is the only place where you can ever affect anything; the only place you have any power to create a true experience of yourself.
In addition, the love and compassion with which I spoke to myself that day, was so tender and so kind. I want to speak to me that way all the time. If we all speak to ourselves with tenderness and kindness more of the time, what a lovely world this will be.