This past weekend, I went for a hike in a place called Neff’s Canyon, and, although I love hiking, this particular trail kind of annoys me. Why do I go? I’m always happy when I’m done. But this time, I decided to practice patience and see if I could enjoy the whole journey.
You get good at what you practice.
In May, I attended a life coach mastermind event where the guest speaker was Tom Sterner, author of “The Practicing Mind.” Here’s a quote from his book:
We become fixated on our intended goal and completely miss out on the joy present in the process of achieving it. We erroneously think that there is a magical point that we will reach and then we will be happy. We look at the process of getting there as almost a necessary nuisance we have to go through in order to get to our goal.
Tom argues that the beauty of life lies in loving the practice.
You get good at what you practice.
So, beautiful reader, what do you want to get good at? Are you practicing? Do you love the practice?
I practice running, hiking, yoga, writing, meditation, guitar, connecting to people. I enjoy those practices.
However, I realized that I often practice impatience. Impatience for people who talk on their cellphones and walk up the stairs erratically, people who walk like zombies through crowded parking lots, people who are late or unprepared or uninteresting.
Of course, all of these things are just a reflection of my interior state, because I am chronically impatient with myself for not writing faster, for not developing programs faster, for not fixing things I need to fix. Impatient at myself for not being stronger, for not being better, for not having the energy to run farther.
Impatient when I’m mad.
Impatient when I’m sad.
Impatient when I’m impatient.
“So, Georgi,” I said, “today on this hike, practice being patient and grateful.”
The practice started immediately, because I can never quickly find the trailhead. I have to drive around the neighborhood a little before I find it.
Seriously, G? How many times have you been here? You never get it right.
Patience. Gratitude. Hey! Look at that beautiful house. It is nice driving around here in my new car. I love this car. I’m so happy with it. Bluetooth audio is a freaking miracle.
Next, we started up the trail. A woman with a pit bull on a leash approached. She said, “Don’t worry, he’s friendly,” and he wasn’t. Blue scooted by. The owner shouted and berated their snarling dog.
Why do people always say their unfriendly dogs are friendly? Why even say anything? Why not just say, “My dog is unfriendly so stay away!”
Patience. Gratitude. Blue is a good dog, I’m glad she is not dog aggressive. I’m glad she sticks to me and is a great trail buddy.
Then, we started to climb the trail. It is steep and sustained. At a certain point, most people turn around, so the end of the trail is overgrown from lack of travel.
How much farther is it to that meadow? Am I going to get poison ivy? I can’t even see the trail, it’s so overgrown. Did I get off on the wrong trail? I always seem to get lost on this trail, did I take a wrong turn? Am I doing this right?
Patience. Gratitude. Who cares? What is “right”? You’re outside. Stop and have a drink. There’s a butterfly. There’s another. There’s a creek for Blue to drink. It’s so quiet and peaceful. Aaah, the quaking Aspen. It’s gorgeous. Breathe.
Finally, we emerged in a meadow full of wildflowers. It was stunning… and we also shared it with a lot of biting horseflies.
Ugh! Flies! I should have known it wasn’t a good time in the season for this hike.
Patience. Gratitude. I have bug spray in my pack! I am prepared. I’m at the top. I can descend now and I have some gummies to chew.
Just then, a blond woman and a friendly golden retriever came into the meadow. We had seen her earlier. She said, “Oh! Hello again! I must have gotten off on another trail. I always get turned around and lost up here. There are so many little trail offshoots!”
I laughed. I said, “I was thinking the same thing! How do I always get lost up here?”
We laughed together. She slapped at a fly and said, “Ugh! Horseflies! The worst!”
We laughed again. I said, “They are the worst! But they do keep you moving!”
Then Blue and I said goodbye and started down the trail. The descent was steep and rocky, and I just repeated patience and gratitude to myself when I got irritated or hot or itchy. We were both happy to finish the hike and go home to rest.
Since that day, I have continued to practice patience. I didn’t realize how much I needed to practice it, and I am enjoying this new practice. I will get better and better. It will make me feel so much better. It will benefit my family and friends. It will benefit my coworkers and students.
Stop for a minute today and consider your life. Every day, you are practicing… what? Being kind? Eating healthy? Getting outdoors? Complaining? Being irritated? Getting road rage?
As Sterner says, practice is not a “necessary nuisance.” It’s your life. Fall in love with it.
Beautiful reader: You are getting better at what you practice. Isn’t it a good thing that you get to choose?
PS: I’ve been practicing weekly blogging for about a year now! Thanks for joining me on this fun journey. I love to hear your comments and feedback. Thank you so much for reading.