Friday morning I rented a mountain bike from Mellow Velo in downtown Santa Fe, and rode about twelve miles on the Dale Ball Trails. They were great single-tracks, and as difficult as anything I should ever ride. There were lots of narrow tracks between trees and cactus, rock gardens that required bouncing over or maneuvering around and, of course, steep uphills and downhills.
It was great fun, but I didn’t survive unmarked. I returned with scrapes and bruises on both arms and legs. I have often said, “If you don’t have a scar, you don’t have a story; and if you don’t have a story, you didn’t really leave home.” I tested my own theory on this trip.
The good news: I didn’t have any frightening high-speed crashes. All my falls were slow topples that happened when I was tentative and hesitant. When approaching a hairpin, I’d wait too long to decide whether to dismount and walk around or speed up and try to blast through. In my hesitation I lost velocity and fell over; usually falling downhill with my bike landing on top of me. I was a pathetic sight and I was glad to be alone.
Later, on the easy bike ride back downtown, I realized I had been singing the Fleetwood Mac song, “Over My Head,” all of the morning.
The previous evening I went with Cyndi and Wes and Roni to a yoga class taught by Dean and Rebecca Lerner, two of America’s premier Iyengar instructors. It was advertised as a “mixed level” class, but the mix was all better than me. I brought down the average.
I couldn’t do anything the rest of the class did, because of my limited yoga skill and my tight inflexible body. But I’m used to making adjustments and using props. A couple of times our instructor gave an alternative move for the “stiffer men,” and I knew exactly who she was talking about.
Rebecca Lerner taught the class while Dean walked around helping people. Which means, he spent more time helping me more than anyone else in the room.
Dean was constantly correcting me and adjusting me and bringing me props, which, to be honest, pushed me further out on the vulnerability edge than I was prepared for. Allowing someone to continually correct and adjust me in a public setting where, not only is it happening in front of other people who are much more skilled, but is happening to almost no one else, without me getting embarrassed or frustrated or angry, is a big change for me. No one likes to feel like a beginner in front of the cool kids. I don’t actually mind if my skill levels aren’t up to everyone else’s, because that is a function of more practice, but I quickly bow up if I think someone is patronizing me.
However, I never felt that way when Dean was helping me. I was happy every time he fixed my pose. It never felt like a put-down, but rather like, “Here, you’ll like it better this way.”
However, I was happiest whenever he walked past me to work on someone else. At least I wasn’t the only one who needed help.
While were in Santa Fe I listened to a Ted Talk by Sarah Lewis titled Embrace the Near Win, and she said, “We thrive when we stay at our own leading edge.” Of course, I wouldn’t classify either yoga or mountain biking as my leading edges. It would be more accurate to call them my vulnerability edges. Both are way out beyond the point where I know what I’m doing
Part of my recent growing up has been learning to embrace vulnerable moments, to let God speak to me through them, and let my own heart speak to others. Brene Brown wrote, “If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” (The Gift of Imperfection)
We have the greatest opportunity to change the world when we are willing to be open and vulnerable. Like Peter walking on water to Jesus, willing to fail in front of his peers.
But there is also this. While I intend to embrace vulnerability, I hope to improve as a yogi and as a mountain biker. It’s nice to know I have so much room for improvement.
Erwin McManus wrote in The Artisan Soul, “It’s been a wonderful realization after fifty years of life that if we work hard enough, hard work will eventually be mistaken for talent. And if we refuse to give up, perseverance will eventually be mistaken for greatness.”
How about you. Where are you pushing your vulnerability edges?
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32