> jumping into life.

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All my corners ache: shoulderblade, collarbone, hip, elbow, knee. They hurt from hitting the ground.

All my muscles ache: bicep, tricep, calf, thigh, abs. They hurt from trying to mitigate or at least control the hitting of the ground.

The heels of my palms and the balls of my feet are bruised from slap-landings and botched attempts at more complex maneuvers. At the end of the class, I was tapped twice for the roda and made a right fool of myself therein. In fact, the truth of it is that I made a fool of myself the whole way through. I can't even do a cartwheel, much less the twisting leaping acrobatics required for most of the movements, and I have not the requisite fearlessness to do them anyway. Today I paid the price: if I had moved with confidence instead of gingerly, I would likely have hit the ground less often.

I find in myself lately an aversion to the attempt of those things that do not come easily to me. Most of what I spend my time at these days I have been doing and doing well for so long that I do not remember the experience of their learning. For all I know, I have been writing and reading all my life, and swimming, and walking in the woods. Even now so often new skills come naturally - bike repair, knitting, taxonomy - that when I am faced with making a fool of myself, I rarely press on. This happens most often in the physical: I could talk before I could walk, and it shows. I have never been very athletic, or very sure in my body. I can hike for a long time in a heavy pack, I can ride a bike, and I can swim: that is the sum total of my athletic ability. Lately, I have tried to branch out, but rockclimbing, ultimate frisbee, and even running were abandoned after a few frustrating attempts.

I don't like to feel foolish. I don't wear it well, and I would generally rather retreat to the safety of words and trails than risk my dignity. I think I also suspect that if something isn't easy right away, I'll never master it. So why bother?

This isn't an attitude I particularly enjoy in myself, and I wonder if I will go back next week. I would like to, and I also would rather not. The aching body is not what deters me, though I would like to tell myself it is so.

Just some thoughts here to be considered and discarded -- in partial payment for the considerable light I have consistently taken from your incredibly lovely writing.

I suspect you are very conscious of the way your mind learns new things, and that your suggested reluctance to address difficult new things is not about intellectual things.

I suspect you are not so well aware of the way your body-mind-nervous-system learns new things.

Body-knowledge is integrated in a way that suggests that learning is occuring even when we are not physically practicing the new activity. Repetitive visualization in mental imagery of the activity is almost as important as physically expressing the activity. Lots of people miss this, but once you can competently visualize a movement with all of the elements of your body and what they must do in 3-dimensional space, all that remains to achieve the movement is sufficient strength and flexibility to move your body through it. I "practice" all sorts of complicated physical expressions in otherwise dead moments of a day, such as while waiting for an elevator or a subway or a friend in a store. Active visualization (daydreaming) before sleep (or during meditation) is very effective for me in learning and sustaining mastery of physical movements.

Something like a tipping-point is involved, so that it may feel like little progress is being made day after day, and then you wake up one day and have mastery of the technique. This can seem frustrating (because you may suspect no improvement is happening while your nervous system practices almost succeeding in lots of different ways), but actually this is the way competence in mental pursuits is achieved also. You can either factor complex polynomials or you can't (but you can fail lots of ways). You can either balance chemical equations or you can't. You can either recognize those different mushrooms or you can't.

The issue of reluctance to appear like a beginner at something needs to be addressed as a "first principle." I purposely throw myself at one really new thing every year. My only goal is to learn it well enough to enjoy it. Then my enjoyment will either carry me forward into continuing the activity, or my greater enjoyment at other activities will pull me away ...

You have already achieved sufficient competence and capacity in really important things to have no false pride about appearing buffoonish at new things. This is a child's genius and it's a bedrock value; don't let it get away from you.

I love to walk in the wilds also. And everything I have learned about my body in martial arts and skating and tennis and skiing and biking and mountain climbing contribute to making me a better, stronger, more agile, more confident walker.

I like the fact that we can do what we daydream we can do. We daydream about what we want to do. There is where our treasure is. There is where we are.

More explicitly, we can do what we dream we can do.

But these things I know you already know.


Thanks for the input! I think that intellectual learning is not so different - I've found that often I think I don't know something until one day I do, with little or no progression between them.

I've heard about the idea of creative visualization being as powerful as physical practice, and I'll admit I find myself leery. Perhaps I just don't visualize thoroughly enough.

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