Surrender Presence & Intention… and my friend FAILURE

What does it mean to SURRENDER oneself completely?   Falling in love with my husband.   Being swept down the river rapids in a raft.   Body-surfing the crest of a wave.   Facilitating a hot group dynamic when I am “on.”   All of these have a quality of surrender for me — of letting myself go into and embrace a greater force that PULLS me.   It is a force that is greater than I am — the force of love, of rushing water, of a group process and the human spirit that wants to express itself.    On the Flying Trapeze I have progressed to being an “advanced beginner,” which means that I am now working on taking off from the platform on my own,  building my SWING, and learning some basic “back-end” tricks.   It may not appear to be as fancy as a trapeze catch trick, but the SWING is an amazing and magical thing — and the most challenging and disorienting thing I have yet experienced.  It is, well, a wild rush.   It is teaching me to recognize my ways of responding when I step or leap or dive into a force that is greater than I am.

In these situations in LIFE or on the TRAPEZE….

…. Sometimes I close my eyes, grit my teeth, pretend it is not happening, and I shut-down until it is all over.   My body tightens, I go into survival mode, and I tell myself to hang on until it is over.    Hmm…. sounds like what sometimes happens to me in a difficult conversation with someone I care about,  or say, when I am confronted in a challenging way by a group I am leading.  The first few times that I tried the Trapeze Swing this is what I did —- held on tight and shut down until I heard someone yell “let go!”    This is what I would call RESISTING THE FORCE.

….Other times I surrender to the force and get completely lost and disoriented… it sweeps me away.    Hmmm….. sounds like when I find myself on an emotional ride and become completely confused and uncentered, or when I work with a group and get bounced around so much that I become completely ineffective.   On the Trapeze, my Swing attempts after the first few were like this.   I would leap from the platform, surrender to the momentum of the swing and a rush of dizzying disorientation would overwhelm me.   Each time the Trapeze would reach its top height and begin to fall again in the other direction, my stomach would swoop up to my throat and the “Whoooaaaaaaaaa!” of vertigo would take over.   In this state which I call SWEPT AWAY I am lost and at the mercy of whatever the force is that has me… be it love, anger, rushing water, or the swoop of the Trapeze.

…. I am just beginning to now get a glimpse of the magic of the swing and what is possible, and the incredible power that can come when SURRENDER, PRESENCE, and INTENTION occur simultaneously….  when I am aware of the force and of myself at the same time that I embrace it, surrender to it, and allow it to carry me.    When that happens, I become one with the force… I can create from and with it…. I can impact it as it is impacting me.    So I think of my relationships — the people who are dearest to me — and moments that we enter into a conflict or difficulty.  In the best moments, I surrender to it and embrace it — and move forward towards it with presence and a conscious intent to deepen the relationship.  Or, I think of a tense group dynamic that I am facilitating and moments when I am able to move right into the energy that is happening while at the same time noticing what is happening and holding one level of awareness on my role or intent to have some sort of impact.   In these scenarios if I can surrender to what is happening it  becomes a force that I am able to create from.   On the Trapeze, I am beginning to see that the SWING is all about this force and my ability to become one with it, rather than being about my strength or ability to “force” it to happen the right way.

I am very much a beginner at this SWING, and suspect that I have merely scratched the surface.   This feels like a really worthwhile muscle to build, and I wonder in my life…. if I were able to more fully SURRENDER with PRESENCE and INTENTION to the situations around me, what might become possible.

FAILURE.  Often as a leader of teams and groups I can inspire others about how wonderful it is to learn from failure, and how wonderful it is to risk failure… some reading this have heard me say that.  OK, guess what.  I think failure sucks.   True Confession:  The reason that I usually have succeeded with many things in life is because I have made sure that I quit before I failed.  Uggh.   I hate failure and most things related to it… I hate being afraid of it…. I hate being viewed as it….. and I have always worked pretty hard to avoid it.    And, OK, yes….. boy it sure is a good teacher.

On the Flying Trapeze I am experiencing lots of failure — and rather than avoid it I want to share it right up front (see my Blooper video below).    A few weeks ago I had what felt like a disastrous Trapeze class…. I just could not get it together, and just about every time I leapt from the platform something went wrong.   Finally, I told the instructors that I had had it and was leaving… it just wasn’t my day.   As I was leaving, I slowly became aware of how I was feeling and of the thoughts racing through my head.   I felt angry and frightened and very discouraged — the Trapeze is getting a bit more difficult and I am afraid of hurting myself.   I felt very angry with myself for failing.  And I said to myself “I cannot do this…. it is too hard for me…. I am too old, too fat, too weak, too inflexible…. if I keep doing it I will look like an idiot…. I might get hurt…. I need to quit now….”

I stopped in my tracks because I realized that often in my life I have found myself in that very same state — and on various important occasions I have surrendered (been swept away) by that state and have quit.   It took me right back to the moment in 10th grade when I quit the High School Diving Team because I was too afraid of getting hurt or failing on the more difficult dives…. I knew that if I continued I would have lots of painful failure and I wanted to avoid it, so I walked away.   Professionally I have declined complex opportunities when I have been too frightened of failure, or too discouraged when things have not gone my way.   Personally there have been too many occasions when my fear of failing or being hurt in a relationship has compelled me to walk away, or consider doing so.

And so, I chose to sink more deeply into that experience of failure…. down down and down more to explore what I might find at the bottom.    It is, for me, a dark abyss, like being at the bottom of a very deep well.   And there at the bottom is a very frightened little person, surrounded by the menacing dangers of life that loom large and threaten to destroy.   It feels very primal to me… the terror of being obliterated, and the raging force of destruction — perhaps forces that are fundamentally embedded into the human DNA and emerge in me in my own particular way.   As I explore these energies more I find that they transform, one into a sense of open vulnerability, sensitivity, fragility, and innocence; the other into a ferocity, passion, and white-hot WILL TO LIVE.  Ahhh… transformed, these are energies that I can make good use of when I find myself in my own moments of wanting to give up and abandon my quests.  Actually, it seems like what I am learning in the Swing of the Trapeze — there is a surrender involved to the discomfort and pain of failing — there is an energy to it.   My intent is to bring more presence into that experience, and allow it to bring forth the creative force of intention.

Please do feel free to chuckle as you watch this one…you will not be the first to do so ; )

I did “climb back up the ladder” and returned for two classes last week — very determined to improve the “Back-End Straddle Whip” that I had so much difficulty with before.   I found myself laughing and enjoying the failures more, and made some improvements with the trick…. I am filled with excitement about continuing this journey — on one level it is simply fun.  On another level it is serving as a great structure to strengthen my resolve to work out, eat well, do yoga.  And more than that it is working for me in a profound way to explore what makes me tick, and what makes me more free — and that is my quest.   If you have reactions to my musings, please leave them with a comment — I appreciate it greatly.

~ by Art on June 22, 2012.

3 Responses to “Surrender Presence & Intention… and my friend FAILURE”

  1. Oh, that was crap. 🙂

    Thanks for reminding me that I am not unique in my desire to run away from tough things. I totally got hooked, cried, and argued, at a Board meeting that was supposed to make me President, and then ignored emails from the board after that. EPIC FAIL!!!

    Now I am building a team that will create a residential middle school for profoundly gifted kids with teaching/learning and retreat opportunities for PG adults – all on Co-Active principles. And I have to be willing to be completely terrified and crap the whole time, because that’s the only way to be real, and hold my stake anyway.

    YOU SHOWED ME THAT. At Leadership, and again, today.

    Joanna (Deer)

  2. Art, you have a graceful and quite beautiful swing! On failure… I have come up against this with my riding many times. Usually the frustration only digs me deeper into the hole. I have given up, cursed like there’s no tomorrow, threatened to give up the sport all together, on & on it goes. Recently, I have had a perspective shift about failure, and realized that in those moments I am really at a point of breakthrough… on the cusp of new learning. After all, if it were easy I wouldn’t be stretching, pushing, moving forward. For me this feels gentler and actually more motivating. So, I ask you… where is the breakthrough?
    I loved reading this piece. Also, your videographer is hilarious! Keep flying!

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