Facing uncertainty

Here’s the first step: Start right where you are. Go as far as you can see. When you get there you will see even further.
– Napoleon Hill


Have fun with it!

In any new thing that we start doing – be it training for your black belt :-), expressing yourself through art or dance – it’s helpful to remember that:

“The force with which we commit ourselves is the same force with which results come back.”

However, we don’t always have the time and resources to commit ourselves as fully as we would like. We can’t always show up. Life happens.
Sometimes we have a hundred reasons to begin, and perhaps a thousand more why we shouldn’t. There are many, many things that can interfere.
But we won’t beat ourselves up. We’ll do our best. Whatever we give our attention to grows.
We will not hold ourselves back with thoughts of limitation. Wherever we are is fine.  What we need to start is a willingness to step into the unknown.
These encouraging words came from Cat Bennett’s book The Confident Creative.

Whatever you do this week: HAVE FUN WITH IT!

So you would think lucid dreaming, style, uncertainty and buried feelings have nothing to do with a story about self-control in the dojo?

I tried out one of Martha Beck’s suggestions on generating ideas. The one about reading a few paragraphs from different books on different subjects and seeing what comes up. She calls it “Throwing in the kitchen sink”.

Started out with a paragraph on lucid dreaming from The 4-hour body by Timothy Ferriss. Reminded me that I dreamt about a great topic for my PhD the other day. I distinctly remembered thinking in the dream that it was a really great topic. Except that I can’t remember it now that I’m awake.

Then read a paragraph on style from The art of editing in the age of convergence by Brooks, Pinson and Sissors. Reminded me of something Justine Musk wrote in a recent post: “Style is the story you tell about yourself to the world”. I like that.

Then read a quote from Embracing Uncertainty by Susan Jeffers:

No man knows whether death, which men in their fear apprehend to be the greatest evil, may not be the greatest good.

Not sure what to do with this…

And then I read a paragraph in The courage to be yourself by Sue Patton Thoele about how women often seem to feel tired because they suppress their feelings and then carry these unresolved and unspoken feelings around in their subconscious.

Which provides a good background and intro to the possible cause of an emotional explosion in my karate class the other day.


At the inauspicious occasion of realising that I have literally worn through my first gi (karate suit) and now have a gaping hole under my right arm, I was unfortunately also reminded of the fact that I still need to work on one specific aspect or rather lack of this aspect in my life.

After each karate class, we line up and repeat these five maxims of karate: character, etiquette, effort, sincerity, and self-control.

“Character,” says the sensei.
“CHARACTER!” shout the children.
“Etiquette.” “ETIQUETTE!”
“Effort.” “EFFORT!”
“Sincerity.” “SINCERITY!”
(You notice I leave out self-control?)

For beginner adults, training with children has its advantages. They don’t mind if you’re slow. They have patience to show you the sequence of the kata. Again. You can learn at your own pace.
But then, they also want the attention of the sensei even when the sensei is busy with you.
“Sensei! Sensei?!”
Or they’ll fool around and deem it fit to rather neaten up the weights or whatever equipment. Which would be fine, except that if there’s more than one child wanting to do it, each of them wants to do it in his/her own way. Causing loud discussions (who am I fooling?) – arguing and sometimes hitting. In the dojo, for goodness sake!
So. Self-control.
“No hitting in the dojo!” would have sufficed.
But no. I had to go on and on. In a LOUD voice. [Which I now think may be because of unresolved and unspoken issues, you see.]
Just after the incident I did manage to convert my anger into a quite powerful (for me!) kata, though.


Can’t help it, want to end off with a Terry Pratchett reference. In I shall wear midnight, Tiffany Aching tells someone that witches don’t get angry. They do feel anger, but they put it away somewhere until they can do something useful with it.
I suppose my problem is to do something useful with it before it explodes on me, hey?

Karate and taiko: good for turning on the right side of your brain. Not. Good for whole-brain exercise.

In a post about turning on your right brain, one of Martha Beck’s suggestions is to learn new moves. I immediately thought that practitioners of karate and Japanese drum players therefore must have the right sides of their brains permanently turned to on.

However, when learning new moves in karate, say a new kata, I doubt whether it turns on only the right side of my brain. I find that it’s more of a pushing and stretching of both sides of my brain to actually try and work together. Although I must admit that sometimes moves on one side of the body are much easier than doing the same moves on the other side.

It’s the same with taiko (the playing of Japanese drums). Especially in the beginning:
Take the plain and simple don do ko rhythm. Boem boem-boem.
We get taught the “right way”: Right hand, right hand-left hand. So the first Boem is with the right hand, the first boem of the boem-boem is also with the right hand and the second boem of the boem-boem is with the left hand. With me?

We spend like a month or even longer (okay, I may be exaggerating for special effects, here, but bear with me) to perfect our right-handed Boem boem-boem.

Then, surprise-surprise, we get taught another “right way”: now starting with the left hand, which is quite frustrating to left-handed players after having gone through the trouble of learning how to NOT play with their naturally leading left hand first!

After a month (or even longer) of perfecting now both ways of playing Boem boem-boem, we find out that there is still another way of doing it: The Swing. You start with the right hand leading, but then switch to the left hand. [Actually, The Switch might have been a more appropriate name.]

Long story, short: Try to learn some new moves to turn on the right side of your brain. Chances are good, though, that you’ll end up exercising both sides of your brain. A win-win situation, if you ask me.

Vulnerability: the birthplace of creativity?

I don’t know about you. But “being vulnerable” and “showing your vulnerability” have a negative connotation for me. I heard an interesting talk by Brené Brown on this very issue. She says that even though vulnerability is the core ingredient of shame, fear and the struggle for worthiness, vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging and love.

Typically when we’re scared, we numb out our emotions. But as we can’t selectively numb emotions, we end up numbing the good and the bad. We also tend to be CERTAIN about stuff in the face of UNCERTAINTY. I’m right and you’re wrong… We try to be perfect but also pretend to ourselves that we have no effect on others.

Brown suggests that we let ourselves be seen in all our vulnerability, that we practice gratitude every day and start believing that we are (good) enough.

If the result could lead to joy, creativity, belonging and love, hey, I’m up for the challenge.

Related posts:

Create, creation, creativity, creature. Or: How to build your Confidence muscle

No more perfect perfectionistic perfectionism

Be absolutely sure of nothing

What stories about assassins can teach you about handling stress

Had a stressful week that I got through with some advice from a TV program [featuring spies, corrupt government officials, assassinations and fighting]. In one episode a new recruit is restrained with a contraption monitoring her heart rate. Only when she manages to bring her heart rate down does the locks of the constraint open. She manages it by breathing and acknowledging her fear and feelings of powerlessness.
Think what you may of my choice of late night entertainment, but the advice, I found, to be sound.

Breathe deeply and face your fears.

You might also enjoy Danielle Laporte’s post on striking the word “overwhelmed” from your vocabulary.

Related posts:

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