16 Dec 2013

Invisible Boxes of Beliefs

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Each of us carries around our packing boxes of assumptions about how life works, what choices are available to us, what we are capable of. Here’s how I know about boxes.

My friend Susan and I train for triathlons together, and the swim segment has been problematic for each of us. We’ve each struggled with minimizing the panic that comes with needing a breath before the next one is coming around.  I mean, I could barely do the length of a pool without deep gratitude for the opportunity to rest when I first started.  We live in a small town outside of Atlanta with a lake in its center, so this summer, 2013, we’ve take more to open water swims than to the Y down the street.

Verrrry briefly, here’s where I’ve been: In the front crawl, I’ve been looking for my natural breathing pattern. Every 2 strokes? I don’t use all my air that way and that exertion wears me out. Every 3? I become a terrified toddler when I try to breathe on my left side, and I haven’t yet committed to working that out (and thereby ticking off the toddler). Every 4? That feels natural until I’ve been at it awhile, then I get panicky over how my lungs burn and I clearly need more air.

Written out this way, maybe a solution occurred to you right away, but it didn’t for me. I couldn’t see outside my box. So instead, I kept trying to make 2 or 4 work. Susan recently discovered an elegant solution outside both of our boxes, though:  How about patterns of 2 and 4? Like, maybe, 4, 4, 2, 4, 4, 2… How about breathing when you need it?

So simple. It’s a little embarrassing.

We’ve laughed and laughed about this, this adherence to what we think the rules are, even when we’re open to new approaches or actively seeking solutions.

Because I love (L O V E) metaphors, and because this feels profound to me, I keep looking at this one. How do we step outside our own boxes? How do we even know we’re boxed in? How do minimize the impact of the boundaries we place around ourselves? Sometimes, it seems to be a process of going still and allowing new answers to rise up out of the muck. Sometimes it’s noticing how other peoples’ boxes seem to look. Sometimes, it’s asking someone else to describe what they see when they look at my box.

Part of the coaching process involves having someone (me) look compassionately at your boxes.  Without asking you to throw them away, we’ll get curious together about whether the sides can be pushed out even a little bit.

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten. When you are ready to push gently on your confiding mental structures, I can help.

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