It’s astounding to me how much I learned from one weekend workshop. I keep reliving the moments in a physical sense, as if I’m actually turning them over in my hands to check them out from all angles. As I play with them, more layers of meaning reveal themselves, and it’s so fascinating to me.
My own epiphany came during a “blind” exercise. With eyes closed, I descended “The Gate” a challenging aerial sculpture that hangs from its corner, making bars that would normally be parallel to the floor hang on a steep diagonal. It is, so far, my favorite aerial exercise, conceived by my amazing, inspiring and talented workshop partner, aerial expert Mara Neimanis. Lost in reverie during my descent, I stepped off what I thought was the bottom rung of the gate, letting go with my hands at the same time. At the moment I let go, the momentum of releasing my weight into my left foot carried me to the floor further and faster than I expected, as I was not quite as close to the ground as I thought. My left ankle turned, my leg crumpled, and before you could say, “what-the-f*@k???” I was sitting on my bum, looking at some very surprised faces.
Horrified, embarrassed and a little worried about that ankle, which seems to bear the brunt of all my bad exits (a similar spatial misjudgment stepping off my paddleboard in the surf left me crutch-bound for a week earlier this summer), I shot up like burnt toast from a toaster and proclaimed my okay-ness.
It wasn’t until later in the workshop that I realized how significant that moment was. My body had been sending me a message: “Pay attention to your exits.”
That’s when I realized that I have a history of bad exits. I come by it honestly, having experienced my share of abandonments and disappointments, which I survived by pretending they didn’t matter.
This new information seemed significant, and was validated by Martin Seligman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of several books on Positive Psychology. While reading “Authentic Happiness” the day after the workshop (just a coincidence, really. Not.), I came across a bit of research that suggests that the most important moment of any experience comes at the end—that’s what we tend to remember most, and determines how willing we are to repeat the experience. The research, conducted by one of my heroes of Behavioral Investing, Daniel Kahneman, found that we can go through a long period of unpleasantness that ends pleasantly, and remember it as a good experience. Similarly, then, we can go through a pleasant experience that ends badly, and our perception is that the whole thing was awful. Hmmm.
I will be mindful of this the next time I say good-bye. Those last moments are much more important than I knew.
The next few workshops will be laboratories for me to hone the process of encouraging participants to allow their bodies to physically manifest their inner wisdom. And I plan to participate fully.