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Is Just Showing Up Enough?

January, 2021

Some balk at the idea that showing up is at least as important as succeeding...but what if there’s something to it? Image courtesy Anna Shvets on Pexels.

A common saying in the United States is “Showing up is half the battle.” I would prefer that to read “Showing up is half the game.” This distinction notwithstanding, the saying speaks to the big difference between giving something a try and opting out of participating at all. But does this lowest-common-denominator approach predispose us toward laziness? And does it cheapen the earnest efforts of others?

People make a big deal about perfectly adhering to routines, attending classes (or in pre-COVID times, the gym) daily, etc. As it turns out, however, the imperfect, fuzzy-edged effort has a great deal of value.

Leaning into imperfection can be a constructive attitude to adopt. Image courtesy Pixabay on Pexels.

How is “less than perfect” still good enough?
Take developing a Zen meditation practice, for example. Arguably, one major goal of Zen meditation is to refrain from actively engaging in thoughts.

People starting out in this type of meditation practice sometimes erroneously place a lot of importance on having to be (or appear) peaceful or outwardly stoical. They may wrestle with their minds to force mental stillness, but much like trying to smooth the surface of a pond with one’s hands, that effort to control the outcome generates ripples (more thoughts). It turns out that it’s not possible to force our minds to stop thinking.

Imperfection is built into the process. Our minds are made to generate thoughts, a phenomenon referred to as “monkey mind.” There’s a learning curve. This can be uncomfortable for people who expect “perfect” results right out of the gate, end up with something “less than perfect,” and give up, never to try again. That is a lost opportunity.

If we never tried anything we didn’t already know, we’d simply never learn new skills. Imperfection is baked into the process of learning — and that’s a good thing! Image courtesy Maggie My Photo Album on Pexels.

Another example is learning how to garden. We can certainly absorb knowledge intellectually from reading a book, but it takes actually getting our hands dirty (and getting the rest of our bodies engaged!) to learn many of the physical skills at the core of gardening.

Whether we’re talking about a meditation practice, learning to garden, a new exercise habit, cultivating healthier posture than that with which we grew up, or embarking on the journey of learning some other new skill, the simple act of showing up with your attention and presence is deeply meaningful.

We have a great opportunity in just showing up. Why squander it? Image courtesy Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.

Showing up helps you...and others too
We’re so grateful for those of you who “just show up” to our daily exercise programs. Your presence not only benefits you, but also enriches the experience of every last one of your peers by giving them one more real person to be in community with. This is more precious than ever during this ongoing pandemic.

On January 1, 2020, I made a decision to show up daily in a live broadcast. This was pre-COVID and in response to a degree of dismay that our alumni, despite being extremely satisfied with our offerings, surely and steadily forget what we teach them. The phenomenon of forgetting is hardly surprising, as forgetting is adaptive, and as we are surrounded by poor posture practices and props. I decided to use the Tiny Habits approach of B.J. Fogg to remind alumni of one little body / movement principle daily, wrapped in a workout. Like many of the participants, I have found it to be of indescribable value.

Just a few of the lovely people who join in the daily 1-2-3 Move program.

I’ve faced extra challenges in recent times, like almost everyone I know. To be able to just show up in any of our exercise programs, and be guaranteed to feel uplifted in body and spirit, by the activity and the community, has been wonderfully reassuring. I’m deeply grateful to all involved. If you are curious to check out how it feels to show up in our little community, here’s the page to take you there.

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Thank you. This is all true to my own experiences.

Esther, I almost didn't read this blog article because I know you sometimes have articles written by others and I thought "I don't really want to read what this guy is saying."  cheeky  How happy I am that I made the decision to read it. 

I am someone who was never able to stick with any kind of exercise throughout my life and felt like a failure when I quit whatever the latest commitment to myself was.  I hated repetition and became bored almost immediately no matter what I did at the gym or at home with a video and I never felt the "high" that others said they did.  Even when I hit my late fifties and was told I'd better do some weight bearing exercise or lose more bone mass I didn't exercise.    

But now I actually look forward to joining Esther's 1-2-3 Move class every single day and I am astonished at the fact that I WANT to keep going.  Not only that, but about a month ago I went to Eric's Exercise class because I kept hearing from fellow Zoomers in Esther's class how much they enjoyed it.  Now I attend Eric's class six days/week and three of those days are at 7 am!!!.  I'm retired and have become very used to getting up whenever I want so I kind of feel like someone else has inhabited my body.  This just isn't me.   But it IS me and I love every minute of both classes.

Thank you Esther and Eric for making the classes fun and NEVER REPETITIVE!