Don’t Stare at the Rock
October 7, 2015
I had dinner not too long ago with a friend who gave me the following advice: don’t stare at the rock. See, she’s friends with a mountain biker who shared that advice with her, and it stuck. In mountain biking you encounter many rocks and other obstacles on the trail, but here’s the thing: if you stare at the rock, you will hit it. Like magic, every. single. time. And hitting that rock is bound to hurt.
You’re In Charge
The thing I’m coming to understand is that staring at the rock is a choice. (I know, it’s a total bust for me too!) By “staring at the rock” we are choosing to focus our energy and thoughts on what we don’t want to be true:
- What if this person doesn’t like me?
- What if there is something wrong with me?
- What if I try and fail?
- What if I feel this way forever?
If you’re anything like me, you tell yourself that staring at the rock is good. That we have to be aware of life’s potential obstacles if they are to be avoided. Maybe it even feels like you don’t have a choice… But life simply doesn’t work like that. The more intently we stare, the more likely we are to experience a head on collision.
What if instead of staring at the rock, we chose to take responsibility for our experience? The book A Course in Miracles lays it out succinctly:
You might call this approach: “looking in the direction you want to go.”
Recently I had a great opportunity to practice this concept (in other words: there was a giant completely unwelcome “rock” for me to contend with). On Sunday night I did something that made me feel ashamed, unlovable, and disconnected from myself and those around me. It really doesn’t matter exactly what that “something” was because we all have our thing – some sort of violence directed inward that we habitually turn to when things get tough.
By Monday morning I was officially a mess. I had myself fully convinced that all of the stories my Sunday night had brought up – shame, feeling like no one could possibly love me, feeling disconnected and alone – were permanent fixtures. I was fixated on the rock and barreling towards it at breakneck speed.
Then something happened: A friend called me to check in and let me know she cared… and that was enough to get me to pause – and glance up from the rock (aka, stop talking to myself as if I were my own worst enemy). And when I did, I suddenly noticed this vast expanse of beauty I had completely been missing while I focused solely on the obstacle…
And that’s when I remembered (yet again) that I really did have a choice. I could either continue staring at the rock, or I could treat myself with the same compassion and loving kindness that I would offer to anyone else. In other words, I could choose love or fear. And you know what? It’s always as simple as that.