“If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.” -Doc Brown
This quote resonated with me when I was a little girl as I watched the “Back to the Future” movies. To say it resonated means it buried itself as a truth deep within my soul and it bloomed into a belief that flowered throughout my life.
Experience is our best teacher. Experience comes through our senses and gives us a sense of what it means to be alive in a particular moment.
There is something I find very satisfying about figuring out how things work. My dad was an engineer and my mom was an artist so I have both a creative and analytical brain. I remember the sense of pride I felt when I figured out how to take off my own training wheels on my first bike. Because I paid attention when my dad put them on, I was able to reverse-engineer the process and take them off myself.
The only reason I decided to take off my training wheels by myself is because my dad was at work when I finally felt I was ready to ride on my own and my mom said I’d have to wait to ride until he got home. I was impatient – I knew I was ready RIGHT THEN. When there’s something we want and we want it right now, we can get pretty innovative.
I recall the excitement I felt when I mixed my first two oil paints together to create an entirely new hue. I remember how the texture of my paint changed with just the slightest bit of thinner and how the less I mixed two colors, the more you could see the beauty of the colors mixing together with your eye instead of my paintbrush. I was just out of college with zero art training and had recently visited my first art museum. I remember standing face-to-face, up close, with a Monet piece for the first time and something in me clicked. I just felt like I understood something about color that I never noticed before. At the time, I had a debilitating illness and felt the sense of urgency that I’d better do what I want to do before I die… so I taught myself how to paint because I always wanted to be an artist.
Sometimes when we embark on learning a new skill, we need a guide. I’m afraid of using my voice – some deep childhood wounding caused me to be afraid of singing in public and I was ready to overcome this fear. I hired a jazz vocal coach who could teach me proper technique for singing and hired a jazz band to play at one of my birthday parties. My goal was to feel confident enough to surprise my friends and family by singing a song with the band. I went up to the band leader and asked for the mic (they were in on it, of course), and said, “I Love Being Here with You – F major – 3 tag ending. Ready?” I started snapping and counting us in and the band began to play. If it weren’t for the guidance of my coach, there’s no way I would have felt confident enough to do that. She gave me her decades of singing experience in our sessions and I absorbed her wisdom.
We all know that phrase, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” But I wonder how many of us are actually living into that. Sometimes fear paralyzes me and sometimes I give fear the finger.
My biggest joy comes from the creative process after I’ve learned the rules and find the freedom to break any rules through deep listening to my internal navigation system. This navigation system is my faith. It is the voice that comes from the stillness inside me.
It’s been nearly a year since I took my first cycling class in-studio at Peloton. On that first day I was overwhelmed and I couldn’t even figure out how the shoes worked. I forgot what bike I was assigned to and had to go ask the front desk for help. After I got settled on the bike and class began, I was shocked at how I felt. It’s a really weird experience being in a class where the instructor is teaching to the cameras more than the room – you are basically a studio audience as opposed to a member of a classroom. It was 30 minutes of sweating and full presence with a huge smile plastered on my face for the whole ride. It was the kind of presence I experience on the yoga mat and I was not expecting that. There’s such a joy that arises in me when I watch someone do something they are really good at and those instructors are very good at what they do.
Riding my little bike throughout this pandemic has given me the connection to my body and mind that I am certain has saved my sanity. It’s such a beautifully intimate experience to ride in the dark with my coaches as I turn inward as a witness to what I’m feeling on and off my bike. Riding my bike at the beginning of the pandemic opened my heart and reminded me of who I am.
I wondered if I had the ability to help open people’s hearts and remind them of who they are while on a bike instead of a yoga mat. Fast-forward maybe five months – I casually mentioned to one of my yoga students that if she got a stationary bike, I’d just have to start teaching cycling classes. What do you know – she got a bike! So I stepped up and started reverse-engineering how to teach cycling classes.
I reached out to people I know who used to teach cycling and they gave me advice. I became a sponge to the technique of teaching and the person I’ve learned the most from was actually behind the front desk when I took my first Peloton cycling class so I feel very full circle as I come up to this year anniversary of that class. When the student is ready, the teacher is just standing right there, I guess.
When teaching yoga, there is a lot of cueing required to safely guide students into poses but in cycling, people just get on the bike and ride. There’s certainly a specific technique to it but there’s less of a chance of someone injuring themselves on the bike than on the yoga mat. It is physical but mostly, I see it as an opportunity to examine the way we think and the way we talk to ourselves. There’s such a beautiful opportunity for deeply profound moments on the bike and there’s just as much of an opportunity for letting go and having a dance party. It’s that beautiful tension that I love and this new creative process has been an absolute joy to explore.
If I had been to afraid to fail at teaching cycling, I never would have done it. I put my mind to it, and I accomplished something I’m proud of – something that is helping people feel better.
What are you not doing because you are afraid? I have an entire bag full of infinite middle fingers – would you like to have one so you, too, can give fear the finger? Remember what Doc said, “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.” Now GO!