I have a confession to make: I am an undiagnosed dyslexic! I cannot tell my right from my left. I cannot follow directions; nor, am I able to give directions. I am challenged spatially. It’s a longstanding joke in my family that I often walk diagonally, listing to the left instead of walking in a straight line. This is particularly difficult bumping into others on a crowded New York City street!
Seriously. As a child, I was hurried through school because I was smart: I read early and voraciously. I was always far younger, and shorter, than anyone else in my grade (right now I’m 5’6”). I could not keep up physically, so I poured myself into my books and schoolwork. In the 60’s, the educational system was one-dimensional. The idea of whole child development past the age of five was ignored and neglected. So, as a child, I missed out on appropriate childlike play because I just did not have the physical coordination to do it. I was smart, but totally physically awkward.
For me, 2015 is now the year of the “catch-up challenge!” As a proponent of mind-body integration, I decided to see what might happen if I let go of old, unnecessary childhood fears and physically challenge myself to do the things I could not do as a child. Knowing me, I experience success with concrete, short-term goals.
This month, January, my challenge was to be able to stand on my head with my heels against a wall to steady me. It is January 23rd, and I can proudly tell you that I can stand on my head AND push away from the wall unassisted. It was work. I had to embrace the unknown, let go, and take a chance that I had the physical strength to do this. I also needed to intuitively trust that I could succeed and stop doubting myself. Trust, intuition, and coordination – things I did not have as a child. I am elated!
Physical challenges, whether in the form of exercise, tackling a sport, or taking long walks, have profoundly effected my mental health in positive ways. The feeling of self-esteem that I have gotten from practicing yoga poses, skiing a mountain or stretching my body is at the core of my well-being as an adult today.
As a psychologist, I strongly believe that the of mind and body is the process towards mental and emotional balance. Challenging oneself physically pushes the the walls of intellect, The practice of mindfulness and the recognition and awareness of our bodies demands new ways of thinking of how we can challenge our emotional growth. As I learned to stand on my head, I had to let go of a pre-assumed tape which told me I could not do it. I did it and it opened the path to this blog and to new understanding.
I welcome any of your ideas regarding my quest. How have you challenged yourself physically to overcome your limitations, and how have you benefited from doing so? What were you afraid to do as a child that you can now succeed at as an adult?
I’m feeling so good and playful right now, maybe my next resolution will be to do a cartwheel!