What You Gain From Sitting in the Fire
My alarm trills. It’s a cruel imitation of a bird’s chirp welcoming a new day. Except it’s too early for the birds. Or for most humans, for that matter.
But still I get up. Just as I have most every morning for the past four months.
Not because I really want to.
But because I know that the benefits are worth the temporary discomfort.
After I swallowed the first mug of coffee, I strapped the pup into his weighted pack in preparation for our morning power walk, the reason for the early start. Like me, he’s groggy, yawning and stretching as I try to secure the clasps of the pack on his undulating body.
Our first few steps are a bit creaky as we shake off the remnants of sleep. But by the time we exit the cul-de-sac, we’ve hit our stride.
Even as I dread the shortened nights of sleep and the often-unfavorable weather, I’ve come to enjoy our morning exercise. This morning, we got to gaze at the full moon for much of the course. Other times, we get to see the neighborhood fox on a pre-dawn hunt or the deer grazing in someone’s yard until we surprise them with our arrival.
I listen to podcasts over our hour-long trek, but it’s mostly a time for me to think. Which at this time of the year, often means that I’m reflecting back on how the school year has gone, considering the lessons I’ve learned and the adjustments I want to make for next year.
Much of my consideration is directed towards my 6th graders, because in many ways, they have the biggest challenge and growth potential over the year. I think about the ones who’ve made it, who successfully navigated the unfamiliar trial of accelerated math. And I think about those that didn’t quite make the cut.
All of these kids have to demonstrate the ability just to be accepted into my class in the fall. So why are some able to overcome the challenge and others never quite find their stride?
As I turn a corner, I catch a whiff of a fire pit that must have hosted a fire the night before. I smile as I think back to a recent yoga class. Although I certainly wasn’t smiling during the class.
The instructor apparently had some sort of vendetta against quadriceps that day, as we seemed to spend the majority of the 75-minute class in some sort of squat or lunge posture.
“Stay with it,” the teacher said, “You grow by sitting in the fire.”
And that’s the answer, isn’t it? The reason that some students make it and others don’t. The reason that some people return to hot yoga even with the anticipation of difficulty and others vow to never return.
The reason that some people make progress in their lives while others make excuses.
It always amazes me how often people who are looking for advice on how to get into shape, how to rejuvenate their finances, how to navigate a relationship or how to organize their homes know what they should be doing.
They don’t struggle with the know-how.
They falter when it comes to sitting in the fire. To do what they know needs to be done, even when the doing pretty much sucks.
Sitting in the fire is…
The discipline to exchange temporary discomfort for some future benefit.
The commitment to staying on the path you want for yourself even when the terrain becomes difficult.
The courage to tackle something that may lead to failure.
The faith that the pain isn’t as bad as it feels and that it won’t last forever.
The gratitude that you’ve been given this opportunity to test yourself.
And, at least for me on my morning walks, it’s the knowledge that there’s another mug of coffee waiting for me when I get home.
When I left that difficult yoga class the other day, I immediately decided that the efforts were worth it. I was proud in my determination to persist even when child’s pose was calling to me. I felt energized by my perseverance and calmed because my inner critical voice had nothing to criticize.
My students are voicing similar sentiments as they look back at their year. They share how hard it’s been. Remember those moments where they wanted to give up and return to the safety and ease of an easier class. And then satisfaction and self-respect creeps into their countenance as they recount those periods of intense effort and the gains that were made from the achievements.
Kazh the pup has been able to celebrate as well. We’ve put him through the proverbial fire these past few months. We have high expectations for training and behavior and we’ve put lots of time and effort into teaching him how to be in our pack.
And it’s paid off. His first big even, a March of Dimes charity walk for babies, was this past Saturday. Here he is walking a trail filled with people, dogs and strollers without his leash. And he did awesome. It was amazing to watch his face as he settled into the day and into the expected behavior. He was confident. He was proud. He was accustomed to challenge and so he didn’t let it phase him.
When you sit in the fire…
You feel at peace with yourself because your values and actions are in alignment.
You gain confidence in your ability to overcome and persevere.
You become stronger with every fire you endure.
You feel honor for keeping your promise to yourself.
And you feel empowered by your ability to make it through.
When I finally pulled out of the driveway this morning to go to work, I was a little more tired than I would have been if I had spent that extra hour sleeping. But I was happier that I didn’t simply hit the snooze button.
Because although I have regretted making excuses, I have never once regretted sitting in the fire.