Back to School is in the air. Summer always goes too quickly but I’m honestly happy to be returning to the school routine. Even before I had a child every fall I felt the back to school spirit. After all the excitement of summer its time to get down to work.

Work. Even as I love it, it’s a big challenge. No matter what kind of work you are doing, I don’t know anyone who isn’t feeling challenged by the increasingly complex and high stakes problems of our times. There are things that feel not just interesting-challenge hard. It can feel impossible hard. Completely outside of what we know ourselves as capable of doing. Because it is full of uncertainty, we humans generally avoid the hard work.

Every time my daughter sits down learn a new piece of music at the piano its like she’s forgotten that she can do hard things. We struggle and argue. Ultimately she works through it and puts together the pieces of the song. We often think this morning struggle is her most significant learning each day.

Walking with my daughter on the Wisconsin River Water Walk. More information about the walk at nibiwalk.org.

Choosing challenge

The irony is that some of the best things in life come on the other side of challenges. But I honestly don’t want cancer again just so I can have another spiritual break through. What would it look like to have a regular relationship with ones edge – emotionally, physically, and spiritually – that was just the right amount of hard to keep us growing?

My thoughts today are colored by my participation in the Wisconsin River Water Walk earlier this month. Walking for the water is one of the most whole-being challenging things I’ve chosen to do. When I was packing up and preparing to bring my daughter with me I wondered if I was totally crazy to try this with her. There were so many ways – tenting, peeing in ditches, rashes, irregular meals, heat, physical exhaustion, late nights, long days – that I feared she (or I) could melt down.

I’m thrilled that she made it. We made it. More than that, she rose to the occasion. She did several things I wasn’t sure she was tough enough to do. Now she and I both know she can.

Practicing resilience

How do we create opportunities for us to remember and build our resilience so we aren’t completely knocked off our feet by the unexpected? Or so we find the courage and hope to apply ourselves to work that feels impossible?

One way is to stick with a practice even through the hard parts. We are probably most familiar with the soreness that comes with building muscle strength. Being willing to feel discomfort is also essential to our emotional and spiritual growth.

I don’t think there is a single person who has been to my dance classes and not felt confused or uncomfortable at some point. Yet some choose to stick around and learn songs in other languages in unfamiliar rhythms and harmonies. We do it because of the joy in the music and movement. But I have also observed that in the course of taking on these creative challenges, all of my dancers have become more bold risk takers in their lives.

As my daughter heads to school I ultimately hope that she learns that she can do hard things. May she have the imagination, optimism, and pluck to continually learn and grow through her life, especially when challenged.

For me, I hope for the courage to not just stick to the easy tasks in my work. I hope to grow ever more courageous in re-imaging what I do and how I do it so that I deeply engage the complex challenges of our modern times. Are you in?

With love,
emily

Group Practices

Drop in any week to Healing Waters Qigong, a Spring Forest Qigong practice group, or to the Wisdom Dances dance practice, based in Laura Shannon’s research on traditional dances as tools for healing and transformation.

A Tender Space for Transformation

It can be so frustrating to feel that the healing or creation you seek eludes you. This is why I help people address the root energetic and spiritual nature of their challenges through qigong healing.

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