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Let’s Get Engaged

After getting my ass kicked at the gym yesterday, I was in the locker room with a woman that used to lift, as I did, at a grotty working-class gym in the Mission District of San Francisco 20 years ago, when I was still with FatChanceBellydance. That gym no longer exists and she has gone on to become a trainer full time, while I have drifted in and out of various forms of exercise before finding myself back in another locker room all these years later. Glancing at her broad back I remarked, “I thought you were big 20 years ago, you are even bigger now!” She replied that she had goals to reach, so that was the general plan, and that she at very least tried to maintain. Then she said something interesting: “Even when you’re just going for maintenance, progress ends up getting made.” I remarked that this seemed true for any practice.

While riding my bike to my next appointment, I pondered this. Why was this true of so many things? Physical health, meditation, writing, dance, job skills…? What was it about maintenance that would end up facilitating growth? My answer was commitment. For all of these, we are making a commitment to ourselves and to our projects. We are stating that something is important enough for effort, and even if we aren’t going full out, we still end up building muscle, so to speak. We end up learning something. We are showing up to ourselves and for ourselves.

When I went back to school in my 30s, there was a geology class with a professor who was not very skilled at making the material interesting. I figured out a strategy to keep myself interested, because I was committed to getting a degree. When one of the other students was complaining about the course I told him my secret, which probably failed to impress him: “I just try to learn one new thing every day.” That helped me a lot during that class. It reminded me of why I was there in the first place, and kept me engaged in the process when other parts of me just wanted to shut down. Had I allowed myself to tune out during that class, I would have learned nothing at all. Now, I can’t say as I retained much from the course material itself, but I learned something very important, nonetheless: My engagement is up to me, not anything outside of me. I can choose to be interested rather than waiting for something to strike my fancy. This puts me in the power position, over and over. I am showing up for myself, despite mediocre professors, cranky co-workers, sub-par equipment, or anything else that might enter my field on any given day.

Someone once said, regarding the Pentacle of Autonomy that I write about in Kissing the Limitless, that he wasn’t sure everything began with commitment and then flowed into the rest of the points (honor, truth, strength, and compassion). Didn’t we sometimes start with desire, or something else? Here is one answer: It isn’t that commitment starts every single thing, it is that commitment starts the action of our will. Commitment starts the flow of deepening. It takes what might be a small impulse, or even a daydream, and makes the first step toward channeling this into manifestation. Commitment is the goad to our spirit, and the cheerleader, and the stalwart support. Commitment is the thing that keeps us showing up.

Entrepreneur and musician Derek Sivers asks us “What do you hate not doing?” Let us look at that a bit today: What can we not avoid anymore? What engages us regardless of what our minds may tell us is prudent? What do we do even when other people think it is silly, or we worry that it is too hard? What gives us a secret thrill? Let us be bold today and say to our spirits, “I commit to this.”

And remember, sometimes showing up is half the battle, while other times showing up is what gets the party started. Let’s go!

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