The edge

Driving down the road yesterday, I heard a familiar internal command, "put on some music and relax." That is my cue that I am approaching an experience that is stress inducing. For as long as I can remember, music has been an effective coping skill to reduce my nerves; music always helps me confront my edge. There were many edges this week for me, one after another, experiences that were just on the border of my comfort zone and that in turn provoked nervousness.

In defining the edge, I am reminded of a yoga seminar I took years ago by a Yogi named Max Strom. He was giving a master class at a studio in Easton, PA, where I was one of the yoga teachers on staff. The room was packed tightly, yoga mats lined right up next to one another, all of us listening intently to his prompts. The class members was in Dancer pose and I remember Mr. Strom gave the obvious instruction to breathe and then he said something unbelievably powerful that I have never forgotten, "Your edge is nothing to be scared of, it is a reminder of where you have work not yet done. It is the space that is still pleasurable right before pain."

The edge does not just apply to yoga postures, or even to athletic endeavors, it is generalizable to all aspects of our life. For some of us, education involves many edges. For others, social situations take significant perseverance. Still others of us struggle with finances, healthy choices, relationships, or addiction. Each of us comes with an innate skill set, all of us must develop additional abilities, and every one of us will face moments where we neither have the skill or the assurance we will achieve. That is our edge.

When up against an edge, I encourage my clients to acknowledge it. Saying to ourselves, "this is my edge, I am feeling these nerves because I am at my edge, I am about to do something that pushes my comfort," or something along those lines, can be intensely relieving. Acknowledging that we are scared or worried because we are doing something new, different, or challenging, can be enough relief that we can stay by the edge without running away.

Internally discussing with ourselves how to bring comfort into our tension filled moment can ease our mind. Do we need to breathe more, can we ask someone to be with us while we struggle, is it important to choose the time of day, week, or month that we approach an obstacle? Investigating how we might bring relaxation into an inevitably (because we have already acknowledged it) difficult situation will make it more tolerable.

Lastly, having a dialogue with ourselves about when we back away is vastly important. How will we know that we have pushed to far? When will the edge move from pleasurable to painful? What will it look like, with specifics, when we must turn the other way, ease off and affirm that we will try again another time. Giving ourselves a specific plan of retreat can be immeasurable in its utility to stay our course through the nerves.

Employing all of those tools helped me get through challenge after challenge this week. I acknowledged my struggle, "wow, I am really nervous, this is definitely an edge for me." I brainstormed ways to soothe my worries, music helped the first time, calling a friend helped another, and a vigorous yoga practice was the ticket when up against a third edge. Each time I came up with a plan for if I was truly in need of backing away, both how I would know it was time and what it would look like to retreat. Utilizing these strategies allowed me to move forward and push through.

The gratifying result of facing an edge is that once we push past it, there is always another edge to face.