Sunday, November 28, 2010

Trial and Error

Fall down seven times get up eight.
Japanese proverb

When something very difficult looks easy, you know there was a lot of trial and error involved to get there. Artistic creations, athletic performances, scientific explorations and business endeavors all have this in common. We learn as much from what we can't do (at least at first) as from what we can do.

Our survival depends on trial and error. Watch any baby trying to walk. They fall, they get up, they fall, they get up, and eventually they learn enough balance to be able to walk. Any animal that has to catch its food typically has many failed attempts before it gets its reward.

Richard Branson, one of the richest people on earth, failed many times losing millions of dollars. He started over 300 companies under his "Virgin" empire, some of which were wildly successful and some were not. During his many attempts to cross oceans in hot air balloons and boats he had to be rescued six times, but he also set a few world records. Someday you might be able to visit outer space in one of his spaceships with Virgin Galactic!

We can look at trial and error as something tedious to be avoided or something exciting to be embraced. The many failures that result from this process could easily crush the ego of someone who is only focused on the goal, rather than being aware that this is an integral part of growth.

Watching the dance company Pilobolus is like watching the impossible. How do they come up with such creative ideas and how do they defy gravity to create the unique shapes of bodies supporting each other in unfathomable ways? How many times do they fall? But what a gift we are given from their efforts!

Yoga is a mirror for our everyday lives. If we want to really grow physically, spiritually and emotionally, we need to make room for trial and error. We must tap into our courage and remember our playful nature. Experiment with your body in your poses. Feel how your breath is key to the fullness of any pose. Notice how your mind and attitude determine what you can or can't do. Look at your mat as an opportunity to test your edges. Accept yourself whether you fail or succeed on the mat. Let that teach you how to be just as generous with yourself off the mat.

Growth and creativity involve risk. We are born with the capacity to accept our failures, otherwise we would never learn to walk or talk. Trial and error are the stepping stones on our path to discover the riches that life is offering every minute of every day.

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