Start from Where You are Powerful

This is from February 2018. Occasionally I will revisit content from my old newsletters. Here is something that I was reminded of today on being powerful, and added a little bit extra content today.

I told you I wanted to write everyday. I can’t make promises that it will happen because life is unpredictable, but generally when I said I want to do something it works out because I have the passion and drive to accomplish my goals. Want and desire are more powerful forces than force or fear.

I went to a woman’s open mat for jiu jitsu on Sunday. And it really got me thinking how different I felt at this open mat than others. Before I get into that I wanted to tell you what an open mat is. An open mat for jiu jitsu can mean a lot of things, but generally it means a freestyle practice session where people can work on whatever techniques they want. They can drill techniques (a series of pre-determined movements) or they can spar (less predictable and more of a “live combat” situation). 

You basically have a lot of choices for how you want to conduct your training. And that’s why previous open mats caused me a lot of anxiety. You see I really hate choice sometimes. Choice is daunting when you don’t know what you want. If you’ve been following my newsletters for a while now, you know that I have spent a long time not knowing what I want, and as a result, doing what I think I “should” be doing, as opposed to what I wanted to be doing.

This open mat was different because it was the second time I did whatever I wanted for most of the time (the first time was during my three-day immersion experience with Sam Faulhaber where she organized a jiu jitsu open mat just for me). I took pictures for some of the time and then rolled with people whenever I wanted to. I skipped rolling with the female black belt because I didn’t want to spend 10 minutes fighting for my life, and I love it. It’s a fun conversation I’m having with myself as to why I’m afraid of hard work and getting squished by adversity.

When I was rolling there were plenty of times when I had to use a combat base. A combat base prevents you from getting your head stuck in a triangle submission, which is essentially a person choking you out with their legs. (Yeah, jiu jitsu is so fun!). Anyways, prior to this I had constantly been submitted via triangles or stuck in them. This time around thanks to my mobility training and mindset I was able to focus on making my combat base as strong as possible and staying calm to figure out my next move.

When I do mobility training, I think a lot about how I can start from the most powerful position possible. I don’t start from places where I feel weak or where I feel like I “suck.” I start from my strongest possible range and work my way out from there. In my career coaching exercises, my coach Casey Berman and I talk about how we are suited to do natural things all the time based on our “Unique Genius.” We take “baby steps” to help me leave the law; we start from where we feel the most powerful. 

That’s why this open mat felt so different to me, because I was using two of my strengths: photography and connection with people–to produce some dang good results. And I didn’t get caught in any submissions (though admittedly I was rolling with mostly beginners like me).

I tell myself this every time I think “I can’t handle this.” I tell myself to feel powerful, to be powerful, and to start from where I am powerful. I set boundaries and don’t stretch myself too thin from when I’m weak. I admit to myself that today I got less sleep and so my working memory is impaired, and that I’m tired from my brain working harder than usual in the last few weeks. I give myself as much space as possible and in that space I fill it as much as I want with the strength I have. Sometimes being the most powerful means that you withhold a part of yourself and reserve that sacred energy inside of you. I think it’s perfectly OK to do what you want and what comes naturally to you. I don’t think it’s lazy.

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Yesterday was my first tournament in jiu jitsu where I made it onto the podium. I came into this competition not believing that I would win. In my mind, I have already done the “Kylego” exercise where I had described to myself how I would win and how I would do really well. That was in the first few days when I entered into the tournament. It seems strange, but by visualizing my success like it already happened, it became a part of me. It meant that my ego was no longer striving for or reaching for a particular outcome. Most of all, it didn’t feel like winning was the only way that it could feel loved and secure. Winning became boring to me, it was boring because it was familiar. I had already felt the rush of victory every day as I woke up and told myself that I had submitted all of my opponents. I had already won.

Of course there will be people reading this and think I am delusional, because I “only” got third place, and I love that. I love that because everyone is entitled to how they want to think. What occurs in our own minds is often private business, and to the extent that people perceive the world differently, that is well within their rights to do so. At least, I’m not able to control it anyways. I only mean to say that the thoughts of visualizing and actually believing in my success and power before the event occurred gave me a different kind of energy going into this tournament. I was less fixated on the final outcome because it simply didn’t mean anything to me.

The day before the tournament, I think the reality of competing finally hit me. Or maybe it was my body trying to make its way through a fog of delicious sausage and potatos and the last remnants of whatever effects my massage had on me. But it was clear that my brain did not want to think or process about the day ahead. Nerves were starting to overtake me. 

And I loved it. I told myself that no matter what happened, I would spend the rest of competition day accepting everything that was thrown to me. I would accept my feelings of doubt and dread all while breathing and reminding myself that this was something that I wanted. That despite all of the crap floating around on the surface of my mind, deep down was where I wanted to be, deep down where the strength and equanimity of my mind would carry me to whatever result made sense for the universe at the time.

This is, put simply, not just any tournament for me. Going to a tournament isn’t about the prizes or the meeting of friends, though both are fun, but it is more about what I struggle and love on a daily basis–the recognition and ultimate confrontation and embrace of my fears. Fears about being alone, being unloved, being left out, being incomplete, being flaky, being lazy, being imperfect, being abandoned, being in trouble. Being, being, being. And tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day. The competition is merely another manifestation of what I feel inside; some people say they like jiu jitsu, but maybe they like seeing their souls.

A big thank you to Samantha Faulhaber for reminding me that we deserve to feel powerful. Sam, if you ever read this, thank you again for all that you do. Thank you for moving into a place where I can feel like I am strong. Where I can tap into the power that is inside of me instead of constantly looking around to others to give that to me. Thank you for reminding us that we deserve all the love that we want and that we deserve to be good in this world. That we deserve to be happy people. That we deserve to be free from pain. I have been told so many times that to get that sort of love, belonging, you had to earn it. You had to struggle so hard to be good, to be the best, to be number one, and only then, maybe then, could you feel like you were something or someone. That you had to wait like a sad, young child for someone to come upstairs to make sure you were okay, except, that they never came. In truth, we are nothing but the present moment. We are nothing but the sun that shines in the morning or the rain that falls in the evening. We can be everything and nothing at the same time.


I never left the deep down room

Of my sheltered mind

I feared that I would lose

What I thought was a rhyme

And so I watch people pass day by day

And hesitate with a knock

Only to be swept away

From the broken lot

Until one day someone came to my place

And how she did this I do not know

But I woke up to a delightful breeze

And emerged through an open window

If the door is shut and no one left behind

So be it if it means the freedom from the mind

Photo by Andrew Neel

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