I recently read a piece in a book by one of my favorite spiritual writers, Brian Doyle, God-rest-his-soul. The piece is called “Prayer in Celebration of Brief Things, For Example, Church Services.” As Doyle moves through the prayer and mentions things such as mayflies, apologies, small cups of strong coffee, and emails, I thought of . . . moving!
Coming upon Doyle’s piece reinforced other reflections I’ve had recently about brevity or, more so, enough: viewing what I have, and what I am, as enough; desiring no more than enough; being grateful for what is enough. I was primed for a realization about one of my favorite things!
Training as an older adult, I’m coming to better appreciate the idea of enough. After a recent tough stretch of weeks of life and work, as a first step to getting back into a more robust movement practice I’ve focused on yoga as a primary step. For a couple of weeks now, I’ve solely used one particular vintage recorded class by Bryan Kest. In that class, Kest offers the coaching of, “Be where it’s enough, not where it’s too much.” Hearing that over and over again these several mornings (not like I haven’t previously heard it MANY other mornings, duh) I feel like the sentiment is finally starting to sink in. With any physical activity, whether yoga, bodyweight strength training, rowing or running . . . to go to the point of where it’s enough and not too much. And, again quoting Kest, to “Accept the final place.” Enough. Acceptance. Contentment. Even within challenge.
I am now more cognizant of when I get to the point of enough in any session of whatever-the-activity, and then I stop. Following that recorded Kest session, a stretch challenge compared to what I’d been practicing prior, on each morning I practiced over the past two weeks I stopped at the same point before the end, knowing that when the day was right – when I felt stronger, had better sleep, was not preoccupied with time constraints – I would go further. This morning I completed the entire practice and felt great.
For me, sometimes enough is just a little bit more than last time. On the occasional really strong day, enough might be noticeably more. On a tired or worn day, enough is usually less, sometimes a lot less, occasionally nothing at all. Stop, and just come back tomorrow.
I’m also more fully appreciating the importance of consistency, consistently doing just enough, and then coming back the next day and the next and the next to do just enough yet again. I am having new realization about how progress and development happens not in doing more but in being consistent. Small things done consistently add up to much. Too much done inconsistently doesn’t lead anywhere, except maybe problems. I see that’s the case with yoga, deadlifts, a loving relationship, work, or a blog.
Going past enough to too much, even just once, and certainly on any consistent basis, is the thing that blows my consistency. Minimally, I need an extra recovery day off . . . and then later another, and then another. More frustrating, I might end up needing to rest an injury that arises. Pretty soon I’m off as much as I’m moving. As an older mover, the most powerful weapon I have in my Grandpa Mode arsenal is consistency; it’s to keep moving, not keep stopping.
Enough does not mean there is no yearning forward, reaching further. What it does mean is not going past a certain point after which I can’t take it back. Too much, too strong, too whatever can easily lead to regret, rather than positive energy, strength, empowerment, life. It’s like those heaping seconds at a meal or that one-more delicious IPA; often it’s too much, with unfavorable consequences.
I’m also becoming better attuned to what a little more might mean, so that more does not become more-than-enough. I might add just one more rep or a few more seconds than last time. I might use just a teeny-tad more weight. It might be doing the same amount, or less, with a new variation of a movement. Most so, I am finding great benefit in simply trying to do things BETTER, to do the same as last time with higher quality, more perfectly, more fully attuned and aware. It’s like, rather than eating more food, coming to more fully savor what I am eating. (Shout out to the folks at GMB Fitness for their emphasis on quality as being an important element of training and progress.)
When I think of enough being enough, and more than enough too easily becoming too much, I perhaps oddly think of the logging of Minnesota’s northern forests, of which I live on the edge. I regularly recall these words of Richard Louis Griffin, when he reminisced in 1930 about seeing northern Minnesota’s pine forests for the first time in the winter of 1890-91:
“As I stood upon the brow of Embarrass Hill…one of the grandest sights I ever looked upon was in view, a veritable ocean of pine. One could see for miles and miles in nearly every direction over the tops of the tall waving forests of virgin pine and a variety of other trees. I will never forget that sight or the impression it left upon my mind, as I stood there gazing upon this wonderful forest…inexhaustible, enough to last for ages as I thought at that time, yet within the course of a very few years not to exceed fifteen, this great forest was laid bare, leaving only a few scattering stands of pine in patches here and there.”
Enough is enough.
To continue with more from Doyle’s prayer, “Small, sharp astonishing poems. Novellas. Pencil stubs. Tree frogs. Sandals. Brief heartfelt prayers” Movement sessions. Obviously not blog posts and certainly not blog post titles!