Raise the Bar Mindfully



“If you don’t raise the bar, how will you know your potential? - L. Tom Perry

As a cloud moves over the sun, the shadow rolls down the hiking trail ahead, leaving the scenery in gray hues. The cool breeze propels me to take another step — and another. I have been hiking for 6 miles on the trail that runs parallel to the river until it loops around the small mountain. Only a couple more miles to get back to the trailhead.


Last week, I hiked for 7 1/2 miles on a different trail in the same state park. I’m adding a half mile today. It feels good to stretch myself. No big hustle or overwhelm. Just a little more nudge and encouragement. Walking out of my comfort zone takes me to a new place with amazing views. It is where I savor my enhanced power and wisdom.


I have been enjoying weekly hiking and occasional backpacking. Those are my favorite ways of relaxing into nature and receiving inspiration and fresh energy. They also give me the opportunity to keep raising the bar for more physical strength and self-empowerment.


Exercise is not the only way to constantly challenge myself. Life coaching service, writing, reading, teaching, baking, using apps —In any area of my life, I receive great satisfaction from learning new skills and improving current ones, acquiring knowledge, trying different ways, and exploring my potential. There is no time to get bored. Discovery is my reward.


I grew up in Japan. The Japanese word, Konjo means guts, willpower, and grit. I often heard the word during my high school volleyball team practice. “Konjo!!” Our coach would yell at us while passing a ball. “You can do it!”


The word evokes the image of grinding teeth and pushing against the force. Konjo is no fun. It is all about sweat and not giving up. It makes my eyebrows frown. I want to achieve my goal and empower myself while smiling with joy and excitement.


Self-challenge is sometimes as easy and refreshing as a scenic hike. It is a little scary or even dreadful some other times. Intimidating thoughts arise in the mind, and agitation stirs the heart. Once starting to chase thoughts, we get lost in the maze of conflicting opinions and judgments: Self-doubt and fear kick in. Now it feels like pushing the current to move forward. “Konjo!” the coach’s shout rips the air.


When I go deeper into a yoga pose, I feel stretch and tension in the muscles. I observe the edge of the sensation and pause before it enters the red zone. The whole process requires me to be mindful: I pay attention to the message from my body while my mind cheers, “Go girl, you can do it!” I injured my body more than once when I went with my cheering voice, not focusing on physical sensation.


When I try to step up to a higher level, I observe the edge of my comfort zone as I do in yoga practice.


I hear conflicting messages from my body, mind, and heart. “Let’s do it!” urges a cheerful voice. “But I may fail,” a nervous mumbling. “You should do it!” a commanding coach’s order. I feel tightness in my chest, fire in my gut, tension in my head.


I close my eyes and pay attention to my breath. Thoughts and emotions come and go as drifting clouds. Like an airplane flying through thick clouds to a home airport, I descend through the mind clutter to my base, the quiet place deep within.


And I arrive.


The voice of wisdom arises and gives me clarity. I now know if my fear is an expression of my intuition to save me from real danger or lack of self-confidence that has been with me since my early childhood. I can see how my fear and self-doubt are putting pressure on my world so that it cannot expand.


And I hear the voice coming from the deepest place in my heart.


Try.


A smile spreads over my face. I feel lighter, calmer, and stronger.


I have just raised the bar even before trying a new thing.