22. Two Steps Back

Eye_ChristieFred Astaire garnered much acclaim for his prowess on the dance floor. Yet his partner, Ginger Rogers, did everything Astaire did – only backwards.

Learning in reverse offers a special opportunity. Most importantly, it requires a level of focus that shifts you out of habit and puts you in control of your actions.

It is often said that hindsight is 20/20. Learning affords the perfect opportunity to put the maxim to the test.

If you are truly paying attention to what you are doing, letting go of judgment and allowing the process of learning to be “organic” as opposed to forced, you will be able repeat your actions in reverse. Doing so gives you the chance to clearly observe what you did to get to where you are.

Even if the actual action steps can’t be rewound, you can replay them in your mind – in reverse – reviewing where were your actions smooth? where unsure? where could you have made even the slightest difference?

Take a moment to slowly rewind your tape, physically if possible or in your imagination if it’s not. As you move in reverse, following the exact path you previously followed, notice what you do and what you feel each step of the way. Assess each step of your backward journey by asking yourself these questions?

Are my actions easy, smooth and effortless?

Am I struggling, pushing, tightening my jaw (or another part of my body) or holding my breath? (Note: Even if the “action” you are reviewing is not a primarily physical one, your body will give you clues that all is not as “natural” as you might presume. Look for clues to struggle by tuning in to your breathing and level of muscular tension.)

Is there any element of trying to do this “correctly” or am I simply doing what comes naturally?

Am I trying to “perform” or am I allowing myself to feel, sense and explore what is possible at this moment?

Now that I see where I am, how else could I approach what comes next?

Once you are aware of your actions and where you catch yourself holding, try the actual, forward action again – this time in slow motion. Notice what happens as you close in on the part where you start to tense. Can you pause there, back up and approach that step again and again each time making the tiniest adjustment in your action until the motion becomes smooth and easy?

If your action is not a physical one, let your breathing be your guide as you review and repeat your action in your mind. Can you find a way to once again play your tape forward making tiny tiny changes until you find you are able to breathe easily and freely as you imagine yourself doing what it is you want to do?

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