By Seamus Anthony
Today I had one of those “Little Kensho moments” where I just suddenly saw things exactly as they are, and in this moment I truly realised the inherent truth and power in the famous Yoda quote:
“Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”
In my case what I was thinking about was my three main goals for this year – to lose weight/get fitter, to greatly improve my French and to re-establish myself as a regular fixture on the Melbourne live music scene.
Of the three of these, the only one I have really been doing properly is the latter; I have been getting out and playing lots of gigs, networking and getting right back into the groove of being a busy, active musician again. I am just doing it. There’s miles to go yet but I have started the journey; I’m doing what needs to be done.
As for the other two, well I have been learning some more French, and I have been doing some exercise and have at least not gotten fatter – but the truth is I have been making excuses. Excuses like “I find it hard to find the time to practice my French skills” or “I can’t enjoy life without (excessive amounts of) designer beer and fine food”.
And so at the end of the day, I just haven’t been “doing it”. To do it just means to do it. Simple as that. And as the wise green grommit said, you’re either doing it, or your NOT doing it, there is no middle ground.
Reading about how to do it, isn’t doing it. Thinking about doing it isn’t doing it. Talking about doing it isn’t doing it. Only doing what needs to be done in order to get the result you seek is doing it, everything else is just bullshit and excuses.
Moving Stones Around
The qualitive difference in my two experiences, “doing it” and “not doing it”, is marked. In the case of getting my music out there again, I feel a flow and a sense of satisfaction that I haven’t felt in years. In fact, yesterday and today I was even happy to do very little (in this area) for the first time in a while, without a nagging feling that I should be doing something more constructive. I felt free to rest for a bit because I know I have some good momentum going. It’s like a bike ride: it’s not all uphill, you get to coast down some hills here and there.
But in the two cases of French and Fitness, I feel blocked (or at least I did until today). I felt frustrated and like I keep trying but to no avail.
The mistake I am making? There is no try! Only Do or do not!
But why have I been “Not doing”? Well, I believe it has to do with what’s going on in my head; my internal dialouges and beliefs are getting in my own way.
The lines of dialouge directly preceding the featured Yoda quote do a nice job of exploring this:
Master, moving stones around is one thing. This is totally different.
No! No different! Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.
In case you don’t remember or know, this whole scene tells the story of Yoda teaching Luke Skywalker to use the Force to raise Luke’s stricken X-Wing fighter from the swamp. Luke believes it is easy to make stones levitate but that he can’t use his mind to lift up the spacecraft.
And that’s what I have been doing, moving stones around instead of “doing it” for real. I have been going for a jog here and there, I stopped putting sugar in my coffee, but really it’s not enough to stem and reverse the middle aged spread that’s been threatening to engulf my hips. And I have been learning new French words at a nice steady pace with my little 16 month old daughter, but I still haven’t been knuckling down to learn all the “difficult” grammar stuff that will really mean the difference to my French language skills.
Because in my mind, these actions are associated with displeasure and negative beliefs. I believe I find grinding through French grammar “boring”. I believe I can’t enjoy life without eating too much cheese and sweet food and drinking too much beer.
In my mind, these hurdles were too big for me to leap, to which Yoda would say:
“No! No different! Only different in your mind.”
The truth is there is plenty of pleasure to be had from both these activities – but my mind has just gotten stuck in a couple of little dead-ends. If I am going to find my way to my destination, I need to reverse the old brain-car and meander back through the suburbs of my skull until I find the way through to the destination I want to end up at. There I will enjoy the pleasure of understanding what the hell all those Frenchies in my life are always rabbiting on about so effusively. There I will not feel like such a bloated old toad when I am on stage singing my little heart out. And along the way there will be plenty of enjoyable milestones too.
“You must unlearn what you have learned.”
The funny thing is, a couple of years back I was in just the same mental dead-end with gig-hunting. I had convinced myself that the way I felt about getting on the phone and hustling up live music gigs was still the same as it was when I was a depressed, marijuana-addicted, slightly paranoid 23 year old (I hated it then). In fact this was not the case, and once I broke that barrier I have enjoyed applying all the skills I have since learned towards this task, and have had no problems at all with it, in fact I am enjoying it even more than I did when I was a gung-ho 19 year old kid.
So on the one hand, it’s all a process, and sometimes you just can’t rush things…
But on the other, that’s probably just another of those mental ideas that I need to unlearn in order to speed me on my way.
I will leave you with another pertinent bit of dialogue from The Empire Strikes Back:
I don’t… I don’t believe it.
That is why you fail…