Michelle Barker's books on Goodreads
Old Growth, Clear-Cut: Poems of Haida Gwaii Old Growth, Clear-Cut: Poems of Haida Gwaii
ratings: 1 (avg rating 5.00)

The Beggar King The Beggar King
reviews: 8
ratings: 21 (avg rating 4.00)

Tesseracts 14: Strange Canadian Stories Tesseracts 14: Strange Canadian Stories
reviews: 4
ratings: 15 (avg rating 4.07)

Tesseracts Fifteen: A Case of Quite Curious Tales Tesseracts Fifteen: A Case of Quite Curious Tales
reviews: 4
ratings: 14 (avg rating 3.79)

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Writer in Training: Ride the Road You’re On

No one would ever mistake me for a Buddhist (I’m not chill enough), but it occurs to me there are some aspects of training that are Buddhist in nature.

I was on a hard ride last summer, slogging my way up a steep hill and longing for a flatter route when I realized: what was the point of wishing for a road I wasn’t on? Why not just accept that I was on a hill, and the only way to get to the top was to keep riding? In other words, ride the road you’re on—not the road you wish you were on.

Changing my mindset like that has had a significant effect—maybe not on my speed, but certainly on my attitude. Full acceptance of your circumstances somehow makes them easier to manage. Whether you’re running in the heat or riding up a hill, whether you’re injured or the water is wavier than you’d like: if you fully accept the situation you’re in, it doesn’t change—but you do.

I always love when the things I’ve learned in training can be applied to life, and this one definitely can (although admittedly, it’s easier said than done). Acceptance—of anything—makes it easier to handle.

Being present is another bit of wisdom that seems to transfer nicely from Buddhism.

I have heard it said that practice doesn’t make perfect; practice makes permanent. So if you’re not giving your full attention to what you’re doing, you are ensuring that the mistakes you make will be all that much harder to eradicate later on.

Back when I thought I was a good swimmer, I used to listen to music while I swam. As far as I was concerned, I didn’t need to pay attention to my stroke; I just had to put in the miles, and the miles were boring, so the music was a pleasant distraction.

Then I met Stewart Scott and discovered I had a lot to learn in the water. I wouldn’t dream of swimming with music anymore. Every single time my arm comes out of the water, I’m thinking: are my shoulders retracted? Is there enough rotation in my body? Is there enough of a snap to my stroke?

Deliberate practice is something I first learned from a writer friend, but it can be applied to almost anything we do. Focused attention, rather than mindless repetition, is at the heart of this type of practice. It’s not just about putting in time; the quality of that time is at least as important as the quantity, if not more so.

Then there is the ego, which is a troublemaker in training, just as it is in Buddhism. Comparing ourselves to others might push us to perform better, but it might just as easily push us to work harder than we should and end up injuring ourselves (all right, me. I mean, injuring myself. I know, I know).

As much as I love Strava, it does feed my self-destructive tendency toward comparison. What will people think if my run is too slow, or my swim is too short, or whatever? The truth is, no one cares. Really.

I’ve reached the point where I have to take the ego out of my training or I will be perpetually injured. It’s not a choice anymore. It’s non-negotiable.

So . . . accept. Be present. Practice deliberately. And ditch the ego.

Easy, right?