Stand tall. Breathe deep. Bow in.

“Attack!” he shouts. “Attack!”

Instantly, three people spring into action and are coming at me full on, determined to take me down. It’s their job, after all. These three have volunteered to be my ukes (pronounced “oo-kays” — my attackers) during my aikido black belt test. All I have to do is stay calm, centred, and focused, yet highly alert. All they have to do is be fully committed to attack. And it’s clear that they are. In seconds I forget all about my part of the equation, because I’m out of breath and pinned beneath three ukes. Mercifully, the instructor calls them off.

I have the shortest of moments to catch my breath before, yet again, I bow to my attackers. It’s their signal to advance.

This time, I’m more prepared. I’m on the offensive now. Rather than wait for what I know is coming, I move toward my first attacker and handle him successfully. And then the second. And then the third. And again. And again. And again. Their advance goes on and on. The attacks can and do come from all directions. Every person approaches differently, so I’ve got to be totally in the moment — totally present — to deal with the constantly shifting situation.

It seems to go on forever and yet take no time at all. And it goes well. I pass the test.

How often in our lives do we yearn to have, do, or be more, and yet stop ourselves from bowing in — from asking for the challenge and meeting it head on?

If you have a huge goal in mind, it’s likely you won’t know at the onset how to accomplish it. And if it’s truly big and bold and beyond what you’ve done before, that makes perfect sense. Of course you won’t know at this point how it will all come together. How could you?

But I bet you know what your first step is. Or I bet you can think of one if you try. Got it? Do that step. Go as far as you can see. When you get there, pause. Breathe deep. And notice that from your new vantage point, you can see how to go a little further. You’ll be a step closer to your goal, and your perspective will be clearer.

Keep in mind that your journey is not likely to be riddled with success after success. Chances are, you’re going to stumble. Once in a while, you’ll get smothered by some ukes of your own. But that’s fine. It’s even expected. Every time you hit the mat, there’s a new lesson waiting for you. What can you take from it? It’s your choice, your opportunity to push yourself up, brush yourself off, and go forth with your newfound wisdom. It’s your choice to bow in again.

In aikido, we all take turns as uke (attacker) and nage (attacked). In every case, the outcome is best when all parties are absolutely committed to their task. When we hold back, from either perspective, it’s usually out of fear. Fear of hitting the mat. Of going down hard. Of being unable to stand back up. Of failure. This is absolutely normal and natural. But to progress, to move forward, we need to meet those fears head on.

 

Why? It’s simple. If you don’t move forward, you stay where you are. In your life, like in nature, health and creativity and prosperity (of any kind) arise from a natural flow. From the movement of energy. Think of the clarity and beauty and progression of a bubbling brook or a rushing river. Always changing. If you stand still — if you stay stagnant — you will continue to see the same results you see now.

 

If, in fact, you are living the life of your dreams, perfect! Keep doing what you’re doing. If not, you must summon the courage to bow in. Move towards what you would like to have, do, or be by taking action today. Not tomorrow. Today. Imagine what your days would look like if you were truly living the life you dream of?

A BIG goal that is in alignment with your values will require you to draw on inner resources and strength that you may not even know you posses. But you do. Know that you have deep reservoirs of talent and ability within you; they’re watching, waiting… hoping you’ll open the door so they can flood the world.

Life can be and should be an amazing journey, full of wonder and excitement. Having and pursuing big dreams guarantees it will be a worthwhile ride. You’ve just only got so much of it… so don’t wait!

Stand tall. Breathe deep. Bow in.

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