Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

You’re Trying Too Hard

It happened again. I was practicing push hands with another tai chi student before class a few days ago. (Push hands is sort of like tai chi sparring with a partner.) The teacher was watching us from across the room as he got ready for class. After a few minutes, he called to me, “You’re trying too hard.”

Sigh. Like I haven’t heard THAT before! Many times….

A few months ago I was practicing push hands with a different tai chi teacher. All my efforts were easily and immediately turned to my disadvantage. Seeking some advice, I said, “I’m trying to….”

The teacher interrupted. “That’s your problem. You’re trying.”

Bruce Lee famously gave this advice in an interview about his martial arts style. “Be water, my friend.” Water does not try. It doesn’t struggle. It doesn’t contend. It flows effortlessly in harmony with gravity and the contours of its environment. As the Tao Te Ching observes, nothing is softer, yet nothing is more powerful.

As in martial arts, so in life. I have recently been trying to have a conversation with someone who continues to avoid it. This conversation, in my own mind, would be very beneficial to the other person, offering some insight and advice about how to move forward through a challenging situation.

I have rehearsed what I want to say, I have offered opportunities to get together, I have encouraged the other person to hear me out. But. The. Other. Person. Doesn’t. Want. To.

I’m trying too hard. Again.

I know.

So I’m taking a deep breath and settling down. I will wait. The conversation will happen or it won’t. If it does, it will happen at the right time, and if I’m paying attention and willing to release control, I will know what to say. And it will be helpful or it won’t. I can’t control the outcome. I can only flow with the current and see where it takes me.

Is there a place in your life where you are trying too hard?

Do or do not. There is no try. ~Yoda

16 thoughts on “You’re Trying Too Hard”

  1. I have to keep learning this lesson too, Galen. Lovely summing up by you with this: ''I can’t control the outcome. I can only flow with the current and see where it takes me.''Amen to that!

  2. This is my continued challenge in martial arts, as it is in life! Now when I catch myself struggling, I try to step back and consider what water would do. For a while, the question "What would Jesus do?" was popular, appearing in shorthand as WWJD. I had little bracelets made for my No Way Cafe group with the letters WWWD for "What would water do?"

  3. As Yoda so aptly put it, there is no try. One just does. The outcome may not be as we would hope, but it is so important to voice our concerns/admonitions in the right place and environment, and to ask ourselves, before we do so, if we are being judgmental in any way. Huge mirror held up to my face here, Galen! Thank you for these wise words.

  4. Who doesn't know about trying too hard? For me, it is ever present, and I am reminded over and over that it's only when I'm trying too hard that I get frustrated with just about anything. And when I'm laid back and accepting, I just don't get sucked in. Thanks for the great reminder, Galen. Glad to have you in my life. 🙂

  5. I feel just like that when I'm practicing push hands with a skilled practitioner, like a mirror is being held up to show me where I'm trying (!) to bring about a certain outcome. Questioning our judgments is so critical, as you point out, Martha.

  6. That's a great description, DJan, about getting sucked in. In fact, I used that in the particular situation I described in the post. I feel sucked into the situation I'm trying to control by forcing a conversation with someone who doesn't want it.

    Glad you are in my life too!

  7. Yes, I have had this experience many times when I know I am trying to hard at no avail. I like the idea of patiently waiting for a time that is better for approaching a problem with others instead of jumping in when not prepared or when maybe not even necessary.
    Thanks for this reminder!
    Always, love your thoughts! Hugs~

  8. I've been wanting to have a "special" conversation with someone who is very dear to me. Galen, thank you for another timely post. It has encouraged me to let go and trust that all will be well. Wishing you well, Galen!

  9. Glad this was timely for you, Pam. I'm still struggling with this a bit myself. Also, I'm so sorry for the delay in posting your comment. Several comments showed up this morning from the last few weeks. I'm not sure why they just appeared, but glad they finally popped up!

  10. It is a well known fact that those who are experts at any skill set or art form have learned to still the thinking mind and allow the subconscious mind to take over. The pro athlete, the artist, the writer, the martial arts master and so many others who become most proficient in their skill sets have learned the secret of letting go, getting into what they call the flow, or the zone and allowing an automatic action to take place. Its when the thinking mind stops and a deeper part of our being takes over that the truly miraculous happens.

  11. That is so true, Brian. It seems that in some contexts a lot of practice precedes that surrender to the flow. In other contexts, it happens quite spontaneously. I haven't got that figured out yet. Thoughts?

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