Sometimes it takes a smack on the head from the universe

Every summer for the last several years, we’ve gone to a local water park with a big group of friends.

It’s a small park but has enough to keep us occupied for four or five hours.

There are several tube slides where you pick up a mat at the bottom walk up and ride back down.

I’ve never really liked those slides.

I can’t see where I’m going and I feel out of control when I get in those tubes.

Three years in a row I’ve smacked my head when going down.

At the end of the day, the oldest child in my life asked me to go with her and I agreed, with some dread. I was even a bit afraid.

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And yes, I hit my head in one of the tubes.

After smacking my head, I realized why.

I couldn’t let go of trying to control what was happening.

To enjoy the ride you have to let go and allow your body to be moved by the downward momentum and the water.

To be safe in the ride (meaning you don’t smack your head like I do) you let go.

Each year, I have to keep learning the same lesson. Well the truth is I hadn’t learned the lesson until this year. Hence the head-smack.

I think I’m a bit stubborn that way. This lesson probably comes up for me everyday. But I am a slow learner. I’ve smacked my head many times, literally and figuratively.

Try a Different Tactic to Get a Different Result

As we went up the hill for the third time, I tried a bit of “critical reflection.”

Sounds ridiculous, but it’s a great process for learning when we aren’t getting the results we want.

I was willing to try anything because the same stubbornness that keeps me doing the same thing over and over until I get smacked enough times to change also means I am unwilling to give up in the face of a challenge (most of the time!).

Here’s the critical reflection process (spiral model of learning) as it relates to how I learned to not smack my head in a water tube:

  1. Smack head on water tube and curse.
  2. Admit to myself that I am scared, frustrated, and feel rather stupid. Why can’t I do this?
  3. Be unwilling to admit defeat against the tube and agree to go on it again.
  4. Find the beliefs underneath the feelings and experience: Realize that I keep trying to force or control where my body is going in an attempt to not hit my head because I am afraid. When I am afraid I try to to find safety by controlling things.
  5. Get real about what is not working: “Hmmm,” I say to myself, “Trying to control my trajectory isn’t working! I keep hitting my head. There must be a connection.” Smack palm to forehead (to the left side to make sure I don’t hit the knot forming on my skull.)
  6. Look for patterns in my past experiences and emotions. Whenever I am trying to control things I have no business trying to control, I keep hitting my head. I am afraid to let go of control. It doesn’t feel safe.
  7. Reintegrate past experiences and emotions: Realize that I am safe in the tube, that it is my own actions that are causing the pain. (hmm…applies to many areas in my life)
  8. Seek outside feedback and information: I ask Martel what he does when goes down the slide. He says, “I lean my body back a bit and just go.”
  9. Try it again using new information: Get up to the top of the slide, take a deep breath, and go for it.

Here’s what the spiral model can look like for those of you like me who are visual.

When in control mode, have you ever noticed how tense your body is? It’s almost as if you’re bracing for impact. The tension in our bodies is a sign of the tension in our hearts and minds.

We are closed off when in control mode usually because we want a particular outcome.

In the case of the water slide, it was to NOT hit my head. So I felt like I had to tighten up against the momentum and try to force my body to go in a different direction.

In the case of the children in my life, the outcome might be I want them to go to sleep at a certain time, or behave a certain way.

The tension I feel in my body, heart, and mind don’t allow me to see what the other possibilities are.

If I say to myself, I need them to go to sleep by midnight, or I just won’t make it, not only do I have a certain outcome in mind, I set myself up to try and control another person’s body. Which I have no business doing.

If I just let go of the tension and needing a particular outcome, I flow naturally with whatever is present.

Just like letting go of control allows my body to move up and around the slide without smacking my head.

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