I like to adopt new practices and try them out for a year. Last year I practiced deep breathing for the whole year and wrote about it each month. (You can read more about this here.)
This year I adopted the practice of monkey bar hanging.
I made some progress the first couple of months, and then progress slowed. I was a little discouraged, but I could feel some positive momentum building–namely, I could imagine myself doing really well on the bars, and I could sense what it would feel like. I felt excited about that. (You can read about this here, here, and here.)
And then this month, I hit an obstacle: I hurt my back.
I don’t think I hurt it playing on monkey bars, but I definitely hurt it, and playing on the bars was making it worse. So, I decided to take a break.
I felt disappointed. My year of beautiful breathing last year went extraordinarily well, and I was sure that my year of monkey bar hanging was going to bring the same results.
So far, it hasn’t.
I think I have had more failure than success.
Sometimes I feel a little embarrassed about that. However, one of the most important things I have learned in the last decade is that mistakes and failures are our friend, not our enemy, if we handle them well. (I will refer to mistakes and failure as failure for the rest of this post.)
Here is what I have learned from my monkey bar failure:
1. I am not as strong in parts of my body as I would like to be.
2. I probably need to strengthen my back.
3. I would like to work on my overall body strength so that my muscles are more balanced.
4. I want to keep playing on monkey bars and doing other fun physically challenging things–like climbing trees–all my life.
5. I did a lot of new challenging things last year–like walking long distances. So, maybe my body needs a rest, and I need to take building up my it a little more slowly.
It is possible to gain wisdom without failing, of course. But every failure is a chance to gain wisdom if we approach our failure with openness and self-reflection.
These are some lessons I have learned from embracing my failure with monkey bar hanging.
I have also learned that embracing both failure and success in our physical endeavors is one of the ways we start playing joyfully in our bodies again, and joyful play is one of the ways we become more powerful and confident.
By the way, the philosophy paper I presented last week at the conference in Santa Barbara was about joyful embodiment and play. In philosophy, the study of play is called ludology. (Ludology derives from the Latin verb ludere--to play.) Play and its purpose for human beings is one of my favorite philosophical topics to ponder.
So this month, I have been resting a lot. I didn’t play on monkey bars at all. I have been focusing on my breathing again. I figure that if all else fails, I can practice breathing.
I have been doing my favorite exercise videos by Ellen Barrett that are a combination of ballet, pilates, and yoga. They always help me build overall body flexibility, fluidity, and some strength.
This is one of my favorite videos by Ellen Barrett. It is a half an hour, and it is really gentle, playful, and imaginative. Ellen Barrett focuses a lot on using exercise to feeling more powerful and confident in our body, rather than using exercise as a way to punish ourselves.
I am working on developing a consistent strength practice.
I am not sure how next month is going to go, but we’ll see, and I’ll write again soon.
What have you learned from mistakes and failures? I’d love to hear about it below.
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If you enjoyed this post, you might also like this one:
12 Cool and Surprising Things That Happened When I practiced Deep Breathing for a Year
10 Cool and Surprising Things That Happened When I Began Walking Regularly This Year
9 thoughts on “Month Five of Monkey Bar Hanging: I Encounter a Significant Obstacle and Some Failure”
My two Cents about 3.: take care, if the musculature of the front of the body is shortened, the back gets problems, usually the neck first. Then, before the strength training, first stretch and arm rolls in supine position until your ears have reached in a straight line over your shoulders.
Laureen: Thanks so much for this info. I have been doing a lot of stretching and rolling and am going to take your advice.
What do you think of Hanna Somatics in this case?
I will have to look that up! I am not familiar.
Wish you the best of ease and joy in all your pursuits! My experience with working with other individuals and personally too has been that keeping up with breath-oriented practices consistentlyhelps with sustained energy and strength for all other activities 🙂
Oh no! I hate it when I hurt my back. I wish you a very speedy recovery. I would do some stretching every day to help the muscles along. There’s different ones pending where exactly in your back the injury is. And it’s not a failure, just a really small setback! 🙂 You’ll come back stronger than ever I am sure 🙂
Maybe your body isn’t made for this particular challenge? I have tried running but I just don’t feel my body is made for running; it feels too harsh for me. (Though I quite often dream I can run for miles, and it feels fantastic!!). I feel natural when I am walking, especially when walking up steep slopes. And I feel like yoga is the right exercise for me because it is gentle and I feel the movement is intuitive and I can’t hurt myself. I have learnt even in yoga that there are some postures that are not good for me (e.g. headstand) and so I don’t do them. I would have felt a failure when I was younger, but now I trust myself to be able to make that call for myself.
I really admire your persistence and resilience with this. I would have given up in month one!! You have really stuck with it, and to me, there would be absolutely no shame in stopping or taking a break for a while.
These are really good points, Ali. I have been thinking about this, too, and I am very open to the fact that this exercise might not be a good match for my body. As I have been resting, thinking, and experimenting, I think what I have figured out is that I need to work on overall upper body strength, along with abdominal strength. And I need to make monkey-bar hanging something I do periodically throughout the week but not every single day. I think that can cause overuse. So, I am working on my strength routine.
I love it that you are trusting your body more about running and about yoga poses that aren’t good for you. The older I get, the more I realize that listening to my body is the wisest thing I can do.
And thank you so much for your kind words about my persistence and resilience. I think I am learning a lot from this year of practice, even though it has turned out really differently than I thought it would.