“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” – Joseph Campbell
I was recently invited by The Dailey Method with studios in the Denver Highlands and soon in Boulder (grand opening is scheduled for April 11th and 12th!), to participate in their “New Year Challenge,” which involved 45-Days of working-out as much as I could. For those of you who haven’t heard of The Dailey Method, I definitely encourage you to check it out. It offers a very effective full-body workout that incorporates the best of body toning exercises from diverse disciplines such as barre, dance, yoga, kinesiology and Pilates. More so than any other exercise program I’ve encountered, The Dailey Method is highly focused on alignment of the spine, and they take special care to adjust and align anyone who needs it. As a tall girl, I’m a particular perpetrator of slouching, so I appreciate the numerous times the instructors come over to me to raise my head-up and pull back my shoulders : ).
The theme of the 45-Day Challenge was “Burn Brightly,” and as someone who made a pact with myself to do the best I could to show-up and “burn brightly” with The Dailey Method, as much as I could during the months of January and February, I began to feel a full physical and mental embodiment of this phrase. There’s little doubt that exercise offers an easy analogy for how our efforts pay-off in life. We often show-up at the gym or exercise studio out-of-shape, and feeling incapable. Yet every time we show-up and exercise our muscles, we begin to notice ourselves getting stronger and stronger. Suddenly, the poses and routines that used to be unbearable become enjoyable, and even satisfying, as our stronger bodies develop to take-on new and greater challenges.
Let’s face it; starting a new routine to show-up at the gym, regularly, can be a tough new regimen to adopt. It requires commitment and a break in schedule that can seem distracting to our packed day-to-day lives. I often found myself coming-up with excuses not to make it to class, during the 45-Day Challenge because it seemed to derail whatever I was in the midst of doing, or whatever was directly in front of me at the moment.
Ironically, I’d also noticed that whatever was directly in front of me was, likewise, a distraction from my original goal and commitment to participate in the challenge in the first place! Since I whole-heartedly believe that goals and commitments require our full attention and focus, this little reminder gave me the permission I needed to drop whatever I was doing, and just head on over to the studio. Yes, it definitely felt a little painful at times, but wow, I was always happy and joyful that I made the effort to show-up. The feeling of accomplishment and the energy I gained after each and every class, actually fueled me with even more focus and energy to pick-up wherever I had left off.
There is a known philosophy that we each exist on a pendulum that swings between pain and joy, yin and yang, or happiness and sorrow. In other words, we can only experience joy to the extent that we allow ourselves to open-up and experience pain. While pain is an inevitable part of life, the amount of suffering we allow ourselves to experience is our own optional choice.
I found this wisdom to be so incredibly fitting and helpful during my regular attendance at The Dailey Method. Some of the exercises literally burnout your muscles to a point where you just don’t think you can take it anymore! Then, an instructor will take note of everyone’s treacherous looks and frowny-faces, while making light of the fact that the pain is almost over, and after all, it’s just an exercise class : ). Then, she’ll encourage us to take-on the added challenge of smiling throughout the pain.
Wow, imagine that… showing signs of appreciation during a painful experience? Well, the truth is that a simple physical shift during a painful exercise in class would actually make the episode go faster and feel way more purposeful. When I’d allow myself to actually smile during a cycle of endless barre squats, I’d begin to remember my purpose for wanting to endure the discomfort in the first place. I wanted to get mentally and physically fit, and the exercises were the exact growth opportunities I needed to, well, allow myself to “burn brightly.”
Okay, so humor me for a minute. The biggest breakthrough I had during The Dailey Method’s 45-Day Challenge is this. It dawned on me that “burn” is a natural process of becoming “bright.” The term is analogous to pain, and without pain, it’s impossible for us to measure or experience joy. In other words, our ability to experience joy is directly connected to our willingness to experience pain. Pain is where our true growth and transformation happens – it’s where we step outside of our comfort zones and try new things. It’s where we build muscles and endurance for all facets of life. It’s how we learn to experience future challenges, discomforts or “pains” with less suffering, so that we can live in an improved state of flow and appreciation.
We learn so much about ourselves when we allow ourselves to experience the “burn,” as well as learn how to do it with less contempt, fear, sadness or complaining. And, what I learned from the teachers at The Dailey Method is that a simple smile in class, a shift of thought from “I can’t” to “I can” makes such a difference on the studio floor. The same goes for our lives. Simple reminders of energizing thoughts enable us to shift our focus, so that we can get through life’s inevitable pains with a lot less suffering. There is no chance for brightness in our lives without a little burn, and our willingness to experience the burn maximizes our potential to shine… very brightly. So, when life hands you deep pain… that’s actually the highest probably state for your growth and transformation. Holy pain : )!
I am so incredibly grateful to The Dailey Method (Denver, CO) for inviting me into a realm of my own physical burn and self-transformation. I now feel a lot more physically fit and stronger from attending the Highlands studio a few times a week, and more mentally prepared to face all challenges, both inside and outside the studio. It’s safe to say that the 45-Day Challenge has officially been extended by me. Why? Well, I guess it’s simply because I choose to continue to BURN BRIGHTLY!