One of my guilty pleasures is the TV show The Amazing Race.
Years back I nearly become a contestant on it. As I watch The Amazing Race now I wonder, what the heck was I thinking?
It is a hyper-pressure show. A thrilling metaphor for how we succeed or fail in the game of life.
Teams of two race around the world, competing with other teams of two. In each episode, plopped into a picturesque setting, teams search for clues about the next step on the journey and face a series of challenges. Some of the challenges require acts of physical daring, others require mental fortitude. Many require both.
At the end of each episode, the team that arrives last at the destination point gets eliminated.
The pressure of getting it done with a partner. The pressure of getting it done in unfamiliar terrain. The pressure of other teams trying to get it done, as well. The pressure of incessant mind-chatter.
Smarter does not outwit pressure. Faster doesn’t, either.
The teams that succeed are the ones that find grace under pressure.
There are no 3 easy steps to finding grace. Just 1 key principle that points to the choice we face when pressure mounts.
Joseph Goldstein, one of the most influential teachers of Western Buddhist practices, describes it as follows.
The critical balance we need to discover in meditation practice – and indeed in all aspects of our life – is the equipoise between effort and surrender. (Goldstein, ”Insight Meditation: The Practice of Freedom”)
The equipoise between effort and surrender.
I like to call it the Push-and-Release dance. The Focus-and-Let-Go shuffle.
Effort moves us forward. Release gets us to grace.
The teams on The Amazing Race that succeed get to grace sooner. Hang out there longer.
It’s tempting to dismiss pressure as a self-inflicted wound. It can be. But when your boss surprises you with a daunting last-minute deliverable – yes, you suddenly have a tight deadline. Pressure. Last spring, I agreed to hand in a new book to my publisher in 5 months. The book wasn’t written yet. Pressure. (Thankfully, now the book is about to be released.)
I am writing this message for you. I am writing it for me.
Effort and surrender. Push and release.
This is the personal daily dance as pressure mounts. To know the point when enough is enough.
When more effort will yield diminishing rewards.
Know the point. Be willing to release. Grace will be your reward.
And with grace, renewed forward motion.