The ‘One Foot in Front’ Rule

Thoughts on remaining in the present moment.

This morning I ran the Canyonlands/Mt. Lakeway trail that is close to my house, just West of Austin, TX. This was an ambitious endeavor that I probably didn’t put enough thought in to. You see, it’s summer in Texas which means it’s exactly 10 degrees hotter than hell. Texans would go to hell just to cool off if they could.

Then there’s the climbing. It’s a lot of climbing for Texas. I think if you do the entire trail it’s approximately 1200ft of climbing. Obviously, I’m a few enchiladas short of a combination plate. I had a new running vest that was begging to be worn and I thought it wouldn’t be that bad in the morning. It was.

But, for some stupid reason I like a challenge and since it’s a single track in and out, you have to gauge how you are feeling because however far you trek in, that’s how far you have to trek out. It winds and winds and there’s little climbs and little descents until you finally come to the base of Mount Lakeway about two miles in.

One of my very favorite things is making it to the very top of Mt. Lakeway and then ringing the gong that hangs from a telephone pole there. I look out over how far I’ve come as the gong sound resonates, clasp my hands together, thank God for my life, followed by a Namaste, that I feel is sending some gratitude to the surrounding valley, trees, and wild life for letting me invade their space. I know it seems goofy, but it feels good. Then…

I run my ass down that mountain! The rule I have in my head is that there is no stopping. It’s fun but, it’s difficult. Once I began running that far in I didn’t want to lose ground and stop any earlier. I crap out pretty soon after I make my way back down the mountain and typically limp the last mile and half back to my car.

Today however, it was such a challenge. I probably shouldn’t have gone all the way up to the gong. But, dang, I’m task oriented. So as I was running down the mountain, trying not to bust my ass, I was so winded that I kept trying to slow my pace to a manageable level but with the heat, it actually draws blood away from your heart and everything just gets harder.

I would glance at the switchbacks that were dangling down the mountain and I would immediately think, oh man, I do NOT have the UMPH to make it all the way without stopping. Then, I would reel my thoughts in, focus, and think only about putting one foot in front of the other.

If you’re old like me, you may remember those stop-motion animated Christmas specials. There was one called Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Mickey Rooney was the voice of Kris Kringle. He has to battle the Burgermeister Meisterburger and the Winter Warlock. It was the same people who did the Rudolph movies. But there was one song in this one called “One Foot in Front of the Other”.

All these years later, as I reel my thoughts back in on Mt. Lakeway, that stupid song creeps in my head. Not only am I screaming down a mountain, I’m doing it while singing this song and laughing the whole way. It just pops in my head every time I start to struggle with thoughts of if I’m going to make it or not. And low and behold, if I reel my thoughts in and deal with only that one step and the next, suddenly I’m down the mountain and headed to a local bar for a Chelada with my love. (He was mountain biking what I was running. It’s a lot harder on a mountain bike.)

I’ve noticed I do this in a lot of different areas of my life. I’ve written about my horrible flight anxiety, which is hilarious since I work in an industry that has me traveling all the time and that I once was a flight attendant. You’d think I’d be over it by now. But, I do this weird obsessing thing. I’ll check the weather ahead of time. See all the storms in my path that I’ll be flying through and by the time I board, I’m a complete mess. Then, as we’re flying, I’ll see thunderheads ahead and start shaking and worrying and stressing. I’ve had some terrifying flights including one a few months ago that left me with a bunch of bruises. But, I didn’t die.

This last week when I was traveling I avoided the weather channel. Until my daughter asked me where I was going and after I told her she said, “Isn’t there a hurricane headed there right now?”

Shit.

My face at that exact moment.

This time when I was flying though, I tried my mountain trick. Well, sort of. I couldn’t put my feet in front, mostly because the lame lady in front of me put her seat back into my lap and cut into my knees. Even in pain, I found a way to reel in my thoughts. I asked, “Am I bouncing right now?” The answer was , “No, but there’s this gnarly looking cloud ahead…” Ahhhhhh, stop. And I asked again. “Am I bouncing right now?” The answer was “no.” (Yes, I had a complete conversation with myself.)

We did hit turbulence but they weren’t too bad. I think it helped that I was more calm by the time that we did instead of arriving at level 10 bases solely on my thought process.

I can work myself up and worry about a million different scenarios that aren’t actually taking place at the exact moment. When I think about the physical effect that worrying about things in the future, that are only possibilities mind you, I am stunned at how much it takes it’s toll. Our bodies still respond to this perceived stress.

I’m working on living in the present moment in a couple areas of my life right now that I’m definitely struggling with. I appreciate learning these lessons in the little things in my life so I can apply them to the big areas of my life.

So, I say a big Namaste to that lesson!

And my apologies if that song is now stuck in your head.

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