I’m throwing the wet and gloppy dough around and making a terrible mess as I use a slap-and-fold technique to prep my bread dough for baking.
Some of it flies off and sticks to the bottom of the cupboard. A great deal of it makes its way onto my hands and wrists, where it will partly dry then become a complete pain to scrub off.
It’s a crucial step in the bread-making process. It’s what ultimately gives the bread its architecture and composition.
And it makes me think about what it takes to build the structure of ourselves, the same way I am pummeling this poor and helpless ball of dough in order to build its gluten structure.
You can tell the loaf is ready for the next step by conducting the “windowpane test.” This means that when you take a small portion between your fingers and stretch it wide, the dough doesn’t break apart, but instead is able to withstand some serious tension. When it stretches and adapts to your machinations, you know that the dough you’re working with has what it takes to be baked into a perfect loaf.
As humans, we’re so like that. I’m in the process of getting “kneaded” right now. And it’s helpful to think of it that way. What I want to do is to lose shape and collapse. Be a smaller and less substantial version of myself. Instead, I’m choosing to take the kneading because apparently, it’s what I need before my next right step.
Here’s what it feels like when we’re on the verge of emerging into a bigger version of ourselves:
1. Feeling Exhausted
All you can think about is pulling the covers up and burrowing back into dreams. The dreams where no one is requiring you to stretch into a better self. Instead, you force yourself out of bed and, with dread, prepare to climb the mountain of potential achievement.
The lesson: Don’t envision all the work you have to do to successfully complete the project, position, or relationship that is calling you. Instead, wake up and meditate. Ask for any clear steps you can take today toward stepping into the bigger role you want, but feel intimidated by.
If there aren’t steps that feel approachable or that you feel excited about? Don’t do anything. Be still. Be quiet. Wait for your answer. Be on the watch. But don’t ask the big question: “How do I accomplish this entire goal?” Instead, ask yourself the smaller question: “What is the bravest little thing I could do today and still maintain this excitement?” Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Every day.
2. Split Energy
Sometimes, we stay small because we’ve been hurt before. Instead of thinking of our past experiences as necessary learning and wisdom, we put up a bunch of caution cones on our forward path. Split energy means we’re too busy dodging all our caution signs instead of forging our straight and true direction forward.
This might also mean that there are a number of routes clear to you. That’s great. There’s always 10 ways to do something; the important part is picking one, instead of trying to have a go at all of them simultaneously.
The lesson: Pick one path and give it your all instead of imagining problems that haven’t happened yet. Because you’ve cultivated an eye that can foresee future problems, you’ll be less surprised if they do occur and can handle them from a calm and wise space.
You’re being called to take a risk. Anxiety is the surest, true indication that what you want will require you to stretch a little. Anxiety in your body means that the wanting of something is battling the wanting of safety, security, and knowable outcomes. This can feel like an electric current outlining your body or a pit in your stomach or a stone in your chest. Figure out what anxiety feels like to you.
The lesson: Figure out what excitement feels like to you too. Anxiety and excitement can so often be mistaken for one another. The difference in most cases is that excitement comes when you’re sure of, or optimistic about, the outcome. Anxiety has the same root as excitement, but fear of rejection, failure, or pain clouds the anticipation.
I can’t tell you that you won’t be rejected. Or that you won’t fail. Or that you won’t feel pain. You might, and that’s why this is a stretch. But, so what? These are all important ingredients of the human condition.
You might as well dive deep into their possibilities in search of something that you truly want, something that makes your soul grow. Don’t you think?
Author: Alexis Farrell
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Nicole Cameron