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The Most Important Life Skill Ever: Getting Up Again

07/20/2010 01:08 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Recently on Dream Talk Radio, I interviewed Dr. Joan Borysenko on dreams and mind-body healing. At one point we discussed the limits of what can be taught in a workshop, and I commented that there should be a workshop titled "The Art of Getting Up Again," since that is the summation of pretty much every piece of advice ever given to anyone, in any context. She laughed and we went on, but the idea has stayed with me ever since.

By definition, life hands us tough knocks from which we have to recover, regroup and press on. Getting up again is what we do after we've been knocked down, or have lain down to rest. It is standard business advice that getting up again is what determines whether you will actually achieve your goals. It is equally true for everything else.

Everything we try to do, whether it be meditating in the mornings, remembering our dreams, quitting smoking, eating better, marketing our business, being nice to contentious people--everything comes pre-loaded with about a hundred ways it might not work. The secret to making it work is getting up and trying again that 101st time.

In aikido the art of falling, called ukemi, is very important, because getting thrown is inevitable. Falling allows us to flow with the movement of the incoming energy. It lessens the physical impact of a throw on our bodies, and gives us several strategic options for getting up again, which we decide on as we hit the ground.

How we get up from a fall in aikido is one of the subtleties of the art that most shows a person's skill level. It can be fluid and graceful, as though it were a seamless weaving of the last fall and the next strike. When you see two people training and they show no energetic separation between one throw and the next, you are watching true aikido in action.

Getting up again in real life does not always demand this level of skill from us, thankfully. But we do need to keep in mind that falling is an art, not a failure. If we relax into it, our bodies can use that energy to find the best way to come back up again.

Metaphorically speaking, we make the fall hurt more by berating ourselves for falling, blaming others for our fall, or denying that we are indeed about to hit the ground. How much more sensible it would be to let the fall help us organize ourselves for rising again--to make getting up as effortless as possible, a seamless part of trying something until we eventually succeed.

This article was originally posted at the Blog o' Gnosis.