If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you might remember that I’ve been planking as a way to deal with back pain. (Sometimes people ask what I mean by planking – I’m referring to holding your body in a horizontal position by your forearms and toes, and it is as awful as it sounds!!)
It’s been maybe three years since my muscle therapist asked me to give this a try, with a 10 minute plank as my goal. Still haven’t reached it, still sweating it out on my living room floor every day. My progress has to be slow so I don’t cause any old injuries to flair up, but I’m far enough along that I can say this works. It’s crazy hard and makes me feel like I’m going to die while I’m doing it, but I feel great when I’m done. My chronic pain isn’t gone yet, but my body feels so much better than it used to, and I am not quitting. Life goal: to still be planking when I’m 90.
The expected outcome is a stronger body and less physical pain, but there are many unexpected benefits I’ve gained from the process. The one affecting me most right now is the discipline of staying in the moment.
Every single time I settle down to plank, the same thoughts and doubts bombard me: “I am only one minute in and I already feel like quitting!!! HOW WILL I EVER REACH MY GOAL??!!!”
If I think like that, I never will reach it. I’ve learned that the only way to make it is to take one minute at a time. I absolutely cannot allow my thoughts to run ahead.
I once heard about a couple who set out to hike across England. The wife was in better shape than the husband, so she said it wasn’t that big a deal for her, but the husband said every single day was awful for him. They’d set out each morning, and all he could think was, “I will never have the strength to make it across England.”
But after awhile, he discovered the secret to making it work: He couldn’t let himself think about hiking across England. He would see a fence in the distance, and say to himself, “I’ll walk to that fence.” And then once he made it to the fence, he’d find another spot ahead of him, and walk to that.
He could handle walking to the next fence, but he couldn’t handle hiking across England.
I think of that story every single time I plank. As soon as I start thinking, “I’ll never reach my goal!!!” it’s a sign to me to reign in my thoughts. All I have to do is get through one minute. Then I get through another one. And I keep going, one minute at a time.
Because I do this every day, I notice this thought pattern creeping into my life at other times, as well.
For example, Ben has been in Belize for 11 days, and Kaylia is having an especially rough time with it. One night when she was crying about missing him, she said, “I can’t wait for him to come home!!! It’s too long!”
So I told her, “Don’t think about it all at the same time. Think about today. Today, we are okay. Today we’re having fun. Take one day at a time.”
I told her about my planking, and about the misty fence posts in the distance, and I felt myself also feeling a little stronger and calmer. Right now, we are okay.
I keep using this discipline in different situations: Right now, we are happy. Right now, we have everything we need. Right now, there is peace.
Anxiety is a signal that I’m thinking too far past the fence posts. It’s a sign that I’m running out from underneath God’s protection and strength. He gives manna for today. He is here with us, and when we get to the future, He will also be there, but for now, in this moment, we have everything we need.