Cedar’s Wisdom and Finishing the Journey With Hope

June 18

I have often pondered, how do we become, in Tigger’s words, “good at bouncing”.  

Sometimes resilience means to keep plodding, as when I was hiking the Bruce Trail. Twenty kilometers of bush looked intimidating. But with good shoes and socks and enough water to drink I eventually finished each day’s hike by taking one more step and one more step.

The gifts of the hike were greater than the “fait accompli.” I was/am inspired by the cedar trees that grow on the cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment in the Bruce Peninsula. Apparently, the average cedar tree on those cliffs is 400 years old! Their roots reach hundreds of feet through the rocks to find the nourishment they need. Such a tree is not a large tree, but it has cared for its core and it didn’t use its resources for extra branches. You and I can also care for our “cores”, and use our energies for what is most important to us.

We all have it within ourselves to be resilient. The human race would have become extinct except for the perseverance of our ancestors. The spirit to survive and thrive, that was in our forebearers is the same spirit that is within us. It is the spirit of Life that is in all of us.

Resilience comes with practice and self-affirmation. We have all had experience adapting to change. We have all had some experience with the satisfaction of taking on a challenge and succeeding.

Spirituality and prayer are a big part of my resiliency tools. My “self”-talk is filled with Scripture texts. Cedar trees growing on the escarpment and other elements of nature teach and inspire me. Even as I practice surrender of my worries, (what Buddhists call non-attachment,) I nurture gratitude to keep me focused on what’s going right.

Patrick McCrann,the author of the article of “How to beat the wall during your marathon,” was not writing for those strugging with mental health and anxiety. However, for many who struggle with mental health there are periods of time that feel like marathons. This time of Covid with its disruptions also feels like a marathon experience.

McCrann wrote: “’The wall’ is defined as that period in a marathon when things transition from being pretty hard to being really, really hard. It is the point where your body and mind are simultaneously tested.”  

Some of McCrann’s advice to runners is transferrable to all of us in finishing our marathon races. Read more for “how to beat the wall” in your “marathon”.

Have REALISTIC expectations. McCrann advises runners to expect a “should” pace to get you to the end, rather than that super “could” pace that you achieved once on your best practice run.

Beware of MIND GAMES. When our bodies are spent we cannot think normally and our judgements can be distorted. Recognize it for what it is and don’t let your body dictate negative thoughts about who you are.

Turn “the Wall” into a molehill. Walls are givens, but perspective can help us to see them as challenges rather than obstacles. Humour can help us to see the gates in the walls.

Focus on what you CAN control. McCrann describes the sense of discouragement and perhaps despair when a runner feels like s/he cannot keep up the necessary pace to end well. He says, “Since your overall pace isn’t in your control as you fatigue, refer instead to some technique cues to improve your running form.”  We all need to build on things that we can control. There is a sense of dignity that comes with accomplishing something that we can control.

Embrace a mission in your marathon. In McCrann’s words, “Whether or not you believe in a higher power, there’s no doubt that overcoming “the wall” sometimes requires more than just fitness, pacing or food. “The wall” is often a result of the conversation your body is having with your mind. …it helps to have a mission or a higher goal that you can call upon to trump what your body is suggesting.”

Embrace the Challenge. McCrann wrote: “Like a superhero and his/her nemesis, you and “the wall” are once again set for a showdown. What will the nemesis bring this time? A cramp? A heat wave? Overwhelming fatigue? It only has so many options, and eventually you will learn to beat them all… So don’t fear “the wall.” Know that this is just one of many chances you’ll have to conquer it, and every encounter makes you stronger!”