Flowing with the wind

I was out on my pushbike the other day near the town of 1770 in Queensland getting a little exercise. A strange name that was apparently given to the place by a ranger in the 1930s (and officially in 1970) and not by Cook and Banks who made their second Australian landfall there in, yes, you got it, 1770. Perhaps the ranger had a great sense of history or just lacked imagination. Just down the road is Agnes Water and there is some uncertainty about who Agnes was and just what her water had to do with anything. Some place names are obvious, like Stony Creek, and others are more fun and take a bit of imagination.

Anyhow, there I was huffing and puffing my way along the road in quite a strong wind. This aging body doesn't like hills very much but it likes wind even less: it's an invisible enemy that, well, takes my breath away. It's all right coming back, a cruise, but there is something just plain nasty when it is in your face creating considerable pain and suffering. Eventually I made it to a nice lookout and decided to rest for a few moments before screaming back down the road with the tail wind, imagining myself overtaking Cadel in the 50km Olympic road race. I love my fantasy world - it is so useful for dealing with reality. And there, high above the cliffs was a sea eagle effortlessly hanging in the 20-knot south westerly, using the wind in an awesome display of elegance. Then it would, with only a gentle tip of the wing, glide to another invisible aerial vantage point, no doubt to seek out its prey.

There are people who seem to make a lifetime habit of pushing into strong winds. Everything they experience is a drama, an adrenalin-pumping event, a challenge that needs to be confronted head on. I know that sometimes I've been guilty of doing the same. It's really hard work that saps the energy, leaving you tired and worn out, with no peddling power left. This habit seems to leave people unhappy, somewhat unfulfilled because mostly nothing good comes of it and there is always another drama waiting in the wings. I call this push behaviour, for fairly obvious reasons.

My better half bought me a T-shirt recently identifying me as a grumpy old man. That may be true but I think too that I have become much less of a push person as I have grown older. The need for confrontation, to be right, to be heard, to fight seems to have worn off a bit.

That's not to say there are not things to be challenged, wrongs to be righted and princesses to be rescued from dragons and dark dungeons. Life would be a bore if there were not causes to take on. It is more about one's approach to it, I think. Pull seems to work more than push and it doesn't seem to be as energy sapping; a bit like the sea eagle, using the wind rather than fighting against it.

It also seems that the mind is a bit clearer, decisions a little better, and the whole process rather more satisfying when one is pulling rather than pushing, thinking rather than getting emotional, hot and bothered. Adrenalin is only your friend during times of emergency and there are enough tough times in life when the adrenalin needs to surge, without having to imagine some more.

All it takes is five minutes or so of slow breathing through the nose and then out through the mouth and some calming self-talk for things to look remarkably different.

To reverse a lifetime's habit of pushing will take at least three months to reverse, like most habits, but it can be done with a bit of work and the right level of desire.

Dr Stewart Hase is an adjunct fellow with Southern Cross University and a consultant psychologist.

You can visit his blog at stewarthase.blogspot.com

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