Taking in the Good

It’s been a minute since I last wrote because I’ve been full tilt traveling for work since the beginning of the new year. This last week I returned from Italy where I got to work one-to-one with a client, surprise my parents and aunt for a few days on their Italian vacation, and have a number of days all to myself to ride a motorcycle around Tuscany. It was a dream come true trip—especially the part about riding a motorcycle!

That said, it wasn’t always easy. The first day I left the Ducati Factory in Bologna with the intent of making it—via the twistiest roads I could find—to the 17th century farmhouse in Tuscany where I would be staying. In addition to the stress of being on a brand new bike that I desperately didn’t want to drop and getting used to crazy traffic (and roundabouts!) around city-centers, that first day was difficult because I faced the coldest riding I’ve ever done through the Apennine Mountains, as well as a much longer day of riding than I had anticipated.

Fifteen minutes until sunset, cold to the bone and spacey from not having had anything to eat or dink for six hours, I found myself on the side of a country road—the place my GPS had announced was my destination. Except I didn’t see a house anywhere around.

I could feel the part of me who wanted to melt down and have a cry on the side of the empty road. But instead, I dug deep and tried to feel my feet on the gravel under me. I opened my senses to the crisp air moving the cypress trees, and I tried to reconnect to my self to attempt to make a logical decision about what to do next in this exquisitely uncomfortable situation.

It turns out that the SOS text I had sent to the owner of the farmhouse had indeed gotten to her and was translated. After about 10 minutes of waiting and just before it turned dark, a seventy-something Italian woman pulled up in a car, pointed at me, pointed at her own chest and then waved for me to follow her. Thank god!

The next day was the total opposite experience—sunny, near 70 degrees and nothing to do but carve local country roads from one ancient Tuscan town to the next. In one town I had a chocolate croissant, in the next salami and cheese on freshly baked bread, in the next artisanal gelato—two scoops! And on and on like that for a day in which I nearly never didn’t have a huge grin on my face. 

And here’s what I discovered—on the sunny day filled with dream rides and delicious treats I had to dig just as deep as I had the evening before. But rather than trying to resource myself to be with discomfort, it was to call myself to stay present to the sheer joy of it all. To let myself feel truly filled by this dream come true day.

So much of the time in my work I’m teaching about using embodiment practices and self-regulation techniques to give my clients or students resources when things are difficult or uncomfortable. But just as many of us need to use the same practices and techniques to enjoy the moments that are truly enjoyable. To practice saying to ourselves, “Stay—you’re needed in this lovely moment, too.” Instead of savoring the gelato, we often distract ourselves by taking a picture to share on Instagram. Or instead of pausing to rest in the sunlight and enjoy the view, we rush off in search of the next great view.

When I noticed how I actually had to practice taking in the good on that day in Tuscany, I realized that what was vulnerable about acknowledging all that pleasure was a quiet fear that if I let myself feel that good that I would always need my life to be that amazing or I’d be more miserable than if I had stayed home and not sought out that experience. I was scared that now that I’d felt that level of happiness, I wouldn’t be able to handle a truly shitty day when it inevitably came about. Or that now I’d screwed myself and in order to be happy, my next trip would have to be even more epic.

We live in a culture that almost requires us to keep raising the bar for ourselves and doesn’t value having enough and feeling fulfilled. That’s why you might chase success and always be crafting your next career move even though you’re happy in your job. Or forever planning the next renovation in your home even as you can look around and see how beautiful it already is. Or why you might not allow yourself to rest into your partner’s arms and just be with the delight of feeling them close.

We have become so accustomed to seeking victory that we don’t fully appreciate fulfillment.

This is the personal edge I’m up against now. Knowing when to stop striving for a victory or stop efforting toward my next “success,” and instead say to myself, “This. This is enough. I’m going to rest here awhile.”

I can attest to how eating homemade pasta in Italy is a great way to practice taking in the good! But it could be something as small as staying truly present in the rest of child’s pose, or tasting every nuance of your favorite dish, or taking in the smell and the warmth of a hug from a loved one and staying that extra few moments before pulling away. These, just as much as digging deep in the difficult moments, are worthwhile practices.

Jay Fields