Friday, August 13, 2010

Running with bugs

I began my run of the first mild day of spring light of step and full of joy and was immediately welcomed by the season’s first black fly. Soon two, four, ten were buzzing around my face in tight formation, and by the time I reached to top of our driveway these first scouts were joined by the whole squadron of killjoy.

Happiness gave way to panic. My arms began to windmill. Shooing and swearing had no effect whatsoever, flapping and slapping worked to a degree. When the next wave of hungry bloodsuckers descended, I picked up my pace hoping to outrun them. Flailing while running is great exercise and within minutes I was taking deep heaving breaths - inhaling bugs by the battalion. Not up for the triathlon of running, flailing, and coughing, I came to a retching stop, which gave even the slowest recruits time to catch up. What started out as such a promising run was instead sucking the life from me (literally) and threatening my sanity.

Running a business is often like this. There are cold, harsh winters when it’s all you can do to keep it together, followed by spring and the promise of easier times. Then, when the halcyon days arrive, you barely have time to celebrate before the bugs show up. And in business, the bugs are everywhere: The client that refuses to pay, the unexpected bill, rising taxes, economic collapses. Some bugs are big and ugly, but even the little ones, when they come in clouds, can drive you crazy.

So here’s what I’ve learned from running with bugs:

Stay calm – running faster, and working up a sweat just makes you more attractive to their blood sucking ways. Instead, run calmly at a steady pace and you’ll outpace most of the rascals while maintaining your dignity and composure.

Practice restraint – there’s something deeply satisfying in crushing the carapace of a deerfly that’s been dive bombing you for miles, but showing restraint is a powerful feeling too. Buddhists are taught to honor all life, even the life of a bug and I respect this, but at the same time I also respect my instinct to swat. (I rationalize it this way: I’m doing the bug a favor - sending it sooner to its next and hopefully more elevated incarnation). So swat if you must, but don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re going to kill them all. And know there is power in choosing when to swat and when to let it be.

Practice patience. Bugs exist. This is life. They come and they will go. After the bugs of spring there will be the heat of summer, followed by the wonderful gift that is running through crisp falling leaves. This will naturally be followed by cold and ice and the dream of another spring.

Practice gratitude – Even bugs serve a purpose (no bugs, no birds for instance). In every season there are things to feel grateful for and things to annoy you. Whether you feel blessed or drained is often a matter of what you pay attention to.

Practice joy – With every annoyance challenge yourself to think of three things for which you are grateful. Celebrate these things and feel the joy.

Practice resilience -Don’t give up. The only way to avoid bugs is to stay inside and then the bugs win. So head out into the challenge. Pay attention to your form – head high, chin tucked, core engaged.

And don’t forget to smile… with your mouth closed of course.