Updated: Jul 26, 2022
Stay hollow and get out of your own way.
There once was a Native American legend who was said to have performed miraculous feats of healing. Frank Fools Crow, the ceremonial chief of the Teton Sioux actually allowed his powers to be written about in books by non-Native authors before his passing in 1989, at the age of 99!
His thought process going into a healing session was to "hollow" out his body, mind and spirit to become completely open to all possibilities. As defined, to be hollow is to contain an emptiness inside. In essence, Frank "got out of his own way" with preconceived notions, personal vortices, etc. to make room for the unbelievable to occur.
Imagine the possibilities of what we could accomplish if we allowed ourselves complete freedom in pursuit of our hopes and dreams! Imagine the possibilities if we took this notion into our day to day relationships!
From an athletic standpoint, I put this notion into practice in my Ironman events; most notably during the swim portion. I touched on this concept in Chapter 7 of my book, Be a Jedi In the Water. Basically, I had to completely open myself up to the power of whatever body of water I happened to be swimming in. I knew that I would never overpower any current, wave or sneaky critter below me. I had to become one with this environment . . . not fight against it.
As I noted . . .
To become proficient at swimming, you must first become comfortable in the water. That’s much easier said than done, as I have noted; we sink (I've tested this many times)!
To become a true Jedi in the water, I had to prove to myself that I could indeed float. Over time, through trial and error, I realized that by relaxing on my back, sticking my bellybutton to the sky, and sinking my head back so that the crown of my forehead was submerged, I could float rather effortlessly. The key was being relaxed and letting the magic of buoyancy occur.
From my experience, this works beautifully. In fact, the first time I tested this in open water was in the San Francisco Bay. Talk about jumping from the frying pan and into the fire! The beginning of the race has nearly 800 athletes jumping off a ferry boat (next to Alcatraz prison) within a 10-minute window. Since the water hovers around 54 degrees, it’s immediately a shock to the system. Many people panic during this initial portion of the race. Thankfully, once I got over the initial shock, I took a few easy swim strokes and rolled onto to my back. By doing so, I was able to regulate my breathing, control my nerves, and truly take in the beauty that surrounded me.
Above all, to be a true Jedi in the water, especially in racing conditions, you must be ready to deal with overstimulation. Then, you must ignore all of it except the most pertinent issue: to relax and swim. Above all, I focus on the mantra that the water is my element and through sheer will and focus, we become one.
Now imagine if I could harness this freedom of spirit and thought during my interactions throughout a regular day. Let's imagine that I have a particular interaction where the thoughts and beliefs between myself and (insert any individual) do not mesh. If I can allow myself to "hollow" out of my preconceived notions and vortices, I can be truly open and receptive to their point of view.
Note: I never said that I had to agree with this individual's point of view. I'm simply opening up and allowing their perspective to be shared. I'm not going to argue or belittle it. I'm simply taking it in. Just as I learned that I will never overpower the water; I've also come to know that I rarely (if ever) will be able to change another's core beliefs.
By being "hollow", I avoid arguments, hurt feelings, etc. And most importantly, I do not expend my own valuable energy trying to change someone into something they have no interest in becoming. I "get out of my own way" to utilize my time, energy and efforts where they're truly needed.
Now let's take this to the classroom setting. My students have their own belief system, vortices, etc. They have their own lives of which I am not living. By being "hollow" when needed, I can open myself up to a greater understanding of where they're coming from.
For example, if an assignment/project is not turned in on time (or at all), I try to allow myself to "hollow" out and truly listen to where they're coming from. Maybe their parents are arguing at home; maybe they're in charge of their younger siblings at night; maybe they've just lost a loved one; maybe they truly don't understand the content; maybe they don't see the value in what I'm attempting to teach; maybe they are suffering from intense anxiety or depression issues.
Note: I've dealt with all of the above and much more in my conversations with students. It's amazing what you can learn and empathize with once you've learned how to "hollow" out.
By "hollowing" out in this capacity, it is a gentle reminder that my students have A LOT more going on in life than what's occurring within our 4-walls of the classroom. In this manner, more often than not, my students and I can work together in coming up with a plan that works for both of us in moving forward with our learning experiences.
In the end, simply remember that being "hollow" does not mean you are empty of empathy or compassion. It simply means you are opening yourself to all manner of possibilities that would otherwise be blocked. What new opportunities are out there waiting for you to experience if you can learn to simply "get out of your own way."