There are a lot of great hoopers in this world. We see them at festivals, in the park, on YouTube. Watching other hoopers can be helpful if we use our observations to learn and become inspired and try new things. It can be hurtful if we compare ourselves and judge either ourselves or them harshly. It can lead to feelings of jealousy, envy, inferiority, superiority and/or ego. Those things are destructive, not constructive. And judging happens fast – in just 6/10,000th of a second – too fast to prevent most of the time. We must learn to become aware of it and replace it with a healthier learning tool.
Once we label a thing “good” or “bad”, we pigeon hole it and ourselves. We set up a roadblock to seeing things differently, to our own evolution. If we judge ourselves harshly or criticize ourselves, it hurts our self esteem. It makes us feel like a failure. It fills us with regret. These are tough to build upon. If we judge another, we often create an opponent instead of a friend. We miss an opportunity to mentor or be mentored. We erect roadblocks to both learning and relationships. We create a world where we think others are probably judging us harshly also.
So what can we do instead? We must learn to observe without harsh judgments and to learn without criticizing ourselves or someone else.
Cultivating non-comparison requires being present in our own experience. We are exactly where we are supposed to be. We mustn't get derailed in the ditch alongside the learning curve.
Non-comparison is about nurturing the Now. It is about not comparing yourself to anyone else but diving deeper into your own experience in this moment. It's about not comparing yourself to who you have been in the past or who you would like to be in the future. It's about being present, now. It's about honoring your own path, the direction of which lives in this very moment.
Now is where your power lies. The past is gone and tomorrow is always a day away. The only place where you can effectively change your past or your future is in this moment. Your past contains everything that has led up to Now, yet you reshape your past every time you revisit it. You reshape it with how you frame it, with what stories you replay, with how you choose to remember them and tell them.
The future is also in this moment. It will be built upon everything you think, every choice you make, every act you do, right here, right now. Concentration requires taking things moment by moment. Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.” I'd take that a step further and remind you that actually, it only comes one moment at a time.
Be Here Now.
Yes, we compare ourselves to others. It's part of the human condition. We compare ourselves to who we think we should be. We compare ourselves to who we've been in the past. We compare ourselves with who we'd like to be in the future, especially some idealized future version of ourselves, the version where we finally “get it all right”. We compare and compare and compare... And why? Because that's how we learn. We observe and compare and assess and then we make changes. (Or we don't.) It's part of our learning process. It's how we evolve. The trick is to learn to observe in a more clinical way. Scientists do not assign labels of “good” or “bad” to things. They just observe and collect data. Our challenge is to observe and collect the data we require for learning without criticizing ourselves or anyone else while we collect it.
It helps me to remember that I am my own best coach, cheerleader, teacher, student, friend and partner. I try to nurture myself in the same way I would nurture anyone else I loved. This helps me be on my own side and creates a space where I can turn all those “shoulds” into “coulds”.
Hooping is not a competition. Comparing yourself to someone else always results in your feeling either inferior or superior. If we come up short, we can become disillusioned, beat ourselves up, feel regretful, even thwart ourselves from achieving our goals. And let's face it, if we're comparing our weaknesses to someone else's strengths, we are setting ourselves up to lose.
Even if we judge ourselves to be “the better one”, the boost to our ego is short lived. There will always be someone better than us, or some up-and-coming hooper to threaten us. So if we're getting our sense of value fom comparing ourselves to other hoopers, that sense of value is tenuous at best. It exists outside of us instead of inside of us. It changes as the people around us change. In the end, we often end up resenting other hoopers when they do well and this is an unhappy place to live. It feeds our own insecurity, jealousy, envy and inadequacy. Instead, I encourage you to refuse to criticize another hooper. Ever. Choose to support others in their success and celebrate it. This will bring you success. That upon which we place our attention grows. What we give out returns to us multiplied.
Most of us unknowingly compare ourselves to others in a harsh and dualistic way. We live in a society that values competition and those concepts are reinforced at every turn. So how do we stop? The first step is to observe our own behavior. We must develop awareness. Once we recognize we are comparing ourselves against someone else, we're on our way to changing the habit.
The second step is to not criticize ourselves once we recognize that we're comparing. It's easy to go, “Damn! There I go comparing again. I'm so stupid.” No no no no no. This awareness is a happy milestone. It is an important first step. We are becoming aware of our habit of comparison. It is coming into our consciousness where we can actually evaluate it and do something about it. Instead, of beating ourselves up, we can celebrate this new found awareness. It is the first step toward freedom.
Pat yourself on the back. Say out loud, “Good for me!” Then check yourself before your wreck yourself. As you start to move into criticism or harsh judging, say out loud, “Stop that!” or “Slow down there sister.” or “Oh no you don't. I approve of myself.” or “Good for them!” Then gently place your attention back in the Now. Breathe. Focus on your breath. Focus on this moment. Become aware of your surroundings. Experience what's happening in your body. Be. Here. Now.
Next, be grateful for what you have. Place your attention on what brings you to hooping. What are the benefits for you? What are your blessings? Who are your blessings? Focus on the health, the happiness, the relationships... Adopt an attitude of gratitude. Count your blessings. Nothing brings you into the Now faster than being grateful for what you have right now.
Then focus on your strengths. Celebrate them. What do you do well? Pat yourself on the back for that! What are your special skills? Good for you! What talents do you have? Right on! What aspects of your personality or routine or character serve you well in your hoop journey? Kudos to you! Concentrate on these. They make you stronger. They are the tools in your tool belt.
Realistically, there will always be someone better than you and someone worse than you but there will never be anyone else like You! You are unique and more wondrous than you know.
Stop seeing your imperfections.
Start seeing your perfection!
When it comes to our hoop skills, no one is perfect. Not even the best hooper in the world. So, no, you're not perfect. And you never will be. Get used to it. Put that behind you and be okay with being the best you can be right now. Keep trying to improve but be okay with imperfection. Your imperfections only add to your uniqueness. They are your portals of self-discovery! Gifts, given to you to learn from. Embrace them.
More than that, remember that you are already perfect. You're nothing less than a miracle! A creation of whatever force animates the entire universe. The universe is 15 billion years old and in all that time there has never been another you and there will never be another you again. You are a constantly evolving mosaic of possibility, a tapestry of life experience like no other. You are amazing. Celebrate your Self. You are a wonder!
Lovingly focus on your own hoop journey. There is not another like it in the world. If you knew now all there is to know about hooping, if this knowledge was somehow bestowed upon you without your overcoming the challenges that are yours to overcome, the hurtles that are an integral part of your learning, of your path, well, that would take all the fun out of it, wouldn't it? You'd have nothing to look back on and feel proud. Your understanding would not be as deep. I know how to drive a car but I've never built a car. If I'd built a car, imagine how much greater my understanding of that car would be.
So when your mind wanders, which it will, when you find yourself comparing, which you will, gently remind yourself: Be. Here. Now.
And when you find your mind wandering again, remind yourself again: Be. Here. Now.
And when you find yourself comparing or criticizing or harshly judging, give yourself a break. Check in. Breathe. And Be. Here. Now.
It is a practice, like hooping. You'll get better with time and patience. Just remember, this moment is your gift, the only thing in the world guaranteed you – this moment. Now. That's why we call it the Present.
Be. Here. Now.
Life is not about the destination. It's about the journey. And while the journey of a thousand miles may begin with a single step, it's all the steps in between where the adventures lie. Your journey has nothing to do with how well someone else does and everything to do with what you do, right here, right now.
Your power lies in you and in this moment. Seize this opportunity. Savor this moment. For it shall never come again.