5 Ways to be in the Moment With Your Kite
Perhaps I should have waited till today to post what is ahead for Fortuna Found. Left it off with that and moved back to my regular one post a week (with some extras thrown in), but, I have never been fully conventional. That leaves me with the conundrum of what to write for this final blog post of my first ten days of the new year. I could look back on the past and recount various things that have happened, or make some statement about the future. Those seem to be the obvious choices, yet, I can't bring myself to write about either really. Funny, that the new year is 2020 and the old saying about hindsight. It feels like we are trapped in a time flux. Perhaps this is one of those signs that we should really be living in the present, not trying to remake the past or waiting for the future, we should just be here right now.
So, how does this apply to kites and kiteflying? I am not sure how others feel, but kites are the perfect vehicle for living in the present. You have to be in the here and now. Feel the wind and weather at the moment that you are flying. Adjust the lines, tighten the sails, and be in the moment.
With that being said, with my final ten days of the new year post I present to you .... ways to be present in the moment with your kite.
1. Focus on a single task.
When you set out to fly a kite, or build a kite, or dream about a kite, do so with a singular task in mind. This may sound odd, but bare with me. Start with a simple goal or single task in mind, and try do focus on that. Commit yourself to doing it. If you are wanting to go to the park to just relieve some stress by flying your favorite single line, then do just that. Don't spend the time thinking about your grocery bill, or about how you are going to choreograph a routine for a stunt kite, or anything else that is not related with that initial task. When an idea to change or try something else pops up, 'put a pin in it' and finish what you are doing first to the fullest ability. I know this sounds silly, but you will get more out of your kite flying (and really anything) by doing this. Multi tasking has a time and a place, don't forget to dedicate time to single-tasking.
2. To improve your performance, stop thinking about it.
This one really applies to those that are showing off their stuff for others, but it can really be applied to anyone. After all of the planning, choreographing, and practicing you have done to get to that moment where you need to actually act, it isn't unheard of that folks have a high level of anxiety. Stress, frustration, fears that they 1. won't be able to perform as they expect, and 2. Will not be any 'good'. There is the first paradox of living in the moment: Thinking too hard about what you're doing actually makes you do worse. If you are in a situation that makes you anxious, focusing on your anxiety tends to heighten it. Instead of focusing on the anxiety you do have... give in to the moment... and just go fly. Feel it. Be there. Fly your damn kite.
3. To make the most of time, lose track of it (aka Flow State)
Perhaps the most complete way of living in the moment is the state of total absorption psychologists call 'flow state'. Flow occurs when you are so engrossed in a task that you lose track of everything else around you. You focus so intensely on what you are doing that you are unaware of the passage of time. It is an elusive state, you can not just will it to happen. All you can do is set the stage, and be open and present to it.
Set a goal or intention (see number 1), something that is achievable but a little bit challenging. Not so difficult that you find yourself stressed. Set the task so that you receive direct and immediate feedback; with your successes and failures apparent, you can seamlessly adjust your behavior. As your focus narrows, self-consciousness evaporates, and you feel your awareness merging with the action you are performing.
Kites provide the perfect vehicle for taking you there. As an example, I have been trying to learn how to trick a stunt kite. (Admittedly, I need to dedicate a lot more time to this endeavor) On a recent trip to the field I set out with task of learning and perfecting a half axle: a rather basic building block for trick flying. I first flew some lazy figure eights around the sky and 'shook out' my lines and my body, then set myself to task. Repeatedly trying and tweaking my half axle moving from the right of the wind window to the left. I found where it was the easiest, did it there, then moved up and down within the wind window and attempted to feel what changes I needed to make. By the time I was ready to start trying going the opposite way, several hours had gone by and I had significantly eaten into the daylight hours I was originally going to use to drive home. Oh well.
4. If something is bothering you, lean in to it rather than away from it.
I sometimes refer to this when coaching sports as 'Embrace the Suck'. It is a natural tendency for us as humans to move towards those things that are comfortable, and to sub-consciously move away from those things that cause us pain or stress. In many cases these 'negative' feelings can not be avoided, and resisting them only magnifies the pain or stress. It doesn't have to be this way. The solution is acceptance and leaning in to the feeling.
On a rather personal note I found a lot of hard emotions to deal with regarding my time at the helm of the American Kitefliers Association. Things began to pile up, negativity seemed to be coming from several angles, and I was losing my love for kites in the process. There was a point however when I just leaned in to those emotions instead of trying to set them aside so I could 'do the job'. Leaning in and dealing with those emotions head on helped me see some other things clearer, and it really helped me see what the path ahead with Fortuna could be. It also helped me move on and leave the position without any hard feelings or ill will.
5. Know that you don't know
Open your mind to learning everywhere you go, no matter your expertise. One of the best bits of 'anti-aging' advice I have ever heard was Never stop learning, and never stop moving. The moment that we think there is nothing left to learn, is the moment that our mind stops needing to work and decides that there is no future ahead. Approach everything with the mindset of there is something that you do not know.
Finally, I will add that this whole post reminds me of a conversation that I frequently have with Scott Davis about the 'Champion Mentality'.