I took a yoga class today and the teacher talked about how we are each: an archer, aiming for what we want to become; an arrow, the thing that is moving towards the target; and the target, that which we are aiming at becoming. I’ve always found this idea beautiful. The tension between the three subjects and the unity of them feels true to my experience of transformation. In honor of this metaphor, I’m going to write three posts that will focus on how to embody each aspect of this classic spiritual triptych.
What does it mean to be the archer?
We are the archer when we set goals, but it’s important to remember that a good archer does more than just aim. An archer takes into account all the factors that will get the arrow to the target.
For shooting an arrow (a topic I am woefully ignorant about) the archer might consider: distance, elevation, tension of the bow, type of arrow, type of target, or many other factors.
In addition, she also needs to be aware and calm. If she is unaware she won’t notice small changes in the wind, the way humidity affects her bow, etc. If she is not present she is not likely to be focused and will not execute well.
The archer must also be calm enough to act. If she is very nervous, her hands may shake, and her shot will be off. If she is not calm and present, she will not be able to release the bow at the right moment. The act of shooting is as much an act of intuition, as it is an act of the thinking mind.
She must also be confident enough to let the arrow go when she feel like it is right. Is she lacks the confidence to act, the arrow goes nowhere.
When we set forth a plan to transform our lives, whether engaging in a fitness practice or any other type of practice, it is essential that we act as the archer acts.
First, we need to consider all the variables that are apparent. What information do we know about our bodies, lives, and karmic tendencies that will affect our effort to transform our lives.
I know that I am very disciplined when I have a clear plan. When I decide to take on a practice, I need to make a clear plan and check myself against that plan often. If I don’t do this I tend to wander away from the path without realizing it.
Second, we must start to execute our plan, but to be aware with what arises. If fear arises, we see it, acknowledge it, and meet it with courage. If dullness arises, we see it, we acknowledge it, and we add more energy.
No matter what arises we acknowledge it and work with it. Unseen factors always arise and aren’t a problem, unless we are unwilling to see them, acknowledge them, and respond.
Finally, we must learn to be calm and confident in pursuit of our goal. To be calm, the best thing we can do is mediate, pray, take a bath, or engage in self care. It also helps to talk to friends, get support from trainers or coaches, and realize that true change takes time.
Too often transformation work is fueled by impatient, disorderly, critical thoughts. This fuel will get you so far down the path, but ultimately it’s dirty fuel. We must learn to be patient and forgiving of ourselves.
To build confidence, we need to affirm our goals and celebrate even our smallest victories. I write down my goals daily starting with, ‘I will’ or ‘I vow.’ Through this practice, I am able to see the arrow reach the target before I even pull back on the bow.
I also try to celebrate each step of the process. I reflect on the virtue of getting myself where I am, the virtue of setting goals, and the virtue of making a plan. In this way, I already feel the momentum of transformation before I let my arrow fly.
When we embody the Archer in this metaphor, we embody all that is potential in our lives. We look closely at the mechanics of change, and set forth the path we hope to travel. But being an archer alone is not enough.
We must do more then plan, reflect, and be confident. In the next post in this series I will discuss embodying the arrow; the self that is dynamically moving towards our goal.