We are in the middle of our Natural Approach to Mental Wellness program, where we experiment with different ways of responding to and participating in life.  The exercise for one particular day was “no blocking”.   We were to say yes to life’s invitations as they came along (using good judgment, of course), rather than trying to orchestrate things based on our own preferences, interests, and tastes. That night Gregg and I went out to dinner at my new favorite restaurant, while our daughters were at a school dance. When we pulled into Middlebury, I was aware of being VERY hungry, and I was glad when we found a parking spot right near the restaurant. So I was not happy to hear Gregg say, “Let’s take Barley for a little walk before we go in. He’s been in the car for a while and would probably appreciate it.”

What I was thinking was, “Barley’s fine. He doesn’t need to go out again. He looks nice and comfortable just as he is.” But, no-blocker that I was, I said, “Sure.”

We walked Barley through the town and decided to go across a pedestrian bridge that provides a beautiful view of a waterfall, which is right in the center of town. The water was running hard and fast and I enjoyed the sight and feel of it. We then noticed a kayaker at the bottom of the falls. And then immediately spotted another up above, heading right for the falls!  Now although we are not talking about Niagara Falls here, we’ve never seen anyone go over those falls in all of the years we’ve lived here.  We stood with another couple on the bridge and watched, in amazement as yet another kayaker went over, making it look as easy as pie.

When we got to the end of the bridge, the adventurous trio were getting out with their boats. “We’re going to do it again!”, they told us. So Gregg and I found an even better position from which to watch and took in the show again.

Needless to say, if I had taken the reins, we would not have been witness to this exciting spectacle. We also got to hear more of the terrific live jazz trio at the restaurant because we came in a little later. It just worked out that way. Thanks, Gregg.

But sometimes things don’t work out in a way that we are pleased by. We say yes to life and we feel frustrated and inconvenienced as a result. There are no guarantees about the outcome or about our feelings.   But trying on intentional exercises can keep us nimble and awake.   This particular exercise of “no blocking” gives us practice at yielding to life.  Though the exercise is voluntary, we will all be faced with unavoidable situations which are not.  Practicing today can help us to bring more grace and wisdom to tomorrow’s challenge.


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  1. Patricia Ryan Madson 13 years ago

    The rule of no blocking is a core principle in the world of improvising. I write about it in my book IMPROV WISDOM. It is the way that improv actors can make a story out of any suggestion. I love your example of this idea in action in ordinary life. Blocking is often an attempt to control events/people while accepting is a generous act and commonly leads to great adventures. Your story illustrates this. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Author
      Linda 13 years ago

      Thanks for your comment, Patricia, and for introducing me to improv exercises and the work of Keith Johnstone. Although I don’t do theater improv, I do life improv and these exercises can lend such awareness and a spirit of play into everyday life.

  2. Upali Magedaragamage 13 years ago

    Dear Linda, I have some experiences like this. They were really preventive. I went on a field trip and was met with a minor accident to prevent a disaster bomb blast that took the lives of many. Had I gone that day, I would never be able to write this. My Australian friend who accompanied me to visit the project was amazed. I as a Buddhist believe, when you live in Dhamma (correct way of living) you are always protected by Dhamma. It brings new and unexpected joys to you. All universal powers will open doors to provide you what you never anticipated and also protect you from any harms.

    • Author
      Linda 13 years ago

      Thanks very much for your comment. The older I get, the more I see that I can trust life, that I don’t need to run the show. In fact, the show goes on quite beautifully without my input or direction.

      But I also believe that there are no guarantees. Some of my life experiences have been and will be painful and challenging. I don’t believe my efforts to live well will protect me from such experiences. They are woven into the fabric of life.

      And my practice of self-reflection has shown me that I often do not live up to the standards that I set for myself. Although I aspire to live with integrity, compassion and responsibility, I don’t always do so. I think we all have moments that we are proud of and moments we’d rather forget about.

      May we each open our senses, our hearts and minds to the miracle of life as it unfolds.


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