At this very moment I am experiencing a plateau. Other ways to describe this might be: writer’s block, being stuck, seeing no progress forward, a creative slowdown, or a state of little or no growth. I’ve been here before and, wow, it can be frustrating! It feels like nothing is happening, or that perhaps I am even going backwards. This state feels endless, like there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
When I was young and studying ballet, a plateau would hit just after I’d begun to feel as if I were finally mastering whatever technical skill was challenging me at the time – triple turns, a split leap, or a high leg extension. I’d achieve the longed-for goal and oftentimes I would then become stuck. I couldn’t seem to reach the next goal no matter what I did. I would become disillusioned with myself and even critical. I guess I expected my body to master one skill and then immediately set off onto the next challenge without any kind of rest or assimilation period. Demanding!
In retrospect, it seems obvious that my body and mind needed a catch-up period. My mind needed time to integrate what my body had learned to do, thereby fully absorbing the intricacies involved and incorporating them so they would be more automatic. What I didn’t realize back then, is that during this catch-up time, the body and mind are still working but in a different way than during the initial push towards mastery.
Both parts of the learning process are necessary – the practice building up to mastery and the integration leading to automatic functioning. Mastering the challenge seems much more exciting than the integration phase because we can measure the progress and both see and feel the growth. While we are integrating the changes, however, we can’t always measure what’s happening because it is occurring deep in the body’s and mind’s cells at a subterranean level. Since we can’t see or feel the integration process, it can register as if nothing is happening and we are stuck. But it’s not at all true that “nothing is happening”!
Eventually I recognized this instinctual mastery/plateau pattern in my work as a dancer, and I learned to be patient through the periods of “stagnation,” knowing that another period of growth would ultimately emerge.
However, the mastery/plateau blueprint is not only found in the dance world. I began to identify this pattern in other parts of my life as well – in career advancement, in financial markets, and in relationships. Careers don’t usually climb in a continual upwards growth-line. Often there are setbacks, lateral promotions, time-out to care for children or elders, and moves to a completely different career track. Yet, in the end, overall growth is observable. In fact, the periods of “non-growth” may even benefit the individual more, but in less tangible ways. Financial markets expand and contract constantly over the years. Relationships, too, have fallow periods where connection or intimacy may lessen for a while.
Expansion, contraction, expansion, contraction. This is the way that Mother Nature works as well. We experience rapid growth of flora and fauna in our planet’s spring season with plants and animals maturing in the summer. Then the autumn and winter are rest periods for the earth when seeds and animals can create reserves and hibernate in preparation for the next growing season. Patience is necessary while awaiting spring.
Patience is necessary while we await our next period of personal or creative growth as well. The integration phase is just as essential as the development stage and, as counterintuitive as it may be, the non-growth period is vital to the complete mastery of new growth!
For me, right now, I am exquisitely aware of the plateau I am in. Rather than beat myself up, however, I am continually reminding myself of the positive aspects of being in a catch-up period. I am surrendering into this breathing space and learning to respect and trust its benefits. I am allowing myself to rest, integrate, and create reserves so that when the next growth phase occurs, I will be rejuvenated and ready to spring forward.
© 2017 by Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.
Sheila Peters is a certified Eden Energy Medicine Clinical Practitioner, Reiki Practitioner, and wingWave©Coach. She also teaches Stretch/Energy Body Tune-up and Jazz Dance classes and workshops. For more information email Sheila at: firstname.lastname@example.org, call 781-354-0725, or visit Sheila’s website at: www.energymedicineanddance.com.