Friction point (sourced on March 2024)

Those readers who drive stick shift will know what I mean when I speak of the intense feeling of the “friction point” an engine needs to reach before the delicate balance between releasing the clutch and giving gas comes into play and forward movement can commence. This feeling of discomfort and vibration as we hover in “the moment before” is familiar to all creatives (really all humans) and is where we can decide to give up and “choke”, or in fact lean in and give gas while releasing resistance.

As I have mentioned before in these pages, I’m a fan of Dr. Laurie Santos’s podcast The Happiness Lab. Her most recent edition featured various commentators speaking about the moment of friction in advance of doing something that we feel averse to, but know will make us feel better, stronger and more accomplished if we persevere. This feeling of “friction” is really where our desire for personal comfort and our will to challenge ourselves to do hard things butt up against one another. Indeed, as I’ve pondered the content of the podcast over the past week, I’ve noticed its emergence again and again in my daily life and personal practice, whether in advance of a workout, an admin task I need to do, a difficult conversation or even something around the house that’s on my to-do list. I’ve paid more careful attention to the sensation of friction (and I was reminded constantly of my first driving instructor, who in a charming French accent, encouraged feeling the hum of the engine when we reached the “friction point” and how seamlessly and elegantly I had to then calibrate the opposing motion of clutch release with my left foot and acceleration of the gas pedal with my right) and how its slight discomfort can melt into momentum once I allow myself to move through it.

Naturally, I’ve noticed it in my teaching too. Most frequently, it appears when students are fearful of a new concept that seems daunting, or even as a mental impediment to getting themselves into the practice room in the first place. It’s a little bit like the fear of turning on the cold water to finish my shower, or the moment of hesitancy before rolling in the snow after the sauna. But the benefits are irrefutable. Once we dive in and get going, the resistance melts away, and we feel good about ourselves for having surmounted the initial difficulty. How is friction showing up in your life and practice? Can you notice it when it appears, and use it as fuel to decide to dive in anyway? The friction point is what guides us to what needs to be done. Embrace the friction.