Attain or Attune?
Attain: “to achieve through effort” Attune: “to adjust as to be harmonious” Atone: “to make reparations for a sin, crime, or error” At one: “in a state of harmony or accord”
Living most of the year on a street with no name that faces the Pacific Ocean gives me time to calculate my emotional balance sheet for the state of affairs brewing in my body, mind, and spirit. One can contemplate one’s life on a back alley of Mumbai or on a subway in Manhattan, but it’s uncrowded paradises like Baja that offer us the wide margins in which to make our notes about how we’re spending this “one wild and precious life.”
And, wide open spaces often reveal what’s lurking behind the mask. Baja can be a magnifying mirror in unexpected ways. This can accelerate a relationship break-up or a new romance, it can reveal an old emotional pain that you thought had healed, and it can illuminate ways of being that don’t often come to the surface when we’re in more contained, manicured and predictable metro livelihoods. Baja is a raw, revelatory, untamed ‘hood.
One of the fascinating observations that has surfaced for me in the past few years is how this place reveals one’s default operating system. Do you “attain” or do you “attune”? One litmus test is how your body acclimates to Baja. This adventure sports capital of the world attracts “attainers” who sport fish, jet boat, mountain bike, or ATV or off-road 4×4 on deserted beaches. It also attracts “attuners” who do yoga, surf, kiteboard, scuba, kayak, or bird and whale watch. Attainers tend to “achieve through effort” or tame nature. Attuners “adjust to be harmonious” or attune with nature.
Let’s be frank. Someone can practice yoga using an “attainer” way of being or they can mountain bike in a fully “attuner” flow. When I go to my restorative yoga classes, which are very “yin,” I fall into a beautifully harmonious love puddle. But, recently, I went to a vigorous yoga class and strived and compared myself to no end. Chip, the Achiever was on full display complete with my epically-tight hamstrings and impenetrable rhomboids. Suffice it to say, I didn’t enjoy myself.
While I’m a novice surfer and can’t say I’ve taken my board to the beach more than a half-dozen times in the past half-year, I can say that I feel most at peace when I make myself harmonious to the waves. The more I attune, the more at one I feel. Strangely, when I am in my attain mode, I often feel I have to atone afterwards because of my "take no prisoners" competitive spirit (which can mean cutting off a few other surfers). So, I’m not attempting to become an expert surfer at 59 years old. But, I am learning to attune myself to the constant waves of life and enjoy my wipe-outs as much as my epic rides to the shore.
In sum, I’m not saying you should stop trying to attain or achieve in your workplace. But I am saying that it may be time for you to imagine a sport or way of being in your life where being in harmony with your surroundings pays great dividends in your experience and achievement. This won’t necessarily solve you meeting a crazy deadline for next week, but it will likely give you a new rhythm and ability to ride the waves that constantly emerge in your competitive work life.