Strength and Flexibility (NaBloPoMo Day 27)

Broken heart spray painted in yellow on a sidewalk

Someone painted a broken heart on my sidewalk

1. Truth: We get confused about qualities of practice and thus make them small. For example, we think that compassion means “being nice” or “kindness” and in our confusion, we limit ourselves to that expression. As in the Andrew Boyd quote I shared the other day, “Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others.” Or, we think that confidence means being certain of the truth, feeling unshakably sure of ourselves, but as Susan Piver defines it, “Confidence is the willingness to be as ridiculous, luminous, intelligent, and kind as you really are, without embarrassment.”

2. Truth: Strength is a quality we limit. For example, in yoga, we often link strength to purely physical expressions, and in that manifestation we think it to mean simply being able to hold a particular pose for a long time or to being able to do an especially difficult or advanced pose. And yet, strength can be practicing with illness or injury, living with chronic pain or trauma, or experiencing strong emotions like grief or anger. To practice in that context, to have compassion for ourselves and others and not give up — that’s strength.

3. Truth: Flexibility is another quality we restrict. Again, in yoga asana practice, we think flexibility means being able to go deeper into a pose, to reach and stretch further and with more ease. However, flexibility is much more than that. We can practice flexibility when something about a pose doesn’t feel right for our body, and instead of giving up, we modify our approach, doing another variation of the pose or using props, or asking for help or even doing another pose altogether, and, this is key, we don’t beat ourselves up about it. We keep moving. We can practice being flexible when we come to the mat expecting or wanting a particular experience that just doesn’t work out. We can be fluid and not get stuck, keeping going and not give up.

One wish: On and off the mat, may we maintain an awareness of the ways we are strong and flexible. May we continue to practice staying open and awake. May we meet any resistance or confusion with curiosity and compassion.

I'd love to hear what you think, kind and gentle reader.

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