Learn Flexibility and Flow — Flexibility requires strong roots–a sense of groundedness. From that place of stability, choice happens!
Many, many moons ago, I wrote a novel.
It started out as some stories I used to illustrate sermons—this from the time before my exit from “The Faith of my fathers,” so to speak. (Part of that story is in This Endless Moment, if you’re interested, or just want to be nice a buy one of my books!)
In the novel the protagonist, Roberta Thatcher, finds herself working for a company which seems dedicated to helping its employees find wholeness. Roberta finds that this goal involves truly learning about herself—intellectually, physically, spiritually, sexually—and in terms of her relationships and vocation.
Roberta has a martial arts background, and the end of the book (maybe the whole book… hmm…) would make an interesting graphic novel. Good. Evil. Blood, guts, sex. Hmm again. But back to the present.
There’s a section in one chapter where Roberta is off on a company mandated wilderness retreat. As it fits today’s topic, we pick up as night falls.
No one but Roberta thought spending a week camping in a wilderness north of Algonquin Park, 3 days of which would be by herself, was even the least bit odd. The rest of the group seemed to be glowing with the thought. “Alone?,” Roberta thought. “I’ll be bored out of my mind.” Now, still perched on her log, she realized that she might also be scared. And cold. Shaking her head, she headed for the tent, her goose down sleeping bag and her ThermaRest mattress. Surprisingly, sleep came quickly.
Roberta dreamed. She was standing by a river in a beautiful valley. Across the river she saw two large pine trees. One was perched majestically upon a rocky ledge. The other was near the water. The trees were talking. To each other, of course, as trees seldom talk to people any more.
The tree on the rocky ledge crowed proudly about the view from the top. About how high he had climbed. How far he could see. The whole world seemed to circle around him. He was busy, busy, busy. He never noticed as cuckoos moved into his branches, weasels dug near his roots, and loons lived in his shadow.
The tree by the river scattered pine cones, provided shelter for the young plants, and spoke quietly of rootedness and deep streams of water. Seemingly alone and lowly, the tree shimmered with peace.
As Roberta watched, a wild storm erupted; the raw, elemental power of a world gone mad howled and moaned around her. A deluge of rain fell. The branches of the exposed tree on the rocky ledge seemed to rail against the storm, but soon began to bend and snap. Brittle, breaking bones, like gunshots. They fell to the earth, and were gone.
The tree by the river, sheltered, shed the deluge, and the water nourished the stream.
Then, the wind began to blow. Mightily. The tree on the ledge teetered and rocked. Its roots, with their tentative hold on the thin soil covering the rock, soon lost their grip. With a sound like a sigh, the mighty tree fell, crashing down and into the river. Swept away.
The tree by the river seemed to be waving good-bye with its swaying branches. It stood, buffeted by the wind, but unmoved, its roots deeply embedded in the ground.
One of the more delicious moments in the Martial Arts comes when you understand the connection between rootedness, or groundedness, and the concept of flexible power.
Flexible power is the ability to move smoothly out of the way of life’s buffeting moments.
Groundedness is the ability to find firm footing, no matter what’s happening externally.
It’s All Perspective
Our culture tends to measure success by how far we rise, as opposed to how deep we go.
Not surprisingly, most of my clients have achieved a full measure of “worldly” success. Good grades, good jobs, “correct” relationships. And then, the winds blow, and the bottom falls out.
What seemed fulfilling suddenly appears purposeless, meaningless. Their relationships, lacking the depth of intimacy and presence, no longer satisfy. They are bored and unfocussed. And, often, they wonder what’s wrong with the world. Or they wonder why climbing whatever ladder they’ve chosen used to bring pleasure, yet now seems hollow.
Initially, they whipped their heads around, and found someone or something to blame
So, they shifted things around, changed jobs, dumped one partner for another, took a course, made a pilgrimage. The cosmos is kind.
This time, the storm came quicker. Same shit, different year.
They now know that climbing to the top is a one dimensional experience. And that applies to anything, including relationships. (Relationships, as a matter of fact are prime candidates for one dimensionality.)
One dimensionality is the opposite of balance.
We are given our operating instructions by the tribes to which we belong. Parents and family, country of origin, ethnic groupings, religious practices—each a tribe that inputs data into our sub-conscious. Those rules, that data, dictates how we view the world. We, as children, swallow the rules whole.
The mature person then spends
the rest of her life
unpacking the baggage.
Which is not the same as teenage rebellion, where we simply do the opposite of what we were taught.
The idea of flexibility is wrapped up in becoming whole—being mature—and a first step in this process is understanding that you can hold many view points in your head at the same time.
- being self-responsible, as in responsible for yourself. Responsible for your choices, understandings, opinions, and TOTALLY responsible for your actions.
- choosing to live in a balanced way in the real world, as opposed to trying to get others and the world to co-operate in “making you happy.”
- being able to see, assimilate and use different perspectives and viewpoints, not simply repeating the same tired one(s) over and over.
- being able to see what you do, look at the results, and to change what doesn’t work, all without judging yourself to be a failure, or bad, or stupid.
- being able to choose your friends, companions and life-mates based upon mutual support, listening, intimacy and presence.
- the ability to walk away from relationships that never worked, or worked once, but don’t now.
- knowing that you have your own answers. It’s resisting trying to force others to see your answers as theirs, and it’s resisting having others’ answers forced down your throat. You know what’s best, for you.
And, it’s allowing yourself the freedom to be uniquely yourself, working within the structures that surround you, but without taking the structures overly seriously. It’s the essential message of the phrase,
“Be in, but not of, the world.”
- It is a good thing to decide to build a relationship that focuses on being open, intimate and available, rather than a conventional relationship based upon an endless power struggle over who’s right.
- It is a good thing to devise a vocation that uses all of your skill set, thus generating income from your deepest passion.
- It is a good thing to spend your life exploring the depth of yourself.
- It is a good thing and to spend your relationship time being curious about those you choose as intimate friends, while never attempting to change, “fix,” or manipulate them.
- It is a good thing to move gently on the planet, as opposed to trying to push the planet in a direction you think it should go.
The goal of the more advanced “soft” martial arts (Aikido, Tai Chi, Ninjitsu for example) is to briefly merge with the incoming attack (not meet it with force) blend with it and redirect it, off in a heap, safely and elegantly. Flexibility 101.
The flexible person never gives up, nor gives in. The flexible person does not break when the winds blow. The flexible person assimilates and re-directs.
It is Aikido of the mind.
In the end, you wake up each morning and bring you into the world. You can choose to live your life like everyone else, following rules you may not even know you’re following. Conforming. Not making waves.
Or you can choose to be who you are, as the world sighs with relief. In all things, rather than aspiring for the heights, seek your depth. In rootedness is the ultimate flexibility.