Monday, March 22, 2010

Flexibility: Enabling Compassion & Change

We've all heard the sayings, trying to see a problem from both sides and looking at things from all angles. I just heard a short piece on NPR this morning about disabling painful muscle cramping in older people, for which treatments varied in their success. The doctor at the core of the story had a personal regime of bike riding to keep the leg muscles stretching and flexing and through that a reduction in the tendency to these dramatic painful cramps. The last word in the story was that flexible muscles seem to cramp less.

Earlier this morning I had glanced at a list of reactive phrases posted in the NY Times on-line related to the passage of the big health care & insurance legislation. What an array of positions were reflected there! Each seemed definitive, so sure of their point of view, many diametrically opposed to others' statements. A few offered conditional reasoning, that if this-then that, some with more or less flexibility in that equation. Most represented a formulated point of view, based on the perceptions from standing in a particular set of shoes, with a specific range of vision. The essential outcome of the bill in question seemed to me to be an aggregate of many different viewpoints in how to approach health care and insurance coverage in this country. So to me it is no surprise that every part of it could provoke a positive or a negative reaction.

It seemed natural how these two scenes fit together into the same story: that digging in our heels and holding so tightly to one point of view, muscling our way into non-movement, is more likely to cause pain. This seems true whether it is a political point or a physical one. A degree of movement, the possibilities of softening into a full range of motion, the way things look from all sides, just might be necessary for our conditional way of life. We cannot avoid the situations that cause pain -- stiffness in joints as we age, feeling helpless in the face of someone else's misfortune, even loss of loved ones or coping with a dramatic health issue. We can definitely keep our stance more fluid, enabling compassionate responses in ourselves, for ourselves, for others, and perhaps in others.

Learning to hear these multi-faceted responses and seeing the actions we can choose to take are deeply embedded in yoga practice. Opening to what actually is so, regardless of the judgment one may hold or may have held, reveals the spectrum rather than the definitive.

Only by seeing and understanding that heels-dug-in feeling can we see the possibilities and work our way out of it.

Celebrating Spring, my husband and I shared a fruit salad this morning. Each bite had many flavors and textures. Each bite was itself one experience and many aspects to experience. We savored each bite this morning, noting the pear, the apple, the not-quite-ripe melon, and that handful of last summer's blueberries thawed and thrown in for good measure.

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