365 Challenge Day 7 – Adaptability

22 May

There is flexibility of the body (which is another great topic!)  but today I want to talk about mental flexibility.  Adaptability.

I come from a spiritual tradition that puts a lot of emphasis on discipline and effort. There are often stories of yogis meditating for several days straight without break, yogis that wreck their knees from sitting cross-legged so long, and stories of all sorts of exciting and psychedelic experiences that come of deep and prolonged concentration practices. (Of course, most of my teachers tell these stories in the context of what not to do!) There is often an emphasis on trying harder, sitting longer, and pushing through whatever may arise, such as fear or sleepiness. In Zen there are even more extreme stories, such as of monks meditating all night on the edge of a well, or with a sword held upward directly under their chin, to avoid dozing off.

To some extent I can appreciate the benefits of such discipline and structure, and could probably use more in my own life and practice, but I ask myself, To what end? If you want to be an Olympic gold medalist, then yes, you will need this level of discipline and striving. But is it necessary/beneficial on a spiritual path that has the ultimate goal of eliminating suffering?

At some point the striving and rigidity can in themselves become the cause of suffering, rather than means to its end.

When we resist life, we suffer.  When we are able to adapt and accept the realities that life presents, we can move more fluidly through its unpredictability and uncertainty.

We often have conflicting motives and desires, and the challenge is in navigating and responding to them.  If I hold an aspiration to improve my strength, my health, and my yoga practice, I can’t give in to every urge to lay on the couch.  But if I force myself to go to the gym or to yoga class, even on a day when I’m not feeling well, then I’m probably missing the ultimate goal which is to live a life with ease and happiness.  The trick is to bring acceptance to whichever choice I make.  If I chose to rest, I need to do so wholeheartedly, knowing I am taking care of myself and my needs, and not feeling guilty or lazy for skipping class.

Bringing acceptance to life does mean that I’m complacent.  I still have preferences, lots of them!  And I still have goals and aspirations, and things I want to change.  I try to hold the long term aspiration, and at the same time respond as best I can to the immediate need of the moment, without resistance, or regret.  With grace.






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