Monday, November 22, 2010

Playing The Edge

This chapter, "Playing The Edge", has for a while been my favorite chapter of Erich Shiffmann's book about yoga, Moving Into Stillness. I admit that i waffle back and forth to other chapters every now and then, but this chapter is about so much more than just stretching our physical bodies that it's impossible to miss it's lessons for how we should live our lives.

To show you what i mean, it starts with these words:

A large part of the art and skill in yoga lies in sensing just how far to move into a stretch. If you don't go far enough, there is no challenge to the muscles, no intensity, no stretch, and little possibility for opening. Going too far, however, is an obvious violation of the body, increasing the possibility of both physical pain and injury. Somewhere between these two points is a degree of stretch that is in balance: intensity without pain, use without abuse, strenuousness without strain. You can experience this balance in every posture you do.

This place in the stretch is called your "edge."

We have edges in the way we think, in the way we interact with other people, in how far we willingly go to interact with strangers, people outside our normal circle of acquaintances, how much we are willing to speak in public, how often we are willing to try new foods, or listen to new music, or view new types of art, how much we are willing to open ourselves to others, how deeply we will let others into our hearts, or our minds. We have edges for how far we will push our bodies and with what physical exercises, edges on how long we will sit still in meditation, edges for how much we will push ourselves intellectually to learn new subjects, even if unnecessarily, to learn to play/sing music, even if no one will ever hear it.

We have edges around every single aspect of our lives. As Erich points out in this chapter, how successful we are at any endeavor depends in large part on how we play those edges. And the same applies to Life, with a capital "L." To fully live it we need to see, understand, and play with our edges. Slowly but steadily finding where the stretch begins, and working past it one breath at a time, allowing our lives to expand into what it can become.

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