A couple of weeks ago, one of the instructors at my yoga studio was in a very serious car accident. She was able to walk away from the wreck almost completely unharmed, except for some soreness, because she had had a seizure and was unconscious at the time of the crash. Obviously, that’s not a good thing and she’s getting treatment for that, but because she was unconscious, her body put up no resistance to the impact, which helped prevent injury.
I began to think about this in terms of how we respond to various events or “collisions” that life brings us – new relationships, broken relationships, career opportunities, loss, good fortune, opportunities, smackdowns, celebrations. It’s easy to relax and go with the good things but we tend to tense up and try to brace ourselves against the impact of things we don’t necessarily want to happen.
The thing is, they do. They’re still going to happen. Life is still going to throw things at us that we don’t want. And we keep trying to brace ourselves against them, creating emotional, spiritual and psychological tension that ultimately causes injury. We are engaging in the same behaviors over and over but expecting a different result. What if we just let stuff happen? Because, as we’ve said, it’s going to anyway. What if we just allowed ourselves to be held by God through difficult times/feelings/situations and let them come to us and see what happens? Obviously, this would exclude anything that is abusive, dehumanizing, or any other criminal situations. I’m referring to everyday, garden variety life.
Living this way requires a tremendous amount of faith, openness and humility. Asian cultures take a number of lessons from the bamboo tree. The bamboo is not the biggest tree, but it’s one of the strongest. It bends with the changing winds, but is often the sole survivor after a major storm. It has a complex root system that allows for its tremendous flexibility. The fact that it can bend means that it is less likely to break. Additionally, the Japanese character for “smile” or “laugh” includes the symbol for the bamboo because the sound that the bamboo leaves make when the wind blows sounds like laughter. Difficulty both forms and reveals our character. As much as it sucks, avoiding it only prevents us from becoming who God intends us to be.
I am currently spending a lot of time examining the places where I’m holding on to resistance and I’m doing it with the help of a very good therapist. As much as I like to think of myself as someone who easily bends, I still have places where I want to hold onto things that feel safe to me. Doing yoga has been a big help for me mentally and physically because it both strengthens and increases flexibility and forces me to trust the support systems that are in place. I highly recommend.
“If you are not trained in a trust of mystery and some degree of tolerance for ambiguity, frankly you will not proceed very far on the spiritual journey. Immature religion creates a high degree of “cognitively rigid” people.” – Richard Rohr