“Sound when stretched is music. Movement when stretched is dance.
Mind when stretched is meditation. Life when stretched is celebration.”
Shri Shri Ravishankar Jee
It’s a divisive and troubled world, my friends. We have to do something to make a stand and do our part to save the Earth. I don’t know what you have planned, but I have officially thrown my cap over the wall and hereby declare that I will touch my toes by the twentieth day of June. Deep bend. Fingers on top of toes.
Your children and grandchildren can thank me later. Actually, their smiles will be enough.
I know this might seem like a fairly feeble idea, given the magnitude of our global problems. But, like the butterfly who flaps his wings and sets off a tsunami miles away, perhaps the only way to change the world is by stretching ourselves slowly. One person at a time.
Let me start by saying I’m physically inflexible. You should watch as I struggle to pick up a quarter from behind the couch (I bend for nothing less). And I can read the tea leaves of what my life will look like if I do nothing, and it’s not a vision I want to imagine. I still have hikes to enjoy with my wife, grandchildren to one day roll on the floor with, and socks to put on without wincing. This will take more than willpower and good intentions. It will take motion and flexibility, which is precisely why I spent my jar of couch quarters on Jane Adams’ Gentle Yoga Program, a yoga practice for mid-lifers (she calls that 40s-70s).
Who knew that stretching could feel so good.
Of course, I will offer no words of wisdom on yoga, stretching, or how to build your own practice (there are far better places to get started). I will simply tell you that my fingers have moved past my thighs and kneecaps and are joyfully approaching my ankles. And while I don’t expect to ever wrap my leg around my neck or balance my body on one thumb, I’m more than happy to pick up a bar of soap without having to use my wife’s shower cap as a scooper.
For the moment, I am simply embracing small movements, while Jane gently urges me to bring awareness to my breath—to see how smoothly I can coordinate breath and movement. “Move what feels good to your body,” she tells me. “Keep your breath full and see if you can draw your thigh in a little closer with every exhale.”
I take her advice to heart, along with the advice of a friend who has been practicing yoga for most of his life. He tells me, “do what you can do—in your own time and space—then do a bit more.”
Their advice is powerful, not just for putting on socks, but for how to listen to your body—to feel your breath and presence as part of the stretch. And, most importantly, to know that it is always the imperceptible, micro-movements of our journey that make the most difference. That which nobody sees.
It’s good advice for living in a flexible body. It’s also good advice for changing the world.
And I know we’re all looking for miracles. Hoping that some brilliant and passionate force will come out of nowhere and solve all of our problems.
I’m hoping for the same thing. And we can and should work tirelessly toward the big-ticket solutions that will make the most significant dents in our Universe. But the fact is, we don’t always change the world with trumpets and fireworks. We change it breath by breath, moment by moment, person by person. One tiny micro-moment at a time.
We change the world one small stretch after another.
Putting the Creative and Awakened Life Into Practice
Oxygen Buzz Challenge #5: Stretching Your Way to a Better World
Something to Ponder
According to the Oxygen Buzz Unabridged Dictionary:
Stretch. (verb) A powerful yawn of body and spirit; spreading wings and expanding possibility; the cosmic manifestation of “ahhhhhhhhhhhh.
To Stretch Yourself
- Remind yourself that rigidity (body, mind, and spirit) is the enemy of aging well. Rigidity is lack of freedom, loss of spontaneity in movement, and an inability to pivot when life changes (and it always does).
- Seek out, research, and adopt your own way to begin stretching your physical body. Remember, go at your own pace, but also embrace slight discomfort and fear of the unknown.
- Imagine all the other ways you can stretch yourself—as a friend, mother, father, son, daughter, artist, boss; in the music you hear, the books you read, the people you surround yourself with; in the challenges you take on and the experiences you allow into your life; in your habits, skillsets, point of views, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes; in your willingness to forgive, risk, share, love, and become vulnerable.
- Take 3 areas of your life that you want to change, then make a list of 20 small ways you can stretch in those areas. Transform your list into a mindful practice.
- Take 3 global problems facing the world today, then ask yourself what stretch you could make that would affect change (no matter how microscopic)? Make that your stretch. Ask a friend to join you.
However you choose to stretch yourself, recognize that you are also practicing patience, self-discipline and good habits. You are learning that small things done repeatedly will always make a difference. When your stretch comes from self-awareness and is powered by breath and quiet intention, it is movement that can change the world.
We just need to start stretching.