What It Truly Means To Be Flexible

As humans we have the capacity to analyze, figure, discern, and plan. We analyze what’s happened in the past and what’s happening in the present, discern what we like, figure out how to get rid of what we don’t like, and see if we can make everything we like stay the same. 

Yet alongside these great faculties of planning and preference, we have thousands and thousands of years of evolution that show us one undeniable truth: all of life is in constant change. In Sanskrit it’s called Parinamavada, the sacred principle that not one thing stays the same. All cells, beings, conditions, objects are in a state of continued transformation, and yet we cling, oh-so-stubbornly, to constancy.

It’s been shown to us in so many kind and seemingly unkind ways: we cannot stop change any more than we can make time stop. Each cell of every structure of this life is in motion and forever shifting, so why would we expect ourselves, lives, friends, loves, practices to remain constant and unchanging? 

In truth, everything around us and within us exists in an interconnected swirl of shifts, big and miniscule, never staying the same, not even for a moment. Again and again, we ignore every single sign and spend countless amounts of prana, time, scheduling, shoring up, gripping, umph, and grief in attempting to avoid the endless and most natural of phenomena: things change.

What would it be to take up a practice that aspires to embrace these shifting moments? What would it look like to begin to see change not as the enemy but as a way of becoming present, showing up in each moment, anew? 

Hard. Yes, it’s not easy, and I won’t beat around the ever-transforming bush: this is the reason we don’t all do it—because it ain’t easy. When we have a pleasant experience or even just a deeply familiar experience our brains release all sorts of good stuff that in turn tells us that we should seek out this same experience again, again and again. 

To ignore the Pavlovian push of the button, to abandon seeking the same results as that “one time,” is like swimming upstream. However, if we’ve taken to a practice of awakening, this is exactly what we’re asked to do if we want to be present more and flat-out suffer less.

In Buddhism, the attitude of embracing—or at least being open to—change is often referred to as new mind, and that says it all: Hello, new moment, what do you have for me right now? Hello, old friend, who are you right now? 

Sure, we can shore up some rhythms and routines that are nourishing for the nervous system, that allow us not to be in fight or flight at each turn. But mostly we work toward FLEXIBILITY not only in the body but in our life as a whole. 

It’s already been made abundantly clear that things WILL change, they will shift, they will not stay the same. Am I flexible enough to see, accept, even embrace that? 

This is the practice of flexibility I’m in search of on this path. 

At least for now … until it changes.


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