I was riding home last night on the subway and glanced over to the woman next to me. She was reading something called, How to Stretch. From the pictures, I saw that it was a manual on how to stretch the muscles in the human body. The page showed a person bending and reaching in a variety of poses. It seemed that there were many different ways to stretch and lengthen parts of the body. It all depended on what you wanted to do.
Wouldn’t the same principals be applicable to how we stretch emotionally and psychologically?
From the many exercise classes I have taken over the years, the principals of stretching that I’ve learned are; 1) Warm up the body through some kind of movement 2) Slowly start to stretch your muscles while paying attention to any sign of discomfort 3) Challenge yourself to reach beyond your normal range of movement.
I believe and have witnessed the same principals in emotional, psychological and spiritual change. At first, we need to warm up to the idea that change is happening or needs to happen. This may be that quiet voice inside that starts to get louder and questions the state of your life. You might start to feel restless, anxious or impatient with how things are. You begin to think about what doesn’t feel right or how the things that used to fulfill you no longer do. Slowly, you are warming up to the idea of change.
The second thing that occurs, after you warm up, is exploration. Now that you realize that things need to change, you start to to explore what it is that needs to shift. You may talk with others about your need for change. You may look at classes, new job opportunities or relationships. You then start to take steps towards these different areas. While you are doing this, you probably will feel a level of discomfort. You are doing new things and are exercising different aspects of your personality. You feel the unfamiliar as you try new ways of being.
Finally, you move out of your comfort zone. You notice that you are doing and acting in a new way. While there may be intermittent fear and sometimes surprising pain, you realize that you are experiencing life differently. You have expanded beyond your normal range of living. Once that happens, you have fully stretched-until it’s time to do it again.
I belive we need apply the same type of care we do when we stretch our muscles as we do when stretching our souls. Respect the need to warm up to the idea. Accept that it will feel uncomfortable. Challenge yourself to move beyond what is familiar .
After all, once you know that things need to change, it’s usually all ready started.