I have plenty of experience in being inflexible, rigid, and resistant to change. While I’d like to think of myself as being non-judgmental of others, I admit that I am a pretty harsh judge of myself. The standards to which I hold myself are the basis of the judgments I make upon myself. As I practice my life, in meditation, at work, in Aikido, in my healing art, I am beginning to realize that these judgments actually block pathways to feeling good and being well.
The judgments I have of myself, my performance, my productivity, my achievements, my actions, my relationships, my words, and so on actually aren’t very helpful. I am grateful to my mind for all the sorting, organizing and categorizing it does with stuff, but it needn’t go as far as making judgments about it. When it does that it’s doing more than it has to. Those judgments then, seem to keep me in perpetual “trying” mode rather than in the wonder of being. There isn’t anything wrong with trying, but ultimately, I just want to get to it, do it, be it, whatever it may be. It’s like, would you rather try to get up a mountain or just get up the mountain? The judgments tend to create blocks, tension, aggravations, dis-ease and other undesirables.
My judgmental mind is an inflexible mind, inflexible to accepting what is; what is here and now. My mind is inflexible to expanding itself broadly enough to include all that is happening now. It is much more comfortable only letting in what it wants. My mind is inflexible to perceiving, because it’s too attached to that which it can see through my eyes rather than take in the scenery using all of my senses. My inflexible mind grows tired quickly, busying itself with things that don’t actually concern it. It’s like that kind of person we know who just wants to be helpful, but ends up running-a- muck.
Ahhh, but a flexible mind is a free mind. It is relaxed and at ease. A flexible mind is like that tree in the African Proverb that says, “wind does not break a tree that bends.”
So how does one cultivate a flexible mind, a mind that bends to the wind? For me, flexibility is all about expanding the mind, gently stretching the boundaries of perceptions, and opening to different perspectives and points of view the way a flower would do in bloom.
First, I ask myself, how and when do I pass judgments? Under what situations do they form? And then I observe how my mind is when I am not judging myself. How and when is my mind in neutral? I don’t think very hard about these questions, though. That would end up defeating the purpose of relaxed flexible loose mind. The insights come when they come, and I ready myself for when they come so as not miss them.
Another practice I do to flex my mind is to give it daily stretches. The stretches are actually the opportunities that come up in daily life to practice different responses than the typical ones (which tend to be judgmental), such as, ‘doh! Whose a knucklehead now.’ And I may actually still respond the same typical way to a given situation, but the stretch comes in when I say to myself, ‘okay now, ease up. This is just what is, and the world is still turning.’ The latter is more helpful because it keeps me in the present, facing what is actually in front of me, instead of being busy with irrelevant thoughts of myself and what has already happened (the past) and how it will affect the future (what hasn’t happened). The result has been that my mind gets looser, more relaxed, more flexible. My favorite unexpected outcomes have been: my heart is lighter, I can accept more than I originally thought I could, and I have become more trustful of my mind because I am not letting it have full reign over me.
The real deal is that this practice isn’t all that easy, but that doesn’t matter so much to me when I compare it to how I feel when I find the flow. I feel good. I feel alive. I find I am well.
Keep in mind that this is all about tending to your inner garden. This is about working with the inner self, so, even if you find yourself with physical limitations or may be physically ill, this stuff still applies. These practices are still relevant.
Let me know if you have any questions about any of this or share your own experience along these lines.