Sometimes children’s books get it so very right!
“Oh The Places You’ll Go” by Dr Seuss is one of those books. I re-read it recently and it immediately got me thinking. (If you’ve not read it in a while here is a link to the text: http://denuccio.net/ohplaces.html)
It’s a brilliant story that begins by saying:
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
It’s a great rolicking rhyme about life and all the things we can do and all the joys we will find. But then it gets more serious:
I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
can happen to you.
And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.
I watched myself pause with hesitancy as I read this story about things not going right all the time to my 2 year old. It got me thinking about how much I instinctively want to protect her from sadnesses, hardships and the heartbreaks of life. About how much we lean towards that which is comfortable, and away from that which isn’t comfortable. It also got me thinking that while so much of this is instinctual – we are conditioned to seek for happiness and often are encouraged to ‘look for the positive’ and not focus on the negative or challenging parts of life.
This story highlighted this because it specifically discussed the ‘yucky’ parts of life, the parts that aren’t what you hoped and dreamed would happen, when things (and we) get scared and stuck.
It got me thinking…
On one level it’s easy to stack life towards that which we find comfortable on a basic everyday level and we can often try to avoid things that cause pain or discomfort. We can train ourselves into a “positivity mindset”, ignoring or powering through when we are challenged. But what happens when life itself is uncomfortable? What about when you are asked by circumstances to deal with something that you don’t want to? How do we build resilience and fortitude to deal with situations when and as they arise throughout life? How can I continue to build that in myself and in my daughter?
Well, as we have it, Dr Seuss had a suggestion for this as well:
On and on you will hike,
And I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.
Just like in this story, yoga and mindfulness help us to build internal resilience and fortitude by turning us in towards the percieved problems, the challenges, the stuckness and the uncomfortable. These practices do this not by telling us to “suck it up” to “just deal with it” or to “be positive”. Instead we are asked to face up to our problems, to sit with the feelings of discomfort and comfort and to find the unchanging in the changing.
In this turning in we also learn acceptance, not the lie down and give up surrender (though that’s always an option), but the kind of acceptance that asks us to to look at the reality of the situation that we are in and to see it for what it really is. To be real with ourselves about how we are feeling, even if it’s ‘icky’ or uncomfortable. Be this a relationship, a job, a health crisis, etc.
With this clearer vision of the situation we develop a clearer vision of ourselves and what we truly need and want. This enables us to make informed choices about where to from here. We are also (re)training our brain to be ok with things not always going in a straight comfortable line and learning that we can cope when they don’t.
This is resilience – it’s not falling off the horse and getting back up the same way over and over again without acknowledging what has happened. It’s falling off the horse and acknowledging how we feel, what happened, maybe using this information to make changes in our choice of horse or chosing to do it different next time.
My classes on our Martinborough retreat are going to be looking specifically at tenchniques to build resilience.
Methods to grow our capacity by being honest and real about what it is that we are feeling in this moment. Allowing ourselves room to change and grow into our unlimited potential.
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!
I can’t wait! See you there!