Don’t Break Your Limits: The Art of Living on the Edge

A large part of the art and skill in living courageously lies in sensing just how hard you try. If you don’t try hard enough, there is no challenge, no intensity, no stretch, and little possibility for growth. Trying too hard, however, is an obvious violation, increasing the possibility of shattered relationship, body, and mind. Somewhere between these two points is a balance zone: intensity without pain, use without abuse, strenuousness without strain. This is where you do your best, not a bit less, and not a bit more. This is your edge.

The above passage is taken from the famous guide written by a wonderful Yoga Master – Yoga: the Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness by Erich Schiffmann. The first time I read it, I was blown away. I thought it was the most profound thing I’d ever seen. Not only about yoga, but also about life. Indeed it must be, yoga is a way of living.  The original passage is about stretching. So I tampered with it, (Namaste, Master Schiffmann!) and now we have the perfect wisdom on “how to live courageously”.

I write in my previous article on yoga that yoga isn’t about breaking our body limits. Yoga is about flirting with your edges, with sensitivity and attention. With every cell in my body, I believe that so is life. Life is about standing firm on the edge, breathing in the magnificent scenery in exhilaration, without falling off the cliff.


That’s why I dislike the “break your limits” mantra so badly. Albeit being the favorite line of motivational speakers, this is one of the most misleading notions on personal growth. This whole “break-your-limit” frenzy whips us to run frantically like a bull, eyes on the red carpet at the horizon. As the bull approaches the edge, it doesn’t understand real danger. It falls. While it had succeeded at breaking its limits, its relationships, body, and mind shattered to pieces.

Back in 2012, I was a bull. I was competitive, intense, restless. As the leader of a student community, I worked 12 hours a day and always demanded more from others, in the name of self-improvement and changing the world – which were both true. However, the other side of the coin was my ego – full of fear, hungry for love and belonging, thirsty to prove that I could be somebody. Despite others’ respect for me and that I was making a name for myself, I didn’t know who to talk to after my break-up. I often went to bed at 2AM, with back-pains and headaches, and sometime tears in my eyes.

The 22-year-old me did not know how to play with my edge. This is important to learn especially when we are young - passionate but lack of wisdom. We set our bull eyes on the red carpet. And chase it, not knowing that we are chasing horizon.

We want to think that we are useful and important, going somewhere, achieving something. We often forget to examine our intention. Are we doing what we do because of love, or because of fear? Are we doing what we do because of our sincere desire to give back to the flow of humanity, or because of our need to be an achiever? The subtle difference between them is as large as the universe. 


There is a man who wanted to transcend his suffering so he went to a Buddhist temple to find a Master to help him: “Master, if I meditate four hours again, how long will it take me to transcend?”

“If you meditate four hours a day, perhaps you will transcend in 10 years,” said the Master. 

Thinking he could do better, the man then said, “Oh, Master, what if I meditated eight hours a day, how long will it take me to transcend?”

The Master looked at him: “If you meditate 8 hours a day perhaps you will transcend in 20 years.”

“But why it take me longer if I meditate more?” The man protested.

The Master answer “You are not here to sacrifice  your joy or your life. You are here to live, to be happy, and to love. If you can do your best in 2 hours of meditation, but you spend 8 hours instead, you will only grow tired, miss the point, and you enjoy your life. Do your best, and perhaps you will learn that no matter how long you meditate, you can live, love, and be happy.” 

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz


I’m not suggesting sitting in front of TV 8 hours a day, smiling happily, and eating gummy bears. That is not living intensely. That is decaying in leisure – which is as good as dead because death, perhaps, is the greatest leisure of all.

It is about finding that edge and adjust yourself as your edge changes. There will be bad days when you wake up with a toothache, a blocked nose, and a pain in your tailbone. (That happened to me!) Your edge will not be at the same place as yesterday, but if show yourself some tenderness and stand on the new edge, that is living right.

Life has little to do with where your edge happens to be. Rather, it is a function of how sensitively you play your edges, no matter where they are. The intense energy generated from playing your edge has the power to expand your personal limits. But playing the edge is never a way to achieve reward, it is the reward. 

Honor your body and mind. And tomorrow when you wake up again, when your toothache is gone, when breathing and sitting make you feel fabulous, and when your find your edge a mile further than yesterday, walk up to it. Stand on it. Fill in your lung how magnificent it is to be on this earth. Flirt with your edge, like a one legged flamingo, dancing slowly above the cliff.