Befriend and Transcend Our Limits
Robin Sharma wrote in his powerful book The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari that “What we resist will persist, what we befriend we can transcend.” I’ve directly experienced befriending and transcending my limits through yoga - the 5000-year-old practice to achieve holistic health.
One of the central principles of yoga is cultivating sustainable self-transformation. We avoid swinging from one extreme to another. We avoid “breaking” our limits, because we know breaking our limits also means breaking us. We flush away our pride. With humility, we honor our limits. Otherwise, injuries are inevitable; they will keep us away from our practice.
Instead, we gently nudge the edge – the point where the level of intensity is just enough. A little less, and there is no growth. A little more, and there is injury.
The edge isn’t something static. It changes every day, every moment. My body isn’t as flexible in the morning after many hours of sleep as it is in the afternoon. I accept that. By honoring what my body can do at that moment, I gently nudge the edge, listen inward for the permission reach further, or move deeper. What I always experience is that the body eventually achieves greater openness, without any strain or pain.
Moving with intelligence and self-love, we aim for the delicate balance of effort and ease while moving gradually into greater openness, strength, flexibility, and clarity of mind and body.
A man who brings himself to the altar, alone and clean in his body and mind, focused in attention and will, offering in simplicity and innocence not a burnt sacrifice, but simply himself raised to his own highest potential.
This is how Menuhin wrote in memory of the death of B. K. S. Iyengar, one of the world greatest yoga masters. This is not only where we aim, but also the way we practice every moment on, and off the mat. I call this the art of effortless effort.
It’s good to ask ourselves often:
- What would happen if I don’t do this?
- By saying Yes to this, am I saying No to something else?
Recently, I was about to sign up for a contemporary dance class. When I asked myself the question, I realized this would mean saying no to writing, yoga, or my current freelance projects. I said No to the dance class.
I chose to let go of busyness. Busyness is deceiving. It makes us proud because it tells us that the world needs us, that we are important and irreplaceable. In the past, I let busyness give me a sense of self. When I wasn’t doing something, I felt hollow, lost. I couldn’t bare sitting still. I was burning myself in the name of making the world a better place. The truth is: being a burnt sacrifice doesn’t make the world any better.
The world does not need us as much as we thought. Nobody needs us as much as we need ourselves. No “urgent matter” needs us as much as our mind & body need our care, so that we can put the best effort in expressing our dreams.
I eat well, rest well, exercise well because I want to become alive. I want to hear the whisper of the wind with an alert mind. To take in the air of nature with every throbbing cell of my lung - a lung that isn’t broken by cigarette smoke. To write, and sing, and kiss from the depth of my untroubled soul. To run on the meadow with the vigor of every bone, and muscle, and atom that made of my body.
I learned this from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron: “We tend to think being hard on ourselves will make us strong. But it is cherishing ourselves that gives us strength.” I was so harsh on myself in the past. And an unconscious part in me still do so. But whenever I catch myself hurting myself, I choose to give me the love I deserve. I meditate. I rest. I eat. I do the next right thing.