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“It’s not happiness that makes us grateful but gratefulness that makes us happy.” – Br. David Steindl Rast

Angel of Limitation

A note from Erin:

Hello!

Something I’ve been thinking about this week is limitations.

When I was 14, I used to go to a bookstore at the mall with my girlfriend, and we’d get all excited about discovering books about such far out topics as shamanism, new age philosophy, astrology and anything remotely resembling an altered state of consciousness, as profoundly bored as we were with middle class suburbia and junior high.

One of my favorite books at the time was Illusions by Richard Bach. Have you read it? It’s been more than 20 years since I have and I have no idea if I’d appreciate it as much as I did at 14.

But a favorite quote has stuck with me from that book all these years later:

“Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they’re yours.”

I take it to mean that if I say “I can’t!” well then, of course I can’t.

If I don’t argue for that limited viewpoint, then maybe it’s not so true….

It blew my mind at the time, and I still love the perspective.

Many years later during our 4-year Feldenkrais training, I had another mind-blow about limitations.

At the time, I was a full time yoga-teacher, and I loved exploring “my edge” in poses. You know, that place where you can’t go any further? My habit was to go to that edge and hang out there, thinking that I was increasing my flexibility. (Never mind the fact that as a super-flexible person, the last thing I needed to be practicing was increasing my range of motion! Ah, the wisdom of hindsight… )

Well, my very smart teacher, Yvan Joly, pointed out a very different perspective.

He said something like this:

“If you continue to go to your limit, you’re reinforcing to your brain the experience of being limited. You hit your edge, your limit, and your body-mind is sensing, “I’m limited. I can’t go anywhere from here.”

Is that what you want to be reinforcing in your experience?

Stuckness? Limitation?

A deep inner voice said “hell no!”

It changed my life.

Was pushing to my limit a way of actually arguing for my limitations? Reinforcing them, experientially? I thought I’d do my best to let go of that practice.

One of the unexpected ahas that comes through exploring the approach offered in the Feldenkrais method is a very different relationship to one’s limitations.

Instead of pushing to my edge, I might practice moving in a range which feels easy, effortless, and definitely nowhere near painful.

Know what? The range changes (amazing!) but even better, the quality of life and the inner-relationship with oneself changes profoundly.

There’s a lovely piece of writing a dear friend passed to me several years ago, and while I’ve shared it here in the past, I want to include it again, because it offers yet another gorgeous perspective on limitation.

Impasse

by Daniel Villasenor

Balance is but the acute perception of imbalance.

Freedom is the dissolving of a threshold.

A limitation is an angel.

But just because something is winged and divine does not mean that it is easy.

The angel of limitation takes the shape of a question.

Can you learn to live beyond force?

And can your impasse become your wonder?

Something subtle and eternal begins to form within you as you explore these prodigious questions.

And sensing your sincerity, your limitation shivers.

It melts; it morphs.

And you want to weep for joy as you pass through it, because the view of the possible has changed in ways you never could have predicted.

If this is called courage, it is also what you were missing in your previous life, before the angel of limitation visited your spirit and made you courteous to every known and unknown thing on the earth, including yourself.

Are there limitations I experience in my life which I could actually view as an angel’s visitation?

What profound learnings might be embedded in physical pain, money stress, relationship issues, health challenges, or the visitation of the voice that “never has enough time!”

And then he offers this:

The angel of limitation takes the form of a question.

Now right there, again, my mind is blown.

What if a challenge I experience as a solid limitation could actually be experienced with curiosity, openness, and wonder? As a beautiful question life is offering me? (and you know I love a good question!)

And he goes on….

Can you learn to live beyond force?

And can your impasse become your wonder?

Wow.

When I approach life in this way, everything changes.

I’ve experienced something just like what Daniel writes about so beautifully:

If this is called courage, it is also what you were missing in your previous life, before the angel of limitation visited your spirit and made you courteous to every known and unknown thing on the earth, including yourself.

Wow.

Courteous to every known and unknown thing on the earth, including myself.

That’s maitri.

That’s what I want to grow.

I’ll share my take on one teaching Russell Delman offered over this past weekend here:

“Learning to use whatever is in your life is the key to discovering your inner teacher. What are the situations in your life you’re approaching as an obstacle? That’s your path. In the world of awakening, the mail never goes to the wrong address. How funny when we think that the reality of our life is pulling us away from our path. The question is, “Am I going to live my life, or my imaginary life?” Your life situations may become your main teacher. And if you approach them like that, it changes everything.”

Ahhh…. I get such a deep, full body breath when I take that in.

It all feels so workable, and even beautiful.

And predictably in this mind of mine, a Mary Oliver line comes to surface.

We do one thing or another; we stay the same, or we change.

Congratulations, if you have changed.

Congratulations if you have changed!

And if that change includes growing a sense of kindness to every known and unknown thing on the earth, including yourself, well, I’m sending extra super deluxe congratulations! With super excellent dark chocolate on top! :)

I think the world is asking that of us.

And I am absolutely thrilled when I witness it growing in myself and in others.

May our limitations become our wonder, and may we learn to live beyond force, kindness all around.

Grateful to be connected,

Erin

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