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Stretching Just Beyond
Just beyond yourself.
It’s where you need to be.
– David Whyte (opening lines to Just Beyond Yourself poem from The Bell and The Blackbird book)
One of my previous doctors had a few clever phrases on the secret of life:
Motion is lotion.
Flexibility is the fountain of youth.
Clearly, movement and stretching indeed make our bodies feel and work better. But it wasn’t until I read Whyte’s poem that I realized these two powerful yet simple phrases on motion and flexibility apply to our mental health and creative efforts.
I’ve read, as I’m sure most have, about the innocence of children and their capacity for openness, for being unfettered when learning, playing, or creating. Yet too soon, the adult-controlled world replaces those early freedoms with conformity and rigidity. Only later in life do we realize the impact of imposed constraints and censorships. For some, it’s a breakthrough moment when they finally realize the need to move these mental set points and stretch to break free from creative constraints. More from Whyte:
Half a step into self-forgetting
and the rest restored by what you’ll need.
There is a road always beckoning.
Throughout our adult lives, there are hints: “think outside the box,” “take the road less traveled,” “get outside your comfort zone,” etc. Many ignore these subtle signposts along the way until an epiphany reveals the new obvious: to go forward, I have to let go; to improve I have to stretch and reach just beyond myself.
Our comfort with whom and what we are is not an easy habit to break. But break we must, to stretch ourselves in new ways and in fresh places until we’re where we know in our hearts we should be.