Here’s an experiment:
Reach up as high as you can. Breathe deeply for a moment or two and feel the stretch along your ribs and down your back.
Then stretch your arms to the side, spreading your fingers wide, feeling the space that creates in your shoulders. Breathe from your belly if you can.
Reach behind you, as far as you’re able, feeling the changes that makes in your torso and neck. Go slowly and breathe.
What does that feel like?
How long has it been since you stretched like that?
Have you lost range of motion? Were you twitchy or pained in places?
Did it feel better than you expected?
Most of us tend to avoid our edges. We don’t test our limits or explore our boundaries. Out of habit and comfort we stay close in, in the ways of moving and speaking and being that feel the most familiar.
When we don’t reach for our edges at least once in a while, our mobility – and our world – begins to shrink.
The edges in our lives go beyond the physical.
There are conversational edges. If you pay attention to the conversations you have in an average day or week, you may be surprised (or distressed) to realize that you’re having essentially the same conversation over and over again. The scheduling conversation with your spouse. The status report with your colleagues. The gossip over coffee.
Even our internal conversations tend to get stuck in a rut. We circle mentally around the same fears, self-criticisms or goals day in and day out.
There are experience edges: the adventures that challenge us to do something we’re not quite sure we can do. Some of us thrive at that daring edge, but many of us avoid the experiences that push us out of our comfort zones.
These edges are uncomfortable because they explore the frontier between who we are and who we are not. It can be discouraging to realize what you’re not capable of… and terrifying to realize what you are.
The edges challenge us to navigate the spaces between discomfort and pain. What is difficult and uncomfortable versus what is painful and wrong? This is murky territory.
When we stretch our bodies, we retain and grow our flexibility. We learn to take up space in new ways and find our bodies moving with greater ease and sense of possibility. When we stretch our thoughts, a similar thing can happen to our outlook.
If today is a good day to do this, try the stretching exercise again. Reach. Breath deeply. As you feel your muscles stretching and gradually loosening, notice what it does to your mind as well to your spirit. Do you feel more energized? More relaxed? More centered?
This physical stretch can help us get to a mental state where we can dare to have a new conversation. To try on a new identity. To challenge entrenched assumptions. When we reach our hands wide, we open our hearts, giving ourselves the courage to explore the edges.
Photo taken by me with a Nikon DSLR.
Hat tip to David Whyte for the idea of “conversational frontiers.”