What's The Next Step? Stretching My Body and My World

What's The Next Step? Stretching My Body and My WorldPhoto: Hisakuni Fujimoto (CC 2.0)

I've always believed that we can learn from others' mistakes. And of course, the opposite is obviously true, we learn from others' experiences as well. However, just because something is good for someone, or works for one person, doesn't necessarily mean that the exact same thing will work for you.

Diet is a good example of that. Some people can't tolerate wheat or gluten, while others seem to be completely unaffected by it. One person's allergy is another one's treat. Weather is another example. Some people enjoy winter with the snow and cold crisp air, while others wait longingly for the days of spring and roses. There is no "one size fits all" for what works for us.

However, since we can learn from others' experiences, I will share what works for me and also what I'm stretching towards.

Stretching Physically

A few years ago, I realized that my body was starting to feel "less limber". I would feel it first thing in the morning when I got up. It would come back to my awareness later during the day as I'd bend down to feed the dog and would experience my back feeling stiff and achy.

Not being one to accept no for an answer, and since I saw my body's lack of flexibility as a way it was saying no to my staying active and pain-free, I started searching for ways to combat this rigidity of body. I refused to accept the common opinion of "oh, well, I'm just getting older". While I may be gaining a year in age every year like everyone else, I refuse to become "older" in behavior and health. So I decided to find an alternative.

Having an aversion to exercise and also a resistance to "having to do something in a specific way", I shunned away from yoga and even zumba. However, what I realized while watching the dog do his habitual 4-leg-stretch every time he got up, was that stretching might be the way for me to go.

I started on a daily stretching routine. First I took out the yoga mats and did stretches as soon as I got out of bed. However, when winter arrived and it was a bit chilly in the morning, I started doing my stretches in bed under the covers. This quickly became my favorite way of stretching. It fit my resistant attitude towards "having to get up and exercise" as I was still technically laying in bed, but, I was also stretching. Ah, a win-win situation.

I now do a daily "wake-up" routine of about 1/2 hour of stretching in bed, starting off with leg stretches on my back, then rolling over and moving to downward dog type of stretches and then sitting up under the covers and doing spinal twists. I also do a short hand massage, and sometimes also a foot massage.

So basically I do my stretches before getting up and consequently get up out of bed feeling spry and limber and don't feel "my age" at all. I actually don't mind waking up a 1/2 hour earlier since I feel so much better after that 1/2 hour.

Stretching Mentally

I then realized that I needed to stretch my mind just as well, as it also seemed to be slowing down and tripping on itself. I had been doing Sudoku for a while and once I discovered Sudoku apps, that was even better. No need for paper or pencil.

Then I started doing some of the Luminosity brain games (AARP also has some) and found that I enjoyed the stimulation and the "competition against myself" of striving to get a better score day after day.

I've also started stretching my mind by reading things that I would not have previously enjoyed reading and discovering more about the world around me.

Once I got into this "stretching mindset" I decided to look and see where else it could be applied.

Stretching Boundaries

I currently live in a part of Florida where the residents have been referred to as "rednecks". To clarify, these are people who would say that liberal, feminist, environmentalist are all dirty words, or at least utter them like they are something very undesirable. The county I live in voted Republican 5 to 1 in 2016. This led me to realize that this was another area where I needed to stretch my boundaries and stop looking at life as "us" or "them".

I've been attending a monthly gardening club and while it probably also represents the same 5 to 1 ratio, the women are very nice and kind and helpful. When we discuss taking care of our plants, everyone is on the same page (well, perhaps not when it comes to Round-Up, but hey, no one's perfect). We enjoy learning more about plants and our local area even if our political leanings, or religious beliefs are not exactly the same. There is still plenty of common ground that we can build upon.

And perhaps we can all stretch our boundaries in our actions as well. In the past decades, baby boomers have gone from the activism of the 60s to the nonchalance of the 70s and forward. Each of us has found our niche, whether it was in home decorating and raising of children, or in going out to earn a living and become successful by breaking through glass ceilings, or in sharing our talents in the healing arts or publishing world. Some joined quilting circles, others volunteered at the local SPCA, or food bank.

However, perhaps now we need to stretch beyond our niche group, our particular pet cause, and take on a greater cause, one that affects the greater good. It has been said that we, the baby boomers, were the "me generation", and yes this is true. This is because we had to first learn to love and accept ourselves before we could love and accept others.

The New Testament says, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself". What is not usually understood is the "as thyself" part. The "me" generation had to first learn to love themselves. And now we're at Part Two of the directive and that is: Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself.

We need to stretch our boundaries from loving only our own family and circle of friends and those who think like us, to loving our neighbors whether they are loving neighbors or not. And in this modern world with the internet removing all distances between us, our neighbor is as close as anyone anywhere on this planet.

So, I encourage all of us to ask ourselves, What can I do today and everyday to love my neighbor? The action we take can be in many forms and since each one of us is unique, it will vary with each one of us. The same question can be rephrased to, How can I make a difference?

Stretching Our Goals

We need to stretch the boundaries of what well-being and success mean for us... and stretch our goals to include our neighbors worldwide. We are all connected, and the healing and well-being of one is dependent and affected by the healing and well-being of all.

It is time to move from the "taking care of myself and my loved ones" to taking care of the whole planet and the health and well-being of people who we may never have met of but are still connected to. We can be the butterfly whose wings start a tsunami of change and awakening and healing in this troubled world we live in.

A moving example of this was the Women's marches of January 21st, 2017 in which women (and men and children) worldwide marched in support of the Washington DC march. While they might not be directly affected by the rights of Americans, they marched in solidarity. That is recognizing that our neighbor is anywhere and everywhere on the planet.

Let's strive to always ask ourselves in every situation we encounter, what would Jesus do, or what would Buddha do, or what would the most loving and enlightened part of me do? Let's stretch who we are from the "I'm just one person, what can I do" to I'm part of humanity and I have a job to do.

Happy stretching to us all!

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About The Author

Marie T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.

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