What is it, to stretch? I had the epiphany during a yoga session not long ago - to stretch is the essence of growth. To stretch, you have to go just beyond what is comfortable in order to reach a goal. To stretch is to move towards something, not to run away. You must be persistent, and endure, to make what isn't comfortable today part of your comfort zone for tomorrow. It takes courage and strength to stretch both the body and the mind.
As for me, I am stretching towards becoming a compassionate samurai. The term is not my own - it comes from a book by Brian Klemmer titled The Compassionate Samurai. I normally devour books at record pace, but as slim a volume as it is, I had to digest that one slowly. A samurai is one who serves with honor, and there is a great deal that has been written about their ways and what it means to be samurai. Brian Klemmer's work is just one among many, but I like it because he writes about the mindset and the essential character traits of a samurai without focusing on the details that would not be practical in our society and culture. Brian Klemmer died this spring, but somehow I don't think he would mind me taking a bit of inspiration from his book in the title of my blog. One of his life goals was to help change the American culture to a more positive, more personally empowered, and more responsible version of itself, so I think it a fitting tribute that my blog is about doing the same for myself.
At the beginning of this year, I wouldn't have thought about any of this. While I have practiced yoga off and on since college, most of that time it has been "off" rather than "on". When I first picked up my practice again, I was doing it more for the physical aspect than the meditation and reflection. At the beginning of this year, I'm not sure that I really thought much, but rather felt and reacted to everything around me. We all have points in our lives where we know we are not being the best versions of ourselves, but feel powerless to turn things around. Times when we feel broken.
I am a firm believer in the power of grace, that no matter how broken we become, there is a way out. Sometimes the way out is hard, harder than staying broken, but ultimately worth the price. And sometimes, you are fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time, or have been able to hold on just long enough that someone offers you a lifeline. This year has been a little bit of all of that for me. I felt broken and powerless at the beginning, and stretch by stretch I am growing closer to the person I want to be.
This is a blog of journeys and reflections, of getting knocked down seven times and getting up eight...of stretching towards a higher self and learning how to serve with honor, grace, and joy.