I’m back from a week in the sun: tan, relaxed, and ready.
Remember the craze when everyone was getting their colors done? I never got mine because I didn’t feel the need to pay money to be told that I was a summer. I already knew it. I was born a Summer.
In summer, I come alive. The shoes come off, the hair gets blonder and wilder, (even wilder than usual,) and I feel lean, energized, and carefree. The tent comes out of the closet for some backyard campouts and I putter around my garden for hours on end. I can feel the heat in my body and it flushes me with sensation. I feel strong.
Summer is the season of fire; it is the season of transformation, of moving forward and stepping out of our comfort zone. It is when we build inner heat and power. It is the season of strength.
But what is strength?
Webster’s dictionary defines strength as:
- Having great physical power
- Having moral or intellectual power
- Having great resources (such as wealth or talent)
Yes, in yoga asana practice we work to strengthen the physical body. Each part of our body over time becomes much stronger. So, if I do yoga for many years does that make me a strong person? By the dictionary definition—yes, it does. But I think strength goes so much deeper than that. I think that the toning of our core, being able to hold plank or crow for a minute, or pop up into handstand, is simply a means to find our inner strength.
It’s a path to give us the confidence, focus, and inner knowing that if we can hold ourselves up physically, we can take that off the mat into real life where the challenges are so much greater.
So what does it mean to be strong?
Let me offer some of my definitions:
1. Fully allow your emotions.
We are always told to be strong when difficult things happen – but that usually means acting stoic and keeping the emotions at bay. But what takes much greater strength is to flow with them. Sorrow, anger, fear, desire. They are all a part of each and every one of us and they are neither good nor bad. They are what make us human. Being strong does not mean you don’t have fear, (in fact, you might even have more,) but you move toward it and not away. Being strong does not mean you don’t cry, (that would be unhealthy), and you may actually cry more to let out stored sorrow so there is more room for joy. Being strong doesn’t mean you can’t express anger, but it does mean realizing that the anger is a part of you and has absolutely nothing to do with anyone else. Now that takes strength.
2. Let others see you.
Being you and not what others expect or want from you is not easy. We usually feel that “me” is not quite good enough, so we wear our many masks to better ourselves up. Better mom, better spouse, better worker. We’re afraid that if others saw us exactly as we are, they may not love us. But we are absolutely at our most beautiful when we are ourselves. We glow in our natural state. We are each perfect.
3. Admit when you are wrong.
I have always struggled with this one. I like to be right. But being right in life does not win you any prizes. It takes much more courage to see and allow other people’s view, without the constant need to try to change them. A work in progress for me.
And I don’t mean take a vacation. Relax at every moment that it occurs to you. Soften the breath. Let go of the jaw. Melt the muscles. And the hardest time to do this is when life is confronting you face to face in the forms of someone angry, an unexpected traffic jam when you are late, or less cash coming in this month than expected. Reacting is easy. We are quite good at that. But it takes incredible strength not to react, but to relax.
5. Be vulnerable.
Send out love all of the time—giving without expectation. Take chances.
6. Trust your inner voice.
Your intuition. Living from this place without the need to have everything confirmed by an “expert” or proven in a lab. Doing what feels right. Asking the Universe for guidance and being willing to move forward with its answer.
7. Be flexible.
Strength in its standard definition can make us tight. It can be a contraction of muscles and emotions. When our body or mind are inflexible, our lives can quickly follow behind. We end up wanting things to be a certain way and muscling through when they aren’t the way we imagined. When we are flexible we flow with the twists and turns of life effortlessly. Instead of a clear line of sight from here to there, we allow some meandering along curved paths because deep inside we know we will get there. Besides, the fun is in the unexpected curves!
8. Look people right in the eye.
Not for the faint hearted. But when you have inner strength you are ready to share it with others.
9. Not always trying so hard.
Spend more time being.
And finally, have complete and utter trust in life.
This is the one that all of the others above stem from. To me, true strength is when you know—just know without any doubt—that everything is ok. That you can lie back and close your eyes knowing that the Universe is a benevolent being of which you are one unique beautiful spark.
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Assistant Ed: Jade Belzberg/Ed: Bryonie Wise