Limitation is defined as; a bound, a restriction. In our present day culture, we are faced with limitations all the time. In both our personal and professional worlds, we live in a maze of due dates, physical restrictions, rules, laws and unspoken boundaries. These limitations are sometimes imposed by us, but more often than not, they are imposed upon us by culture, history, religion, society, family and other institutions. Whether or not we agree with certain restrictions, there are sometimes grave consequences for trespassing or ignoring them. Limitations can serve to make us feel safe and ordered, but they can also make us feel suffocated, controlled and stressed.
Many times, we approach these limitations from opposite ends. Either we sit comfortably and complacently behind these restrictions, too afraid or too apathetic to question them, or else we blow through them with defiance and anger, usually reaping personal consequences and conflict.
The purpose of restrictions is to keep things ordered and effective for a determined outcome. Even our physical limitations make it possible for us to move with strength and speed. But is it possible that our limitations, self-imposed or not, can have a higher purpose of teaching us something? Of setting our spirits free?
Buddhists traditionally practice a form of self-discipline using established rules or precepts. Gaining mastery over oneself and one’s desires is seen as a step along the road to enlightenment, to freeing the self. Similarly, other religions such as Christianity and Islam have teachings centered around self-discipline. These restrictions are a means to perfecting the soul and becoming closer to Divinity.
In our daily lives, limitations and restrictions can cause us to feel insecure when we don’t meet them, suffocated when we feel pinned down by them and angry or helpless when we feel they are unjust or ineffective. They bring up raw emotions within us; material for self-awareness. Our relationship to restrictions is an indication as to what we are called to work on in our personal development.
In yoga, physical limitations often bring up emotional restrictions. Insecurity, frustration, anger, disappointment, shame. This is the material to be worked on in a yoga practice. Carefully, intentionally and kindly noticing these restrictions, exploring our “edges,” becoming curious and self aware of our own experience. Yoga teaches us to respect these edges, yet to explore them and possible move them slowly over time. It is only with complete awareness, patience and acceptance of our restrictions that we can learn to expand them.
This week ask yourself what restrictions you may be fighting in your life right now. What limitations are you being asked to explore and accept in order to do the higher work of moving your spirit?
As the summer begins to fade into the arms of autumn, I estimate the number of sunny days I will have left to run in the sublime. For me, running is especially enthralling in the summer. The wide open spaces that are extended with endless sky, the warm air cushioning your muscles, the smell and sounds of life all around you. I run because I feel like part of something much larger than myself.
This feeling is not mine alone. It is shared in the testimony of countless runners, bikers, hikers, kayakers etc. Can it really just be the bouts of epinephrine that keep us coming back for more? Or is it something much larger than that? Something physical. Something emotional. Something spiritual.
“His gut kept telling him that there was some kind of connection between the capacity to love and the capacity to love running,” writes Christopher McDougall in the book Born to Run, “…both depended on loosening your grip on your own desires, putting aside what you wanted and appreciating what you got, being patient and forgiving and undemanding.” McDougall explains that running feels so good because it is what our ancestors used to do. It was our communion with the earth. It was our way of participating in this great world and this cycle of life. “Perhaps all our troubles – all the violence, obesity, illness, depression and greed we can’t over come – began when we stopped living as Running People.”
Psychological research has come up with lists of good reasons to run. Improve your mental health by lacing up those tennis shoes. Memory, relationships, blood pressure, and positive thinking are just a few of the things that exercise has proven to nurture. Can it really be that simple? Take a jog and improve your quality of life? The statistics say yes…but why?
In this age of technology, civilization and national security is it possible that we’re so removed from our primitive roots and impulses, that exercise becomes a reminder of that ancient type of existence? A portal into a realm that exists beyond thought, and allows us, or forces us, to use all aspects of the self; physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. A period of time where we are in each grueling moment. Seconds seem like minutes and then vanish. We are suddenly interconnected with everything around us. The ground we are navigating, the air on our skin, the sweat on our back, the people we pass and weave around, the hawk that bursts out in front of us, the hot sun on our faces. We are a part of something much larger, much safer, much more eternal. This burst of intuition gives birth to energy and hopefulness.
My run is over. I feel satisfied, renewed, whole. Not because I willed my limbs to carry me swiftly for four miles, but because I surrendered to the engulfing arms of the universe.
The Spirit of Therapy
Where psychotherapy interacts with our mental, emotional, spiritual, physical and relational wellbeing.