Practice of the Week
Adapted from Rick Hanson, Just One Thing.
To make your way in life -- to enjoy the beautiful things it offers, to steer clear of hazards and protect yourself and others, and find friendship and love -- you need strength. Not chest-thumping pushiness, but determination and grit.
Strength comes in many forms, including endurance, losing on the little things in order to win on the big ones, and restraint. For example, if you want to move a boat at the edge of a dock, don't run into it with a big smash; you'll just hurt yourself. Instead, stand on the edge of the dock, put your hand on the boat, and lean into it. Strength keeps leaning.
Inner strength is not all or nothing. You can build it, just like a muscle.
Mental strength draws on physical health, which is fueled by:
- eating protein at every meal;
- taking vitamin and mineral supplements daily;
- exercising several times a week;
- setting aside seven to nine hours a day for sleep;
- using intoxicants in moderation or not at all; and
- addressing and resolving chronic health problems, even seemingly mild ones.
Make a list of your strengths, such as intelligence, honesty, bearing pain, natural talents, recognizing good in others, or just surviving. Be accurate -- not unfairly self-critical. Recognizing your strengths will help you feel stronger. If it's appropriate, ask someone what he or she thinks some of your strengths are.
Think about some of the good things you use your strengths for, such as earning a living, raising a family, growing as a person, or making our world better. Tell yourself, It is good for me to be strong. My strength helps good things happen. Good people want me to be strong; anyone who wants me to be weak is not on my side. Notice any beliefs that it is bad to be strong . . . and then turn your attention back to the good reasons for being strong.
To increase your sense of strength, recall times you felt strong. (For me, many of these have involved standing up for others, or physical activities like hiking in wilderness.) What did your body feel like then? What was your posture, point of view, or intention? Explore embodying strength right now: maybe lifting your chin, widening your stance, or breathing deeply. Take in these physical sensations and attitudes of strength so you can tap into them again.
Notice how good it feels to be strong. Feel the pleasure in your body, perhaps a quiet fierceness and resolve. Enjoy the confidence that strength brings, the sense of possibility. Appreciate how your strength empowers your caring, protectiveness, and love.
Tell yourself that you are strong. That you can endure, persist, cope, and prevail. That you are strong enough to hold your experience in awareness without being over¬whelmed. That the winds of life can blow, and blow hard, but you are a deeply rooted tree, and winds just make you even stronger.
And when they are done blowing, there you still stand. Offering shade and shelter, flowers and fruit. Strong and lasting.
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