I want to unfold. I don’t want to stay folded anymore, because where I am folded, there I am a lie.*
(Rainer Maria Rilke)
Capacity is a function of one’s ability to expend and recover energy.**
(Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz)
We simply do not know the limits of our capacity for life. As Joseph Campbell points out, there’s a good reason for exploring our lives to their limits, whatever they be:
We save the world by being alive.^
We unfold and extend our capacity through rituals of expending and recovering energy – I’ll come back to this. Seth Godin makes me think some more about rituals when he writes about the power of the stories we tell ourselves:
The last time we took action on an idea, extended ourselves for a friend, and perhaps encouraged ourselves to launch a new project–these happened because the story worked.^^
When we create a ritual we are shaping a story of how we want things to be rather than how they are. Rituals are not the main story but smaller stories that help us get to where we want to be. A ritual of going to the gym is a story about wanting to be fitter, a ritual of reading may grow our emotional awareness, a ritual of study will increase our knowledge, and a ritual of reflection means we can more readily connect our inner and outer worlds.
Seeing rituals as stories means we can have some fun with them – hard work but we can be very creative; Godin continues:
And it’s possible to tell a better story.^^
These little stories act like yeast in our lives, expanding who we are:
To build capacity, we must push beyond our normal limits […].**
To do this in a wholesome or holistic way, we must notice how our capacity has physical, emotional, mental and spiritual dimensions.*^ When each of these are being developed then we are able to free ourselves from damaging linearity into healthy oscillation – the name Loehr and Schwartz give to expending and recovery.^* The pair warn that we often under-expend our physical and spiritual dimensions while over-expending our emotional and mental – linearity in one dimension affects all dimensions.
We know that we never arrive at a once-and-for-all state for any of these dimensions. Each day brings new challenges that can push us into over- or under-expending. Our rituals, though, prepare us for this and also help us to notice and respond more quickly when something threatens.
Why not take a few minutes and create an overview of your rituals for developing physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually? Don’t make it heavy. Playfulness and kindness are key to this. Where you’re lacking, explore new possibilities (incrementally); where you’re stale, add some freshness.
(*Rainer Maria Rilke, quoted in Anne Lamott’s Hallelujah Anyway.)
(**From Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz’s The Power of Full Engagement.)
(^Joseph Campbell, quoted in Keri Smith’s The Wander Society.)
(^^From Seth Godin’s blog: What’s your story?)
(*^Loehr and Schwartz attribute different characteristics to the four dimensions of capacity: physical energy contributes quantity; emotional, quality; mental, focus; and spiritual, force.)
(^*After allowing yeast to increase the capacity of the dough, it needs to be kneeded, before setting off again.)