I love the word ‘supple’. Supple, supple, supple! It’s beautiful to say and it strongly holds the vibration of its meaning – fluid, graceful, strong, responsive, adaptable. Suppleness is a powerful state to maintain physically, and brings with it a flexibility and resilience and protection from injury. The physical attribute of suppleness is probably the most common association with the word. When I hear ‘supple’ I think of the skin on a baby’s tummy, or those amazing yogis, who seem to congregate on Instagram, and can smile whilst upside down with their legs wrapped twice around their necks. Super-naturally-supple!
Suppleness is also a powerful and necessary state to maintain mentally, emotionally and spiritually as well. Without a fluid, graceful responsiveness to our inner practice and the expansion that it brings in our perspectives and engagement with self and life, we can get stuck in resistance rather than adapting in growth. Becoming supple and maintaining a supple outlook, in my experience, is key, because life and the spiritual path is fluid and moving. It is energy in motion. It’s a flow. As the creative and spiritual practitioner Arnaud Desjardins once wrote so beautifully:
Life is movement.
The more life there is, the more flexibility there is.
The more fluid you are, the more you are alive.
Becoming supple and maintaining suppleness within, just like with our physical bodies, requires some focus and chosen action. We need to stretch before and after exercise, just as we need to engage an attitude and actions that support suppleness in our inner world. There are many ways to achieve this, and regular meditation is one of the most effective supporters of sustained-suppleness. Here’s why:
The more we draw our state into present awareness, we both strengthen our ability to do so, and we experience the difference between our thoughts and feelings, and our true centre of awareness which is the observer and host to our thoughts and feelings. This present clarity, with regular meditation practice, becomes our default state. A pause-point is established between the front-face of what we’re experiencing and how we engage with it. Instead of patterned reaction, we are able to respond to experiences with discernment and choice – this is mindfulness. We are then able to witness the tight beliefs and perspectives that have us ninja-kicking our lives rather than responding to them for growth. That true centre of awareness and pause point establish relatively quickly with regular practice and the intent to become supple.
Our clever neuro-scientists have observed and measured that the brain physically shape-shifts with regular meditation. Amongst the five notable physical changes to the brain that occur through regular meditation, is the rebuilding of the left hippocampus. This lovely little neuro-zone is responsible for memory and also our ability to take on new ideas and perspectives – it’s a suppleness-centre of the mind.
Regular meditators also use more of their brain-power for enquiry, problem solving and creative thinking. Deeper states of meditation (which are achievable in a relatively short time with regular daily practice) alter brainwave states to longer pulses and bring the two hemispheres of the brain into coherence. The science peeps observe that regular meditators are more able to utilise both the capacities of their left and right brains depending on the task at hand – in essence work with both their intuitive and intellectual aspects, at once – supple brain vibes and fluidity of function. Nice!
Regular meditators are shown to have less stress hormone in their bloodstreams, which relates to less held tensions in muscles and tissues, a deeper more nourishing natural breath, stronger immune function and slowed aging. The easing of the continued state of ‘high vigilance’ that stress induces also eases tension within our digestive tracks giving the system access to our naturally-produced chemicals responsible for supple feelings of joy, satisfaction, pain relief and our ability to pull up our mood when flat, anxious or angry…you could call them our supple-juices!
So, what if you haven’t found your way to meditation or you’re still working on establishing a regular meditation practice? Here are a few of my tried and trusted ‘hacks to inner hardness’:
Supple body, supple mind
Our mind/body/energy system is one integrated self-organising system. What we do to affect one aspect, affects the whole. When feeling contracted states in the mind or emotions, a wonderful way to ease-in suppleness across the whole inner field is to work with the body. Drink more fluids, stretch more, try softer long-hold asanas like Yin Yoga, take massages that lengthen and ease tightness in the limbs, slow the more intense exercise down to gentle strolling outside or swimming through water and practice breathing techniques that open the airways and lengthen and soften the breath. All of these actions steep the body into a vibration of strength, balance and expansion, and that vibration floods the mental, emotional, pranic fields as well.
Becoming supple doesn’t necessarily mean that our life experience becomes free of challenging situations or people (although in my observation it certainly makes for far less of them). Becoming supple is all about how we respond to life. Hurt, anger, defensiveness, needing ‘to be right’, shame and guilt are some of the greatest anti-supple vibrations we can hold and they are all reactive. They are dense low vibrations which can linger in the system and when long-held can incarnate into our cells. A wonderful way to allow these dense reactive vibrations to ‘pass through’ the system and not take hold, is to convert them. It requires some self-awareness, but it works. Any time you find yourself in a situation that is triggering within contracting hard feelings, rather than become defensive and attack the person or experience that is triggering said feelings, turn in the other direction and immediately express a small and meaningful act of kindness for another. It’s so simple, but it’s brilliant. It stops the retaliatory ninja-kick, and allows the harsh energy of the situation to dissipate immediately. Supple-conversion softens the perception that things are happening to us and expands the state into a perception that they are happening for us. Supple Conversion short-circuits victimhood and creates enough inner space for us to find clarity around the inner edge that the experience is tripping. It’s a simple and graceful manoeuvre of energy conversion into suppleness.
Lay it down
It’s the more ancient origins of words that so often hold some magical keys. There are various probable origins of the word Supple in Latin, but they all provide wisdom as to how to become supple. Sub – under, Placare – quiet and soothe, Placere – please and appease, Plicare – to fold, or, in other words…
fold yourself quietly underneath and soothe and appease the mind and heart.
Goals and expectations are of course necessary in life, but can also be a two-edged sword. So often our linear drive for success or results can bind us into non-supple states, especially when it comes to our inner practice. I wrote about this recently in my article ‘The Meditation Pill’. Often those well-meaning desires to help or give great advice to a friend in need can do the same. It’s a wonderful practice in suppleness to lay these desires and expectations down regularly. When connecting with friends, especially if they are sharing their story, challenges or grievances a far more powerful service is your presence. Standing as a witness to a friend in need and holding space for their expression, without the need to advise or ‘fix’ can be deeply healing. Dropping expectations for new experiences and taking them as they are, allows for a much deeper engagement and receipt of what they have to offer us. And certainly, day to day, whether that be in meditation, or time in nature and with the self, try to create small regular windows just to be – with no agenda, no goal in mind, no desired outcome. For many of us, this can be tricky and it helps to give yourself licence to be. When I run in the mornings for example, I will say to myself as I set out, ‘for the next hour I Am.’ That intent is usually enough for me to fold under my thoughts, feelings, and desires for anything, other than to be with the moment, in presence with myself, just for the sake of it. These small windows open up a whole new state of vibration and wonder and steep us deeply into a supple state. Give it a try and you’ll find yourself becoming more and more supple.
For further guidance on anything that resonates in this article send me a supple email at [email protected] and I will supplely respond!
Originally published at themeditationteacher.net