Inflexible Me: Expanding Past the Inflexible Barriers of the Body, Mind, and Soul


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Awareness is the greatest alchemy there is.

I know, I have been swimming in them. All the gods sculpted of wood or ivory can't say a word. I know, I have been crying out to them. The Sacred Books of the East are nothing but words. I looked through their covers one day sideways. What Kabir talks about is only what he has lived through. If you have not lived through something, it is not true. Why should we two ever want to part? Just as the leaf of the water rhubarb lives floating on the water, we live as the great one and little one. As the owl opens his eyes all night to the moon, we live as the great one and little one.

This love between us goes back to the first humans; it cannot be annihilated. Here is Kabir's idea: as the river gives itself into the ocean, what is inside me moves inside you. Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive.


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Jump into experience while you are alive! What you call "salvation" belongs to the time before death. If you don't break your ropes while you're alive, do you think ghosts will do it after? The idea that the will join with the ecstatic just because the body is rotten -- that is all fantasy.

What is found now is found then. If you find nothing now, you will simply end up with an apartment in the City of Death. If you make love with the divine now, in the next life you will have the face of satisfied desire. So plunge into the truth, find out who the Teacher is, Believe in the Great Sound!

Kabir says this: When the Guest is being searched for, it is the intensity of the longing for the Guest that does all the work. Look at me, and you will see a slave of that intensity. You know the sprout is hidden inside the seed. We are all struggling; none of us has gone far. Let your arrogance go, and look around inside. The blue sky opens farther and farther, The daily sense of failure goes away, The damage I have done to myself fades, A million suns come forward with light, When I sit firmly in that world.

Even after all these years the sun doesn't say "You owe me". Look what happens! The whole world lights up. The darkness of night is coming along fast, and the shadows of love close in the body and the mind.

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Open the window to the west, and disappear into the air inside you. Near your breastbone there is an open flower. Drink the honey that is all around that flower. Waves are coming in: there is so much magnificence near the ocean! Listen: Sound of big seashells! Sounds of bells! Kabir says: Friend, listen, this is what I have to say: the Guest I love is inside me! We Have not Come to Take Prisoners We have not come here to take prisoners But to surrender ever more deeply to freedom and joy. We have not come into this exquisite world to hold ourselves hostage from love.

Run, my dear, from anything that may not strengthen your precious budding wings,. Run like hell, my dear, from anyone likely to put a sharp knife into the sacred, tender vision of your beautiful heart. We have a duty to befriend those aspects of obedience that stand outside of our house and shout to our reason "o please, o please come out and play. For we have not come here to take prisoners, or to confine our wondrous spirits, But to experience ever and ever more deeply our divine courage, freedom, and Light!

How did the rose Ever open its heart And give to this world All its beauty? It felt the encouragement of light Against its being, Otherwise, We all remain Too frightened. What do Sad people have in Common? It seems They have all built a shrine To the past And often go there And do a strange wail and Worship. What is the beginning of Happiness? It is to stop being so religious Like that.

Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect. Why not become the one who lives with a full moon in each eye that is always saying, with that sweet moon language, what every other eye in this world is dying to hear? It happens all the time in heaven, and some day it will begin to happen again on earth.

That men and women who give each other light, often will get down on their knees, and with tears in their eyes, will sincerely speak, saying, "My dear, how can I be more loving to you; how can I be more kind? Now is the time Now is the time to know That all that you do is sacred. Now, why not consider A lasting truce with yourself and God?

Now is the time to understand That all your ideas of right and wrong Were just a child's training wheels To be laid aside When you can finally live with veracity and love. Now is the time for the world to know That every thought and action is sacred. That this is the time For you to compute the impossibility That there is anything But Grace. Now is the season to know That everything you do Is Sacred.

For the raindrop, joy is in entering the river- Unbearable pain becomes its own cure, Travel far enough into sorrow, tears turn into sighing; In this way we learn how water can die into air, When, after heavy rain, the storm clouds disperse, is it not that they've wept themselves clear to the end? If you want to know the miracle, how wind can polish a mirror, Look: the shining glass grows green in Spring. It's the rose's unfolding, Ghalib, that creates the desire to see- In every color and circumstance, may the eyes be open for what comes. How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses, who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.

Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us. So you must not be frightened, dear Mr. Kappus, if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloud-shadows, passes over your hands and over all you do.

You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall. The bud stands for all things, even for those things that don't flower, for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing; though sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness, to put a hand on its brow of the flower and retell it in words and in touch it is lovely until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing; as Saint Francis put his hand on the creased forehead of the sow, and told her in words and in touch blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow began remembering all down her thick length, from the earthen snout all the way through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail, from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine down through the great broken heart to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them: the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

A billion stars go spinning through the night, Blazing high above your head. But in you is the presence that Will be, when all the stars are dead. The hour is striking so close above me, so clear and sharp, that all my senses ring with it. I feel it now: there's a power in me to grasp and give shape to my world. I know that nothing has ever been real without my beholding it. All becoming has needed me. My looking ripens things and they come toward me, to meet and be met.

At night make me one with darkness. As long as it talks I am going to listen. Life and death: they are one, at core entwined. Who understands himself from his own strain presses himself into a drop of wine and throws himself into the purest flame. My life is not this steeply sloping hour, in which you see me hurrying. Much stands behind me: I stand before it like a tree: I am only one of my many mouths and at that, the one that will be still the soonest.

I am the rest between two notes, which are somehow always in discord because deaths note wants to climb over- but in the dark interval, reconciled, They stay here trembling. And the song goes on, beautiful. But in you is the presence that will be, when all the stars are dead. This laboring through what is still undone, as though, legs bound, we hobbled along the way, is like the awkward walking of the swan. And dying-to let go, no longer feel the solid ground we stand on every day- is like anxious letting himself fall.

Ranier Marie Rilke, Translated by Stephen Mitchell Quiet friend who has come so far, feel how your breathing makes more space around you. Let this darkness be a bell tower and you the bell. As you ring,. Move back and forth into the change. What is it like, such intensity of pain? If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine. In this uncontainable night, be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses, the meaning discovered there. And if the world has ceased to hear you, say to the silent earth: I flow. To the rushing water, speak: I am. This clumsy living that moves lumbering as if in ropes through what is not done, reminds us of the awkward way the swan walks.

And to die, which is the letting go of the ground we stand on and cling to every day, is like the swan, when he nervously lets himself down into the water, which receives him gaily and which flows joyfully under and after him, wave after wave, while the swan, unmoving and marvelously calm, is pleased to be carried, each moment more fully grown, more like a king, further and further on. I love the dark hours of my being. My mind deepens into them. There I can find, as in old letters, the days of my life, already lived, and held like a legend, and understood.

Then the knowing comes: I can open to another life that's wide and timeless. I 'm nobody! Who are you? Are you nobody, too? Then there 's a pair of us-don't tell! They 'd banish us, you know. How dreary to be somebody! How public, like a frog To tell your name the livelong day To an admiring bog! I have a feeling that my boat Has struck, down there in the depths, Against a great thing. And nothing happens! Nothing…Silence…Waves… --Nothing happens? Or has everything Happened, And are we standing now, quietly, in the new life? I am not I. The one who remains silent when I talk, The one who forgives, sweet, when I hate, The one who takes a walk when I am indoors, The one who will remain standing when I die.

You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet. The song I have come to sing remains unsung to this day. I have spent my life stringing and unstringing my instrument. The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers. It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth and of death in ebb and in flow. I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life and my joy is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment.

A human being is part of the whole, called by 'Universe'; a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of our consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.

Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. You shall be free indeed not when your days are without a care nor your nights without a want and a grief, but rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound.

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Ring the bells that can still ring, Forget your perfect offering, There is a crack in everything, That's how the light gets in. What a thing it is to sit absolutely alone, in the forest, at night, cherished by this wonderful, unintelligible, perfectly innocent speech, the most comforting speech in the world, the talk that rain makes by itself all over the ridges, and the talk of the watercourses everywhere in the hollows! Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it. It will talk as long as it wants, this rain. Be at peace with your own soul, Then heaven and earth will be at peace with you.

Enter eagerly into the treasure house that is within you, And you will see the things that are in heaven; For there is but one single entry to them both. The ladder that leads to the Kingdom in hidden within your soul Dive into yourself and in your soul you will discover The stairs by which to ascend. We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world. Speak or act with an impure mind And Trouble will follow you As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.

Speak or act with a pure mind and happiness will follow you As your shadow, unshakable. Meditation is not to escape from society, but to come back to ourselves and see what is going on. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. With mindfulness, we know what to do and what not to do to help.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, A cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, This is the best season of your life. I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

The journey is the accumulation of stillness. The union that I seek is not of my creation. The self I have created impedes union. Stillness must be learned, and the endless time in which I learn it is filled with doubts and desolations. Stillness often feels like abandonment. Why isn't Spirit communicating with me?

What have I done to deserve such a stony, cold silence? How do I avoid filling with new terrors the emptiness that terrifies me? We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time. Through the unknown, unremembered gate When the last of earth left to discover Is that which was the beginning; At the source of the longest river The voice of the hidden waterfall And the children in the apple-tree Not known, because not looked for But heard, half-heard, in the stillness Between two waves of the sea.

Quick now, here, now, always — A condition of complete simplicity Costing not less than everything And all shall be well and All manner of thing shall be well When the tongues of flame are in-folded Into the crowned knot of fire And the fire and the rose are one. Willing to experience aloneness, I discover connection everywhere; Turning to face my fear, I meet the warrior who lives within; Opening to my loss, I gain the embrace of the universe; Surrendering into emptiness, I find fullness without end. Each condition I flee from pursues me, Each condition I welcome transforms me And becomes itself transformed Into its radiant jewel-like essence.

I bow to the one who has made it so, Who has crafted this Master Game; To play it is purest delight - To honor its form, true devotion. The birds have vanished into the sky, and now the last cloud drains away. We sit together, the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains. And then let the Body think Of the Spirit as streaming, pouring, Rushing and shining into it from All sides while it stands quiet. Be gentle with yourself. Be kind to yourself. You may not be perfect, but you are all you've got to work with. The process of becoming who you will be begins first with the total acceptance of who you are.

Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth what you held in your hand, what you counted and carefully saved, all this must go so you know how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness. How you ride and ride thinking the bus will never stop, the passengers eating maize and chicken will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness, you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho lies dead by the side of the road. You must see how this could be you, how he too was someone who journeyed through the night with plans and the simple breath that kept him alive. Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow. All things are connected like the blood that unites us, We did not weave the web of life. We are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. This is what should be done By those who are skilled in goodness, And who know the path of peace: Let them be able and upright, Straightforward and gentle in speech. Humble and not conceited, Contented and easily satisfied. Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways. Peaceful and calm, and wise and skillful, Not proud and demanding in nature.

Let them not do the slightest thing That the wise would later reprove. Wishing: in gladness and safety, May all beings be at ease. Whatever living beings there may be; Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none, The great or the mighty, medium, short or small, The seen and the unseen, Those living near and far away, Those born and to-be-born — May all beings be at ease!

Let none deceive another, Or despise any being in any state.

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Let none through anger or ill-will Wish harm upon another. Even as a mother protects with her life Her child, her only child, So with a boundless heart Should one cherish all living beings; Radiating kindness over the entire world; Spreading upward to the skies, And downward to the depths; Outward and unbounded, Freed from hatred and ill-will. Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down, Free from drowsiness, One should sustain this recollection. This is said to be the sublime abiding. By not holding to fixed views, The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision, Being freed from all sense desires, Is not born again into this world.

Egocentricity is the process of wanting something other than what is. Egocentricity means there is an "I" who is separate from everything else and doesn't like it; one thing is happening, but I want a different thing to be happening. Egocentricity is that constant concern with how I feel, what I think, what I'm doing, what I want - looking at what is and seeing it as inadequate.

My identity is maintained by the struggle of wanting something other than what is; that is how I continue to know myself. This practice involves finding a willingness to suffer in order to end our suffering. Instead of spending our time trying to avoid suffering, we just find the willingness to go directly into it. Whenever anything causes us to suffer, we can know two things: suffering is the same as egocentricity, and when it arises, that is our best opportunity to end suffering.

As we open to our suffering, as we embrace it, as we accept it, our relationship to it changes. It is no longer something horrible, something to escape from.


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Suffering becomes just another opportunity, another chance for freedom. Please find out about that for yourself. They say if one understands himself, he understands all people. But I say to you, when one loves people, he learns something about himself. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions.

It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others".

Make the moment important, vital, and worth living. Do not let it slip away unnoticed and unused. Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom. I am of the nature to grow old. I cannot escape growing old. I am of the nature to have ill health. I cannot escape having ill health. I am of the nature to die. I cannot escape death. All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature of change.

I cannot escape being separated from them. My deeds are my closest companions. I am the beneficiary of my deeds. My deeds are the ground on which I stand. Generally speaking, we regard discomfort in any form as bad news. But for practitioners or spiritual warriors, people who have a certain hunger to know what is true, feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we are holding back.

They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we'd rather collapse and back away. They're like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we're stuck. This very moment s the perfect teacher, and lucky for us, it's with us wherever we are. Most of us do not take these situations as teachings. We automatically hate them. We run like crazy. We are use to all kinds of escaping - all addictions stem from this moment when we meet our edge and we just can't stand it. There are so many ways that have been dreamed up to entertain us away from the moment.

The pith instruction is, Stay Learning to stay with ourselves in meditation is like training a dog. If we train a dog by beating it, we'll end up with an obedient but very inflexible and rather terrified dog. The dog may obey when we say "Stay! By contrast, training with kindness results in someone who is flexible and confident, who doesn't become upset when situations are unpredictable and insecure. So whenever we wander off, we gently encourage ourselves to "stay" and settle down. Are we experiencing restlessness? Discursive mind? Are fear and loathing out of control?

Aching knees and throbbing back? What's for lunch? What am I doing here? I can't stand this another minute! That is how to cultivate steadfastness. There was a time when I could not sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of the head or hand. I love a broad margin to my life. Sometimes, in a summer morning having taken my accustomed bath. I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a reverie, amidst the pines and hickories and sumacs in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sang around or flirted noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the noise of some traveler's wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time.

I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance. I realized what the Orientals mean by contemplation and the forsaking of works. For the most part, I minded not how the hours went.

The day advanced as if to light some work of mine; it was morning, and lo, now it is evening, and nothing memorable is accomplished. Instead of singing, like the birds, I silently smiled at my incessant good fortune. As the sparrow had it's trill, sitting on the hickory before my door, so I had my chuckle or suppressed warble which he might hear our of my nest.

I know that we notice what we notice because of who we are. We create ourselves by what we chose to notice. Once this work of self-authorship has begun, we inhabit the world we have created. We self-seal. We don't notice anything except those things that confirm what we already think about who we already are. When we succeed in moving outside of our normal processes of self-reference and can look upon ourselves with self-awareness, then we have a chance at changing.

We break the seal. We notice something new. What does it mean to be mindful? It means to be fully aware right here, concentrating on what is going on inside. Mindfulness is not necessarily concentrating on an object. Being aware of confusion is also being mindful. If we have all kind of things coming at our senses--noises, people demanding this and that--we cannot concentrate on any one of them for very long. But we can be aware of the confusion, or the excitement, or the impingement; we can be aware of the reactions in our own minds.

That is what we call being mindful. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that we are here for the sake of each other - above all for those upon whose smile and well-being our own happiness depends, and also for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day I realize how much my own outer and inner life is built upon the labors of my fellow men [and women], both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.

I let go of the past. I withdrawal my grasping hand from the future. And in the great silence of the moment, I alertly rest my soul. WHEN I heard the learn'd astronomer; When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me; When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them; When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room, How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick; 5 Till rising and gliding out, I wander'd off by myself, In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.

The only safety lies in letting it all in — the wild and the weak; fear, fantasies, failures and success. And who will care, who will chide you if you wander away from wherever you are, to look for your soul? Quickly then get up, put on your coat, leave your desk! To sit down, like a weed among weeds, and rustle in the wind!

Don't worry about what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. Don't meditate to fix yourself, to heal yourself, to improve yourself, to redeem yourself; rather, do it as an act of love, of deep warm friendship to yourself. In this way there is no longer any need for the subtle aggression of self-improvement, for the endless guilt of not doing enough.

It offers the possibility of an end to the ceaseless round of trying so hard that wraps so many people's lives in a knot. Instead there is now meditation as an act of love. How endlessly delightful and encouraging. For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of our tasks; the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation. Your acceptance of what IS takes you to a deeper level where your inner state as well as your sense of self no longer depend on the mind's judgments of "good" or "bad.

When you say "yes" to the "isness" of life, when you accept this moment as it is, you can feel a sense of spaciousness within you that is deeply peaceful;. On the surface, you may still be happy when it's sunny and not so happy when it's rainy; you may be happy at winning a million dollars and unhappy at losing all your possessions.

Neither happiness nor unhappiness, however, go all that deep anymore. They are ripples on the surface of your Being. The background peace within you remains undisturbed regardless of the nature of the outside condition. The "yes" to what IS reveals a dimension of depth within you that in dependent neither on external conditions nor on the internal conditions of constantly fluctuating thoughts and emotions. Every time we take a breath, we become the universe.

The very moment of creation is contained in us and passes on to rocks and trees, animals and fish. The old ones say the essence of life is in water and wind, earth and breath, fire and bone, but most of all in breath, our first connection to the elk, the hawk, the bear, and the buffalo. Without breath, no connection. Without connection, no creation. Without creation, no breath. This is the sacred circle of life, unbroken. I got out of bed on two strong legs.

It might have been otherwise. I ate cereal, sweet milk, ripe, flawless peach. I took the dog uphill to the birch wood. All morning I did the work I love. At noon I lay down with my mate. We ate dinner together at a table with silver candlesticks. I slept in a bed in a room with paintings on the walls, and planned another day just like this day. But one day, I know, it will be otherwise. As light increases, We see ourselves, to be worse than we thought. We are amazed at our former blindness, As we see issuing forth, from the depths of our heart, a whole swarm of shameful feelings, Like filthy reptiles crawling from a hidden cave.

We never would have believed, that we had harboured such things, And we stand aghast, as we watch them gradually appear. But we must neither be amazed or disheartened. We are not worse, than we were; On the contrary, We are better. But while our faults diminish, The light by which we see them Waxes brighter, And we are filled with horror.

Bear in mind, For your comfort, That we only perceive our malady When the cure begins. I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.

In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. Don't change. Change is impossible, and even if it were possible, it is undesirable. Stay as you are. Love yourself as you are. And change, if it is at all possible, will take place by itself if and when it wants. Leave yourselves alone. The only growth-promoting change is that which comes from self-acceptance. What Is Our Deepest Desire? To be held this way in our mother's arms, to be nestled deep in the warmth of her body, her gaze, to be adored, to overwhelm her with our sweetness.

This is what we seek in chocolate, in the food and drink and drugs that stun the senses, that fill the veins with the rich cream of well being. What we take for lust —can it be, perhaps, a heavy pang of longing to be swaddled, close, close to the heartbeat of our mother? No bucket seats, Jaccuzi, or even a lover's embrace can duplicate this luxuriance, this centered place on the roiling planet.

When the old woman, small and light, can be carried in the arms of her son, he, at first, holds her tentatively, a foreign doll, but gradually, as the pool loses its ripples, he sees his face in hers and draws her to him, rocking to the rhythm of her breathing. This is the way to enter and leave the world. Try to be mindful, and let things take their course. Then your mind will become still in any surroundings, like a still forest pool.

All kinds of wonderful animals will come to drink at the pool, and you will clearly see the nature of all things. You will see many strange and wonderful things come and go, but you will be still. This is the happiness of the Buddha. Deep peace of the flowing air to you, Deep peace of the quiet earth to you, Moon and stars shine their healing light on you Deep peace, to you. The morning wind spreads its fresh smell.

We must get up and take that in, that wind that lets us live. Breathe, before it's gone. Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language.

Even the phrase each other doesn't make any sense. Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens. And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its rest- less tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered? Only when you drink form the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

And what you thought you came for Is only a shell, a husk of meaning From which the purpose breaks only when it is fulfilled If at all. Either you had no purpose Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured And is altered in fulfillment. I thought the earth remembered me, she took me back so tenderly, arranging her dark skirts, her pockets full of lichens and seeds.

I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed, nothing between me and the white fire of the stars but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths among the branches of the perfect trees. All night I heard the small kingdoms breathing around me, the insects, and the birds who do their work in the darkness.

All night I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling with a luminous doom. By morning I had vanished at least a dozen times into something better. If the angel deigns to come it will be because you have convinced her, not by tears but by your humble resolve to be always beginning; to be a beginner. Earth teach me stillness as the grasses are stilled with light. Earth teach me suffering as the old stones suffer with memory. Earth teach me humility as blossoms are humble with beginning. Earth teach me caring as the mother who succors her young. Earth teach me courage as the tree which stands all alone.

Earth teach me limitation as the ant which crawls on the ground. Earth teach me freedom as the eagle which soars in the sky. Earth teach me resignation as the leaves which die in the fall. Earth teach me generation as the seed which rises in the spring. Earth teach me to forget myself as melted snow forgets its life. Earth teach me to remember kindness as dry fields weep with rain. Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: The soul that rises with us, our life's star, Hath had elsewhere its setting, And cometh from afar; Not in entire forgetfulness, And not in utter nakedness, But trailing clouds of glory do we come.

Wage peace with your breath. Breathe in firemen and rubble, breathe out whole buildings and flocks of red wing blackbirds. Breathe in terrorists and breathe out sleeping children and freshly mown fields. Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees. Breathe in the fallen and breathe out lifelong friendships intact.

Wage peace with your listening: hearing sirens, pray loud. Remember your tools: flower seeds, clothes pins, clean rivers. Make soup. Play music, memorize the words for thank you in three languages. Learn to knit, and make a hat. Think of chaos as dancing raspberries, imagine grief as the outbreath of beauty or the gesture of fish. Swim for the other side. Wage peace. Never has the world seemed so fresh and precious: Have a cup of tea and rejoice.

Act as if armistice has already arrived. Celebrate today. Now we will count to twelve and we will all keep still. For once on the face of the earth, let's not speak in any language, let's stop for a second, and not move our arms so much. It would be an exotic moment without rush, without engines; we would all be together in a sudden strangeness….

If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving, and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves and of threatening ourselves with death. Perhaps the earth can teach us as when everything seems dead in winter and later proves to be alive. Now I'll count up to twelve and you keep quiet and I will go. Do not say that I will depart tomorrow because even today I still arrive. Look deeply: I arrive in every second to be a bud on a spring branch to be a tiny bird, with wings still so fragile learning to sing in my new nest to be a caterpillar in the heart of flower to be a jewel hiding itself in stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry, in order to fear and to hope, the rhythm of my heart is the birth and death of all that are alive. I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river, and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time to eat the mayfly. I am the frog swimming happily in the clear water of the pond, and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence, feeds itself on the frog. I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, my legs as thin as bamboo sticks, and I am the arms merchant selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the 12 year old girl, refugee on a small boat, who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate, and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving. I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands, and I am the man who has to pay his "debt of blood" to my people, dying slowly in a forced labour camp. My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life.

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My pain is like a river of tears, so full it fills up the four oceans. Please call me by my true names, so I can hear all my cries and my laughs at once, so I can see that my joy and pain are one. Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up, and so the door of my heart can be left open, the door of compassion. There is nothing to save, now all is lost, but a tiny core of stillness in the heart like the eye of a violet.

In the tug and pull of desire's grip I unravel Tattered shreds of a once regal robe fall away Nothing comes I ride out the battle with time and breath time and breath time and breath. Acceptance breezes in crafty sage that she is Wraps this heart in sumptuous golden silk Warms this heart to a trusting stillness, then. Darkness the keeper of light mystery the place of unfoldment surrender embracing bold faith. Fear believing we are lost fear believing we are separate fear forgetting that story is born of mystery. Love returning me to my heart love returning you to yours love all that is left to hold.

Hearing the silence still in the arms of expansive breath here among the shards of earth may all the tears. Awakening Now Danna Faulds Why wait for your awakening? Birthright Danna Faulds Despite illness of body or mind, in spite of blinding despair or habitual belief, who you are is whole. Walk Slowly Danna Faulds It only takes a reminder to breathe, a moment to be still, and just like that, something in me settles, softens, makes space for imperfection.

Allow Danna Faulds There is no controlling life. Let it Go Danna Faulds Let go of the ways you thought life would unfold: the holding of plans or dreams or expectations — Let it all go. Breaking All the Rules Danna Faulds There are moments when rules are meant to be broken; when bursting out of context is the sole way to see with new eyes. The Journey Mary Oliver One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice- though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles.

Lingering in Happiness Mary Oliver After rain after many days without rain, it stays cool, private and cleansed, under the trees, and the dampness there, married now to gravity, falls branch to branch, leaf to leaf, down to the ground where it will disappear — but not, of course, vanish except to our eyes. Wild Geese Mary Oliver You do not have to be good. Messenger Mary Oliver My work is loving the world. Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work, which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished. Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here, which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart and these body-clothes, a mouth with which to give shouts of joy to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam, telling them all, over and over, how it is that we live forever.

Toad Mary Oliver I was walking by. May Mary Oliver What lay on the road was no mere handful of snake. The Faces of Deer Mary Oliver When for too long I don't go deep enough into the woods to see them, they begin to enter my dreams. What I Have Learned So Far Mary Oliver Meditation is old and honorable, so why should I not sit, every morning of my life, on the hillside, looking into the shining world? Be ignited, or be gone. I guess She was so busy with her own happiness She had grown careless And was just wandering along Listening To the wind as she leaned down To lip up the sweetness.

So, there we were With nothing between us But a few leaves, and the wind's Glossy voice Shouting instructions. The deer Backed away finally And flung up her white tail And went floating off toward the trees - But the moment before she did that Was so wide and so deep It has lasted to this day; I have only to think of her - The flower of her amazement And the stalled breath of her curiosity, And even the damp touch of her solicitude Before she took flight- To be absent again from this world And alive, again, in another, For thirty years sleepy and amazed, Rising out of the rough weeds Listening and looking.

The Peace of Wild Things Wendell Berry When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. Grace Wendell Berry The Wood is shining this morning. The Real Work Wendell Berry It may be that when we no longer know what to do we have come our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go we have come to our real journey.

Being Watchful Wendell Berry As soon as I felt a necessity to learn about the non-human world, I wished to learn about it in a hurry. Love after Love Derek Walcott The time will come When with elation, you will greet yourself arriving at your own door in your own mirror, and each will smile at the other's welcome, and say, sit here.

Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you have ignored for another, who knows you by heart. Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes, peel your own image from the mirror. Enough David Whyte Enough. The night will give you a horizon further than you can see. You must learn one thing. The world was made to be free in. Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you. The Old Interior Angel David Whyte "One day the hero sits down, afraid to take another step, and the old interior angel limps slowly in with her no-nonsense compassion and her old secret and goes ahead.

Rumi Stay together, Friends. Rumi People are distracted by objects of desire, and afterwards repent of the lust they've indulged, because they have indulged with a phantom and are left even farther from Reality than before. Two Kinds of Intelligence Rumi There are two kinds of intelligence: One acquired, as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts from books and from what the teacher says, collecting information from the traditional sciences as well as from the new sciences.

Rumi Something opens our wings. Rumi Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. Rumi "Brother stand the pain; Escape the poison of your impulses. Rumi Today like every other day We wake up empty and scared. Rumi Everyone is overridden by thoughts; that's why they have so much heartache and sorrow. Rumi The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Rumi "The water seeks the thirsty as earnestly as the thirsty seeks the water.

The Guest House Rumi This being human is a guest-house. Rumi When I'm with you we stay up all night When you're not here I can't get to sleep Thank god for these two insomnias and the difference between them. Rumi Trust your wound to a teacher's surgery. Rumi Wonderer, worshipper, lover of leaving. Rumi The way of love is not a subtle argument. They rounded up a few athletes and tested their sprinting with and without a stretching regimen between sprints.

There are many possible mitigating factors here. The evidence is clear that stretching is generally pointless for enhancing performance, and possibly worse. Scientific reviews keep reporting the same conclusion. The late Mel Siff:. It is almost heretical to question this stretching doctrine, yet it is important to disclose that there is no research which proves categorically that there is any need for separate stretching sessions, phases or exercises to be conducted to improve performance and safety.

To appreciate this fact, it is useful to return to one of the clinical definitions of flexibility, namely that flexibility refers to the range of movement of a specific joint or group of anatomical tissues. Moreover, flexibility cannot be considered separate from other fitness factors such as strength and stamina.

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There is no real need to prescribe separate stretching exercises or sessions, since logically structured training should take every joint progressively through its full range of static and dynamic movement. In other words every movement should be performed to enhance flexibility, strength, speed, local muscular endurance and skill, so that separate stretching sessions then become largely redundant. That picture is quite likely to be exactly backwards. So is the anecdotal evidence that it can backfire. People who feel stiff and tight usually assume their range of motion is limited by literally short muscles, but this is rarely the case, despite how it feels.

Most stiffness is a sensation , a symptom, a kind of mild pain with movement rather than an actual limitation of movement. Even hypermobile people often feel stiff! Genuinely abnormal muscle tightness dystonia is much less common than the symptom of stiffness, but some milder dystonias probably do blend right in with other common aches and pains.

There are many possible causes of soreness and stiffness that stretching has little to do with: sensitization , and positional cervical cord compression and multiple level radiculopathy, vitamin D and magnesium deficiency, and non-obvious entrapment of nerves neuropathy and bloods vessels claudication. Several hard-to-diagnose diseases can involve long-term excessive aches and pains as a major symptom, such as the hypermobility disorders, facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy FSHD , and multiple sclerosis.

That is just a sampling; all of these and more are summarized in 34 Surprising Causes of Pain. If you have pain from any of these sources, stretching is quite unlikely to help. In some cases, it might be useful for symptom control, at best. Not one. Why do we so clearly get stiffer as we age? Even in people who have nothing in particular wrong with them, none of the many causes of aches and pains discussed above?

Our brains are more reluctant to allow free, quick movement of sore tissues. Stiffness is probably mainly a form of inhibition, then. Unfortunately, systemic inflammation cannot be diagnosed or treated reliably by any means: it is simply too complicated and mysterious. Nevertheless, it is a trendy bogeyman, and allegedly anti-inflammatory diets in particular are extremely popular. But the best defense is simply to be as fit and healthy as possible.

A study produced one scrap of evidence that stretching reduces inflammation in connective tissues. We do also have some relevant evidence that inflamed connective tissue is associated with back pain, 44 which is of course the epicentre of stiffness as we age although back pain actually backs off quite a bit on the far side of middle-age. If stretching does help some inflammation resolve, obviously that would be good for us. Chances are strong that inflammaging is a steamroller that stretching cannot really touch, however. There are several high plausible mechanisms for inflammaging that are quite unlikely to be affected by stretching.

Practically any functional stimulation of the same tissue — not just stretching — might have the same modest anti-inflammatory effect. The story goes like this: trigger points are isolated regions of contracted muscle fibres, basically micro cramps. Unfortunately, how they work is highly debatable, and basically unknown. Stretching as a treatment for trigger points has some expert endorsements.

In the weighty text Muscle Pain , researchers Dr. David Simons and Dr. In theory, a trigger point cannot burn fuel if it is fully elongated, which would give the energy crisis a chance to abate — a vicious cycle breaker. If they are right, then stretching works about the same way that stretching out a calf cramp works: you win the tug-of-war with spasming muscle, just on a smaller scale. This sounds great on paper, but there are several major problems in both theory and practice. How can we pull apart a powerful contraction knot — a tiny segment of muscle fibres in full spasm — with anything less than pliers, a vice, and a glass of bourbon?

We almost certainly do not have the leverage or pain tolerance required, especially if the muscle fights back with a defensive contraction which may account for the cases that backfire. Which is possible. This topic is covered in much greater detail about 10x the length of this section in my trigger points book.

Muscle and tendon, although they are distinct tissues, blend together quite seamlessly. Much of what we think of as mucle is an extension of tendinous tissue, and vice versa.

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And so most likely a positive effect of stretching on tendons is minimal or nil. Digging a little deeper …. In general, tissues are stimulated to growth and repair by the same forces that they normally have to deal with and also the same forces that occasionally overload and overwhelm them and cause overuse injury or trauma.

That stimulus is dished up far more efficiently and thoroughly by normal and athletic activity than by any isolated deliberate exercise therapy. Cells inside of tendons generate collagenous fibres and absorb others as needed in response to stresses, constantly remodelling and tweaking the tendon so that it is optimized to cope with the actual stresses it encounters all day, every day. Even a very strong stretch to a tendon constitutes an extremely brief input of stimulus relative to the context of an entire day or week of normal usage of the tendon.

For comparison, consider how bone remodels — and bone is much more dynamic and responsive than tendons are. If bones are subjected to strong new stresses, they will change, slowly but steadily getting thicker and tougher in just the right way to cope with that stress. But it takes a lot! Now, how much do you suppose you could influence that process by deliberately applying a force to the bone? Even a fairly heroic twenty-minute application per day — far more than anyone would ever bother stretching a single tendon, or pair of tendons?

If it works at all. Tendons are not getting injured any less frequently in people who stretch a lot. If you want to reduce the chances of your tendons rupturing, then the way to do it is to expose them to a bunch of activities. Push the envelope just a little: enough that they are challenged, but not brutalized!

Just the right amount of stimulation. Why is this true for so many of us? Because it is probably actually doing something! If we are intellectually honest, we simply have to admit that. People routinely report that stretching feels good , that it reduces muscle soreness, or that they feel a strong urge to stretch. In particular, I stretch my hamstrings regularly and strongly, and it feels as pleasantly essential to my well-being as slipping into a hot bath — but the exact nature of the benefits are completely unclear to me. I was raised on stretching.

Stretching might be like scratching: an undeniably strong impulse, but with almost no relevance to athletic performance or overall health. If people believed that feeling good was the only thing that stretching was good for, most people — especially the athletes — would drop it from their exercise routine immediately.

Most of us have better things to do. That is an excellent reason to stretch! And one of the few that I can defend! And, then again, there may actually be real physiological benefits to stretching — just not the usual ones that get tossed around. Essentially every pleasant sensation and experience has therapeutic qualities. Look at this pattern:. Feeling good without working all that well causes no end of confusion and trouble.

Wonderful and profound sensations are largely responsible for an epidemic of excessive optimism about their healing powers. Sex feels great, but it does not cure pain. Back scratches, chocolate cake, sunshine, and hot baths: all wonderful, all mostly powerless to cure pain.

But why does it feel that good? I can give a specific reason why each of the delicious things above feel so good. But stretching? A deep itch. In my experience, stretching feels best when I am sore from working out — which only deepens the mystery. Why would it feel so pleasant to pull on soft tissues that are incredibly sore? And we feel an incredible compulsion to scratch rashes, mosquito bites and other itchy, irritated things.

But the temporary relief of scratching is so great it almost transcends pleasure and degenerates into a nasty compulsion. As many pleasures do. To get a little fleeting relief? There may be many reasons why stretching feels good without being particularly helpful, but this makes some serious sense to me. It achieves the difficult trick of simultaneously accounting for both the unusually pleasant sensation and the more or less total lack of any meaningful effect.

And it nicely fits the way I like stretch best when my muscles feel the worst. This is pathology, mind. The tissue changes. For the worse. It is not an assumption held with much conviction, but stretching always gets the benefit of the doubt, whether it deserves it or not, and it seems to make sense that stretching would be a cure for contracture. Common sense fails again. As it so often does. The Cochrane Collaboration published a review of static stretch for the treatment and prevention of contractures.

Thumbs way down. Shocked, I say! Treatments are usually more obviously valuable to those who need them more. For example, the effect of acetaminophen is more obvious to someone with a headache. This evidence shows that stretch does not meaningfully help even for a condition where the need for tissue elongation is dramatic. But no — probably not static stretch, anyway. Pathologically seized up tissue cannot be meaningfully elongated.

Beliefs about flexibility and the optimal means of stretching have often proceeded from assumptions that have never been tested and from an almost religious zeal regarding the perceived benefits of stretching by a few. There is really only one stretching benefit that seems to be clear and almost uncontroversial: it does actually increase flexibility. Even just plain old static stretching. Real elongation of tissue is elusive, and hard to sustain; but it can be done. The phenomenon is widely observed, and seems to have been confirmed by experiments. Is it actually a benefit?

I will start by arguing that is not worth much to most people, even athletes. When someone increases their flexibility, what changes, exactly? How does it work? Even when they have normal range of motion in every joint. Why are people so determined to be more bendy? What is it you want to do with that super power? The fact that there are actually several elastic superheroes speaks to our genuine desire for greater range of motion.

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But the reality is that hardly anyone actually needs to be more flexible. As of , Mr. This is an anecdote from someone who trained with him leading up to when he broke that record:. He was extremely inflexible. After an easy morning run 16km in 1hr10mins , I stretched with the group.

Most of them were fairly flexible in the hamstrings ie. Eliud was miles off. He was nowhere near touching his toes! Matt Fox for SweatElite. Yes, stretching can increase flexibility. Many other people feel defeated by this challenge as well. I have done yoga every day more than 20 years. I'm really devoted to it. It is still just as uncomfortable now as it was when I started. I can handle it for those minutes, but more is just too hard. I can still do the full version, but only for a minute or so.

One would hope after so many years, doing it daily, I would become more flexible! But not even a little bit — I do the yoga for other reasons. However, for many people, a diligent effort over a period of weeks might well increase your range of motion. How much of an effort? Hold it right there! For how long exactly, though? And how often? How hard? What works best? Is 5 seconds of light stretch every other day for a couple weeks enough? Probably not. Or should it be 5 minutes of brutally intense yanking on your muscles three times a day for three months?

The bottom line:. In practice, most people stretch only a small selection of tissues quite briefly, seconds only, and erratically. Only the most diligent of us can actually sustain a daily habit for long. The evidence suggests that holding a stretch for 15 seconds is better than 5… but only a little bit. Here is a vivid example of how poorly understood this all is.

This is an excerpt from one of my school text books, a weighty and authoritative tome, a bible of therapeutic exercise granted, out of date now, but this is the text I learned from :. Several authors have suggested that a period of 20 minutes or longer is necessary for a stretch to be effective and increase range of motion when a low-intensity prolonged mechanical stretch is used.

Twenty minutes?! Almost no one is stretching for that long. Imagine trying to stretch for injury prevention: 20 minutes for each of even just 10 important muscles would be more than three hours. Acrobats, gymnasts, yogis, contortionists, and martial artists have clearly been pushing the limits for centuries, sometimes achieving uncanny mobility. But these are highly motivated athletes with specific and exotic performance goals and stretching regimens that would definitely intimidate the rest of us, and with good reason: they often injure themselves along the way.

Indeed, it may even be necessary to injure joints — to traumatize their capsules and ligaments — in order to get them to move that far. Even these unusual athletes are not chasing flexibility alone, and most athletes have much higher priority training goals. Fitness and health are not equivalent. Flexibility is good for a few specialized tasks … and really not much else. Is this a good idea? Is this child gymnast going to be more flexible? Oh, yes, I think she will be! Blatantly not. Several explanations for increased flexibility from stretching have been proposed, and none have panned out.

A paper in Physical Therapy reviews them all in great detail, and the full text is free. In 10 studies that suggested plastic, permanent, or lasting deformation of connective tissue as a factor for increased muscle extensibility, none of the cited evidence was found to support this classic model of plastic deformation. After reviewing several more disproven popular theories, they get to the good part: the last theory standing. Increases in muscle extensibility observed immediately after stretching and after short-term 3 to 8-week stretching programs are due to an alteration of sensation only and not to an increase in muscle length.

Of course, no debate is ever really over, and scientific evidence continues to accumulate. But stretch tolerance probably has a lot to do with flexibility gains. If you do some upper body stretching, your lower will get a little more flexible. Not much, but enough to measure in a controlled test. This is clearly supported by some research. If so, then elongation must normally be limited by a strict neurological edict. There is a strong analogy here to strength: we always have much greater muscle power available than we can safely use.

We have deep reserves that are literally impossible to tap into on short notice, without large squirts of adrenalin. Contractions are normally reined in by the brain. Even with a powerful grunt of effort, only a small fraction of your muscle fibres get a signal to contract at any one time. If you recruited all of them, you might rip the muscle off your bones, or at least completely exhaust yourself in seconds.

Your central nervous system has excellent reasons for imposing a power limit. Full contraction is for dramatic, obvious, life and death situations only. However, with training, we can learn to recruit more fibres. It appears that if you just add some vibration , even already flexible gymnasts can get a surprising boost in flexibility. Despite all of the above, Team Plasticity remains large and devout: many professionals still believe that tissues adapt their structure to stretching.

They can point to some research to support that position. So we know something changed! But … what? Was is a change in tissue? Or tolerance? But the authors seemed to think it did. They followed their data into an overinterpretation, presumably trying to score points for Team Plasticity. Because range increased, but pain at the end of the range did not, they unwisely concluded that a change in tolerance was not a factor.

Inflexible Me: Expanding Past the Inflexible Barriers of the Body, Mind, and Soul Inflexible Me: Expanding Past the Inflexible Barriers of the Body, Mind, and Soul
Inflexible Me: Expanding Past the Inflexible Barriers of the Body, Mind, and Soul Inflexible Me: Expanding Past the Inflexible Barriers of the Body, Mind, and Soul
Inflexible Me: Expanding Past the Inflexible Barriers of the Body, Mind, and Soul Inflexible Me: Expanding Past the Inflexible Barriers of the Body, Mind, and Soul
Inflexible Me: Expanding Past the Inflexible Barriers of the Body, Mind, and Soul Inflexible Me: Expanding Past the Inflexible Barriers of the Body, Mind, and Soul
Inflexible Me: Expanding Past the Inflexible Barriers of the Body, Mind, and Soul Inflexible Me: Expanding Past the Inflexible Barriers of the Body, Mind, and Soul
Inflexible Me: Expanding Past the Inflexible Barriers of the Body, Mind, and Soul Inflexible Me: Expanding Past the Inflexible Barriers of the Body, Mind, and Soul

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