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Lessons from Bamboo

Posted by on Feb 22, 2013

Bend But Don't Break

Bend But Don’t Break

“Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for changes.” Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe


When one of the most intellectually resilient minds of our time tells you that change is inevitable, sometimes you listen. In a recent reading (Gino Serge’s Faust in Copenhagen) about the development of quantum physics and the famous Copenhagen talks sponsored by Niels Bohr, I stumbled upon an almost reverent attitude by some of the biggest minds of our time, who had fallen in love, too, with one of my favorite writers, Goethe.

Even if you can’t pronounce his name, you can relate to his advice. It is yogic advice, after all, the same message offered by everyone from Patanjali to Sri Sarawati Satyananda, to Babaji to Paramahansa Yogananda and Sri Aurobindo.

Life isn’t easily broken down into formulas, after all. Even the most intellectually brilliant minds, including Bohr and Meitner, or the most spiritually astute, including more than five thousand years or more of Yogic, Zen, Buddhist, Sufi, Gnostic and Hawaiian Kahuna’s wise men and women, was gleaned from a flash of inspiration – the a-ha moment that comes from being more like bamboo than a linear equation.

It is understandable that human beings would want to minimize the great mysteries of the Universe into digestible parts. It is even more understandable that sometimes we will break when the mystery becomes a frustration – when our view of things with our current perspective doesn’t quite make sense. Nature provides another example as inspiration, however. It grows all over Asia, and in tropical regions throughout the world. It grows so fast, an entire forest can often replace itself in less than five years.

Watching bamboo move like ocean waves on a recent hike, was a beautiful reminder of how to bend, but not break – to allow change, and to stay in the mystery of things I don’t quite understand. Some of the stalks would bend all the way to the ground and come back to an upright position without breaking. Who among us are that flexible when life doesn’t make sense?

It is our fear of transformation, after all, no matter how much we say we want it, that causes us to crack. Sometimes we need to stand on ‘reality’ as scientifically proven, or intellectually guarded, not on some spiritual notion, or as Goethe put it, the ways of the living – to adapt! We need something stable to base every day living on, and often this need is so strong, even when good change comes, we can freeze up.

Consider these facts about one of nature’s most resilient plants:

  • Bamboo has a higher tensile strength than many steel alloys, and has a higher compressive strength than most concrete mixtures, but is much lighter in weight. It has an even higher strength to weight ratio than graphite – the substance used instead of lead in many pencils.
  • Bamboo can withstand 9.0 magnitude earthquakes.
  • Bamboo can be used for fencing, walls, ceilings, floors, chairs, eating utensils, and even clothing. It is so flexible, that its useful purposes are also.
  • Bamboo is an incredible CO2 sink, and since we still rely heavily on coal (the egoic industry model of energy production) it can displace additional carbon dioxide created by many other crops, industrial practices, and yes, imbalanced ways of living.

When the impulse to become rigid sets in, we can observe nature, or read the work of great writers, or consult yogic wisdom to remind us of another alternative. We can twist, arch, wind, and unwind, bow, dance, and sway, but never, ever – crack. True spiritual resilience is unshakably strong, but softer than taffy. I want to be like bamboo. I want to withstand the earthquakes of my ego, and shake them off like an old habit. If we all did this together, our collective resilience would mean we wouldn’t be uprooted or scarred by the current winds of change in society, in our own internal battles, or in any challenge that might present itself to us.

With this new adaptability, we could perhaps start something like the Copenhagen discussions, but on subjects not limited to physics, but instead on everything in the world concerning changes we’d like to practice being more resilient for. We aren’t meant to be mindless, heartless zombies. The world is for the living. That means you and me.

Sure, we’ve been bent, pushed, prodded, and shoved by a societal and political elite that would poison our food, air and water, start unnecessary wars, keep us in a slave-labor mentality instead of expressing our creative passions, bailing out billionaire bankers while most people worldwide still live on less than two dollars a day, and even rape the planet for her resources, but we don’t have to break. We can stand upright again, after our top-most leaves scrape the forest floor. We can be as buoyant as bamboo, making the cloudless blue our new domain.

 

About the Author

Christina Sarich is a musician, yogi, humanitarian and freelance writer who channels many hours of studying Lao Tzu, Paramahansa Yogananda, Rob Brezny,  Miles Davis, and Tom Robbins into interesting tidbits to help you Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World.

This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.

 

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