In one of my fits of semi-regular insomnia the other night I came across an article in the NY Times about a microscopic creature that lives mainly in moss and lichen. Tardigrades resemble tiny bears (with extra paws), or to me they look a bit like dugongs. You can read the article here.
Aside from my fascination with the world in general, and especially weird trivia, this article resonated with me because the Tardigrades are possibly the most adaptable and resilient creatures on the planet. They can live in extremely hot and extremely cold conditions. They can change their metabolism to suit the environment they are in. And they can curl up into basically indestructible balls called tuns that can be subjected to enormous amounts of atmospheric pressure. They can be dried up completely and then brought back to life. I read this article and I thought, I want to be indestructible!
I think the key take-away that is transferable to us is that change is key to being anti-fragile. Recognizing that it is a strength to be able to bend a little and to shape-shift with our environment. We are fed the constant message that you are an INDIVIDUAL! You are UNIQUE! That the clothes you wear and the instragram accounts that you follow tell people what they need to know about what kind of person you are and what you believe about the world. And that it is important to hold that position of individuality and special-ness. But what if our beliefs make us stiff and unyielding? We can't change our minds, or admit we were wrong for fear of giving up any hard-won ground.
Resilience is being able to take up strain and absorb it, then follow it through to its natural resolution. My hunch is that most of us are capable of taking up strain and absorbing it, but then we hang on to it, creating tension and dis-ease in our bodies as we struggle to hold one position. We only seek resolution when we are confronted with a crisis that forces us to change something in our life.
Being flexible doesn't have to mean that you are vulnerable to being swept up by other people who are more forceful and rigid in their behaviour. You can be okay with adapting to new situations while still maintaining your core essence. It just means that maybe when change inevitably comes into your life and your job changes, or you have a baby, or your intimate relationships begin or end, that you can walk toward the change with more poise and possibly be less negatively impacted by it.
Our yoga practice can teach us to relax into difficult or uncomfortable poses by moving slowly towards them. We don't need to avoid them, nor do we need to rush head-long toward them. Here is what I think of when I think about change: I can see myself ten years ago and know completely that I am a radically different person. And that evolution was not an easy thing and a lot of it was painful and ugly. But I wouldn't go back for anything in the world.
As for the tardigrades, I hear they are the new sea-monkeys. I will be sending away in the mail for mine today.
Thanks for reading.