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Soulful Sundays: Restraint

"True power is not having to use it." -I Ching


We live in a culture of action. One in which dogged determination and independent spirit reign supreme. Hesitate, and you are left behind. Seek help, and you are weak. Fail to assimilate new ideas and technologies, and you are no longer relevant. Many of us live with some degree of daily FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Our minds and hearts are occupied with comparisons to others rather than focused on discovering universal truths about life. Truths like the importance of kindness, honesty, hard work, patience, rest, family, community, and restraint.


Restraint is a word often painted in the negative--"the act of holding back, a form of bondage." The American psyche is wrought with anti-restraint language and it shows in our cultural tendencies. Expansion, independence, and growth are all antithetical to restraint, yet only when they describe the external world. When describing the internal landscape, restraint can lead to an expansion of compassion, an independence from fickle moods, and the growth of one's character.


We have much to learn from the teachings of the past. Books like the I Ching, the Bible, the Koran, the Vedas, and the Talmud all teach a similar perspective on expanding one's inner disciplines to better the world. Through the repeated use of restraint to avoid distractions and wastes of ones resources, these disciplines help to refine the character and insight of the practitioner. They provide a universal message of trusting the greater wisdom of the universe (or creator) and treating all beings with dignity and respect. Although, bastardizations of these universal messages happen often and with devastating effect, it does not diminish their overall validity. After all, water has both the ability to nourish and drown, depending on its user.


What would a world of more restraint look like? Just because you can manipulate the world or others in such a way to derive benefit for yourself, doesn't always make it right. How do we create action through non-action? You can call it active waiting if that makes you feel better. How do we cultivate patience? Can we seek to understand before being understood? These behaviors would go a long way to help us tune in with our surroundings and allay our anxieties of missing out on the next great opportunity. Opportunity lies right in front of us, always.


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