One of the great lessons I have come to learn here in Brazil is definitely the one of patience and flexibility.
I have been practicing yoga for about seven years now, and indisputably, some of the underlying lessons there have been the very same ones. However, it seems that just doing yoga while keeping the majority of the aspects of my life quite similar to what they had always been, was not enough. It seemed that I just got one side of it down.
Discipline – definitely a check – this is something I have been trained in since a kid and it does not let me give in when motivation fails. Discipline stays and completes whatever important task at hand whenever needed.
However, flexibility, especially the mental and emotional one – not quite there yet. Yoga made me see and understand that, while it looks like my subconscious guided me to have the whole Brazilian experience in the first place to help shake things up a little. And, oh boy, did it hit the nail on the head!
Brazil is all about flexibility. Things are very rarely concrete or rigidly structured (as they so often are in Estonia, where I come from), time is an abstract measure, plans are just ideas to be fulfilled only if something else does not come along, rules are more like guidelines, people are first humans, and only then professionals or specialist, and so on. You get the picture. Pretty much the complete opposite of what I had become accustomed to.
And I must say, adapting to this is tough. Very tough. You do not know what to expect from anything or anyone. So, there you go, Lesson number 1: do not create expectations. It is because expectations are merely your own subjective illusions of what things should be like that might result in big disappointments and frustration.
Nevertheless, not having any expectations at all is still a nonsense in my opinion, since you have to have standards for the important things in life (which paradoxically are not things at all). Most of the time, you can do without, however. Just accept things as they actually are.
There have been so many times, when my expectations or fixed plans have gotten in the way of me being flexible. And you know what, things sometimes actually do flow better, when you just let them and do not judge the detours from what was originally planned. Moreover, being flexible in that way allows you to see out of the box, experience new things in new ways and be kinder to yourself and others.
The typical me would try to quickly and rationally always come up with the best plan. Weigh all possibilities, all pros and cons and consequently put together the most optimal plan for best results. Sounds foolproof, right, as efficiency has been one of my guiding principles for a long time. Not here in Brazil, however.
Planning efficiently all the time and with everyone is the quickest way to failure here as the way described can create unwanted stress in situations when other people prefer to just monitor the situation and keep things flowing.
Therefore, Lesson number 2 would be: learn to let go. Yes, your plan might have been the best initially or in theory or you might have had high expectations for someone. But by now, things might have changed and that is okay. Things might even turn out better than expected, when you are able to observe the actual factors and adapt accordingly.
This is how you learn to observe subtleties and open your mind to new perceptions that you would have otherwise never know that existed or even brutally overridden while trying to follow your own “best plan”.
That means that the first plan is rarely the final one and, therefore, does not have to be the best one. Plans like everything else are processes that are molded in time, change in accordance with current conditions, moods, participants and mostly end up as the most convenient or suitable option for that particular moment and combination of factors. So you see, things are always in movement, in constant change. Timing, perception and intuition have a very important role in flexibly defining actual courses of action or interpreting situations.
You can argue that planning is being prepared for anything under the category of unpredictability. However, my 3rd Lesson of Flexibility is that any problems that might occur can often be solved by creativity. A flexible person observes the situation and then adapts to it, often finding a creative approach to solve a problem or inventing something completely new. Later, you might even stop and wonder: “How on earth did I think of that?” This is what flexibility and creativity can do to you – show you that you are capable of so much more than you could have ever imagined.
The 4th and final Lesson of Flexibility is definitely patience. Things take time, most often a bit more than you would expect. In addition – as go the lyrics of a Rolling Stones song – you sometimes do not get what you want, but instead, you get what you need. That is why you need patience.
Patience is not blind waiting, bearing the passing of time without complaining. It is wise and kind observing of the whole situation, understanding it and having faith that it will turn out in the best way possible. And if not, you can always adapt and it will definitely teach you something, which thus, can lead you in the direction you need to go.
Being patient lets you see all that while you can continue to be your happy self and trust the path you have taken. Furthermore, it teaches you not to never give up on things that are really important.
Those are the four principal lessons of flexibility Brazil has taught me so far. And I must say, they have made me suffer quite a lot. It is just recently that I am finally starting to understand how all the difficulties have always served a purpose. The definition of the word “flexible” – bends but does not break – finally makes complete sense.
Furthermore, this post does not mean that I am fully taking on the all-Brazilian approach or that I am discarding or giving less importance to being disciplined, organized and knowing how to plan ahead. Not at all. You have to be able to see and plan ahead to make good decisions, work hard even through tough times and meet your objectives in personal and professional life.
Nor should you by any means cast off your own personal values and standards. You cannot be flexible infinitely, otherwise it becomes conformity and/or injuries ensue. You have to know your limits, only then you can become stronger.
Through the lessons of flexibility, however, you get closer to a place where you can balance the disciplined and organized side with flexibility and agile adaptability, which in turn, does no less than make you a stronger, happier, healthier, possibly more successful and definitely a more mindful person.