I had a rough week last week. I mediated three challenging commercial cases and was caught up in some inter-family personal conflict associated with the holidays and my own role as mom of three adult children, one of whom will soon be a mom herself. This called for a lot of deep breathing and some hard work. Today, I returned to my pilates class. There, I started by stretching–from my largest muscles to my core. All the while, we were admonished to breathe deeply and deliberately and to push ourselves beyond our comfort level. Practicing this regularly, I am told, will make it easier and I will be stronger for it, even as my muscles twitch and shake in efforts to make myself into a pretzel in the name of a move called “dancing bear”.
It occurs to me that sometimes what we need to teach and preach in our mediations is the definition of flexibility. If the parties can each stretch first and then bend somewhat, or even just “loosen up”, they usually won’t break, but they may successfully adapt to the situation in which they find themselves. What’s more, the exercise of deliberate flexibility may lead them towards a healthier future by adapting to the needs of those around them. And if not, they will probably feel better if they stretch a bit anyway.