Stretching Lessons: The Daring that Starts from Within

Stretching Lessons: The Daring that Starts from Within

by Sue Bender, Richard Bender

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In 1989 Sue Bender published Plain and Simple, an elegant, captivating book that sought to answer the question, "Is there another way to live a good life?" Plain and Simple went on to become a phenomenal best-seller and, in the process, Sue was embraced by hundreds of thousands of readers who looked to her to be their gentle guide in the search for aSee more details below


In 1989 Sue Bender published Plain and Simple, an elegant, captivating book that sought to answer the question, "Is there another way to live a good life?" Plain and Simple went on to become a phenomenal best-seller and, in the process, Sue was embraced by hundreds of thousands of readers who looked to her to be their gentle guide in the search for a life lived with meaning, beauty, and peace.

Still searching, Sue turned from the quest fro fulfillment in community to her immediate surroundings in the best-seller, Everyday Sacred. Now, in Stretching Lessons, her journey becomes even more intimate. Sue looks inward to discover the daring spirit within each of us that whispers to be heard. By listening to the wisdom of the body, she follows the urgent call we have to become as big as we truly are. Using the metaphor of stretching to overcome our self-imposed limits and the restricted visions of our own possibilities, this book—her most profound work to date—becomes a new way to learn about the spirit that dares you to be your biggest, best, most original self.

Sue Bender remains a pioneer of the path of the spirit, and Stretching Lessons offers some of her most rigorous and personal explorations to date. Through Sue's humble and honest grappling with her own frailties and struggles, we discover the larger life lessons that come from working past our limitations.

About the Author:
Sue Bender is an accomplished artist, author, and internationally acclaimed lecturer. The mother of two grown sons, Sue lives with her husband in Berkeley, CA.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Bender, author of Plain and Simple: A Woman's Journey to the Amish, as well as Everyday Sacred, has written a new account of her continued efforts at spiritual growth. While this book is not so rooted in exceptional experiences as its two predecessors, Bender is undoubtedly a writer of charm and persuasion, and she pursues the theme of spiritual renewal (stretching) with sweet, calmly written anecdotes and insights. Recommended; likely to be popular where Bender's other books have found an audience, or where there is a strong audience for women's spirituality. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.54(d)

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Spending too much time hunched over the computer, trying to write, I decided to sign up for a stretching class. "Just Stretch" it was called. It would be healthy, I thought, and I was prepared to be a good and earnest student and work hard, as I usually do. Instead, I heard a miraculously flexible instructor, Nancy, say:


The suggestion was startling, revolutionary, and sweet: "Pain doesn't have to be your teacher."

"Unlearn the habit of trying," she said after we began to stretch. "It's not about trying -- it's about allowing."

But trying is my middle name, I wanted to shout. How do I learn allowing?

Back at my desk after class, I wrote Nancy's words in large bold letters with lots of * * * * * next to each one. Though there was nothing to show on the outside, even the possibility of doing what she suggested made me feel calm inside. All I could think was, "I hope this class never ends!"

I felt like a person who'd been too long in the desert, hungry and thirsty, suddenly offered delicious, unfamiliar nectar. Nancy's last instruction rings in my ears:

"Listen to the whispers."


Could I quiet down my own noise to hear the soft whispers from within? What happened next was a shriek, not a whisper.

"Talent is doing what comes naturally," a friend announced.

"What do you think comes naturally to you?" she asked me. The answer came quickly and with great certainty:

"STRUGGLE! I'm an expert at STRUGGLING."

The swiftness and clarity of my response made me laugh. But it wasn't funny. My old, familiar voice of judgment chimed in: "Haven't you learned anything? Aren't you wiser?"

I am wiser. And I am still struggling.

Have good things grown out of my exhausting habit of struggling? Absolutely. I've written two books using struggle as my method. But after seventeen years of this single-minded obsession with writing, I still didn't think of myself as a writer.

Working this way only confirmed an old belief of mine: good things will come to me, but I will have to work hard and work all the time to make them happen. I wondered if I also believed I had to struggle in order to earn the right be happy.

There's a difference between hard work and unnecessary suffering.

If I were composing an ad for a relationship magazine and deciding to really tell the truth about myself, I would say:

Expert at struggle, longing for ease. Signed: EAGER.

I'm sixty-six years old and I want to learn about ease. Even writing the word ease or saying it out loud has a magical effect on me. The expression on my face softens, my shoulders drop two inches, and I'm able to take a full and deep breath.

"I want to learn about ease," I announced to my wise friend Mitzi, with a determined ring in my voice. "I'm going to use my natural talent for struggle to learn how not to struggle." Sometimes, too earnest in my search for answers, I forget to laugh at myself: My struggle toward ease.

Mitzi told me about a time, many years ago, when she was taking a dance class in college. The teacher asked the students to imagine themselves holding a heavy ball and then lifting it over their heads. Mitzi was very busy trying to lift the heavy ball, never succeeding at getting it more than three inches above the ground, only stopping her labors for a moment when she heard the group laughing.

She looked up and saw all the students with their balls over their heads, watching her tugging at her invisible ball. She had succeeded at creating the heaviest ball.

"I don't think you always have to suffer in order to do good work," Mitzi said. "After all, I was the one who made my ball too heavy. The task hadn't been difficult. I created my own struggle."

She turned to me and asked: "Could you begin to imagine a release from the struggle? A gentler way to change?" Could I find a release that feels good and doesn't require so much hard work?

Looking at release on the page, I see ease tucked in.

Today, Valentine's Day, a card arrived with a handmade heart and, in a friend's beautiful handwriting, a reminder from Rilke:

Be patient
toward all that is unsolved in your heart.

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