Pliability is a beautiful notion with a profound implication on all levels of life. The quarterback, Tom Brady, talks about pliability on the physical level. The idea is that as a football player, for example, anything that comes his way, be it the impact of a tackle or the need to zig-zag, his body is free to move as needed to accommodate the situation.
There is a big difference between “pliability” and “flexibility.” “Flexibility” can mean the ability to stretch to a great extent in given directions. “Pliability” involves flexibility in every direction. But even more importantly, it involves an integration of the entire physiology with the nervous system. Feedback from the brain to the muscles occurs instantaneously, enabling movement to maintain its own inner stability – keeping its balance, avoiding injury, and maintaining integration of the entire physiology with complete spontaneity. So pliability has its foundation in something much deeper than the stretch-ability or flexibility of the muscles.
On the psychological level, pliability involves the ability of the psyche to adapt and deal with a diverse range of thoughts and emotions. Stability on that level involves an anchoring in what some might call the soul or a sense of inner Self. It is unfortunate, though common, for people to rely on rigidity instead of inner stability. They cling to rigid beliefs and fixed perspectives in an attempt to find stability in their lives. That is at the expense of pliability.
The wind blows the branches of the tree in many directions. A healthy tree bends with the wind while finding stability in the trunk. A rigid tree, by holding its branches fixed, can snap in the wind. Through rigidity, we understand little. Through pliability, we understand everything.
Some mistake rigidity for stability. For example, some people rigidly suppress unpleasant emotions, always striving to give the impression of stability, though false. Some blindly adhere to a belief system, twisting facts or judging as need be to uphold their rigid stance.
Wisdom is infinitely pliable. Stable, yet bendable. Wisdom embraces the paradoxical nature of life. Wisdom eludes the grasp of rigidity, but rests upon the stable foundation of the soul.
Now we can turn to the nature of pliability on the Transcendental level. Within the depth of the Transcendent lies the unbounded nature of all possibilities – ungraspable, undefinable, infinitely stable, but without any rigidity. When awake to that level, the limitless in-sight into the nature of life and the wisdom of the divine is free to well up through the deepest levels of a person’s being, uncompromised, and unobstructed by the limitations of fixity.
This is the key to Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras. We don’t rigidly hold onto, but rather let go of a thought. Then what comes back is structured, not by our preconceived notions or fixed ideas. Rather, it is structured by the unbounded wisdom and organizing power of the Transcendental source of our being. This is called freedom. Freedom from the fixed limitations that confine and compromise our thoughts and emotions.
The notion of pliability can trigger fear and aversion in those who felt a rigid relationship with life was the key to fulfillment. It’s not so easy to see past things that we have clung to our entire lives. On the other hand, as we awaken to the pliable nature of life and to ourselves, we become free to feel more, to know more, to adapt more, and to move more wisely forward in our lives. Pliability is not just a philosophy. Pliability is a state of physiology to be cultivated, which is ultimately known as the state of enlightenment.