- by Swami Yogatirthananda Saraswati (Switzerland), from YogaMag September 2002
Watching movies is a test of adaptability. How far do I adapt my mind to story and character? When does adaptation become identification? The same goes while reading a book, where it is necessary to adapt to the style, language and intentions of the author.
Besides adapting to others, there is also the need to adapt to decisions taken. It is very important that once a decision is taken, the mind and action adapt to the new situation. This is not always easy, as the attachment and identification with the old situation may be very strong. Adaptability is the expression of constant change. Adapting to others is only one way, adapting to the changing self is another.
Adapting to new people, their expectations and demands makes one forget one's own needs for some time. It is necessary to take time, a few moments to evaluate the situation and the person I am dealing with before adapting. It is a discipline to take this time.
I feel how much personal habits and role patterns are in the way of adaptability. As soon as an old and maybe even well tested behaviour pattern is used, adaptability is less spontaneous and threatens to disappear. Adaptability does not allow for any identification. Besides, applying adaptability is a wonderful means to counter daydreaming; maybe daydreaming is the opposite of adaptability.
Adapting to the needs of another person makes one also aware of one's own needs and ambitions. Adaptability is awareness and expression of our strengths, the S in the SWAN; when we act or adapt out of a weakness, be it fear, timidity, lack of clarity or indifference, then we act without awareness and it is more a case of submitting to a situation rather than consciously adapting to it.
The art of adaptability might be a skilful juggling between one's own needs and those of others, the art of finding a compromise to suit all. Maybe one's own needs and the needs of others have to be evaluated and balanced. But how about a classroom situation, with the needs of the teacher (respect, discipline or simply survivable conditions), of each student (personal attention), of the class (its group dynamic and social interaction) and the needs of a given program (syllabus, examinations). I must decide all along which one of these four elements has priority and then act and adapt accordingly. In order to manage the demands of a class, in a highly personalized classroom setting with twenty highly-strung teenagers as well as a syllabus to follow, adaptability is essential to survival. Yet the invested effort must be well managed and balanced or over-exertion may result.
The practice of adaptability is a necessary preparation for the next ITY, humility.
Entering a provocative destructive game with someone is not adaptability but weakness and lack of awareness. When caught up in a 'let's-see-how-far-we-can-go-teenage-student-game', it is absolutely necessary to adapt to excitement, anger and frustration with an efficient antidote; and adaptability means to change the direction, to look for alternatives. An important aspect of adaptability therefore is to have always one aim in mind and adapt according to that aim rather than to any situation at hand. The situation must be seen in regard to the aim.
It is an ITY that might be difficult to live in our over-individualized society. It seems almost that adaptability goes against the nature of a teenager who is out to identify her/himself, to find her/his place and role and who sometimes feels she/he must fight for it all. Adaptability is the opposite of self-centredness.
Adaptability is also a quest for responsibility: what are my responsibilities and what are the responsibilities of the other in a given situation? I feel that responsibility is something not very popular among the young, something they would rather postpone and ignore for a while longer. Maybe adapting means also being aware of one's responsibility and the sharing of responsibility.
Maybe it is also an important ITY for women who often go beyond adaptability and lose their own direction, their own needs and ambitions in order to attend to those of the family. Adaptability is not self-denial and it is definitely a positive attitude and should never give way to negativity or a destructive situation. One has to adapt only if all involved benefit; blind adaptability without awareness is maybe nothing else but a giving in, submission out of weakness and not out of strength.
Sick and trying to adapt bodily needs, like rest, with a workload waiting on the desk. Besides, there are the needs of others. Again it seems like setting priorities before adapting. Adaptability turns more into an energy management; maybe that is what adaptability is all about, finding the right amount of energy for the right task at hand as well as the ability to generate the required amount of energy. Sickness is a good teacher as one has to deal with a reduced amount of energy at hand.
It is impossible to adapt to the needs of all people, especially when there are many at the same time, and I feel the trap of controlling. To control a situation is maybe the opposite of adapting to a situation, controlling is like 'killing' as it does not allow for change and movement. It does not seem an alternative to adaptability.
The magic key to adaptability seems to be extra-super awareness. I am frustrated and discouraged, and I feel that teaching teenagers who do not want to be taught has been a rough, and almost unfair, test of adaptability. Somehow there seems to be no end to fine-tuning adaptability, but at one point it might just get unrealistic and above all useless for any practical application.
The juggling of needs, my own and those of others, has been very difficult, to know when to let go and when to be firm and impose. Imposing is necessary sometimes, but has to be done not out of self-interest but in the interest of all, not with an attitude of forcing but in order to serve the other. The test is actually very simple: if the outcome is more tension, uneasiness or conflict, then either the method or motive was wrong; if the outcome is a positive, constructive move ahead, is mutual understanding and harmony, then imposing one's will has been done with an attitude of adaptability. Awareness, understanding, discrimination, setting priorities as well as taking one's share of responsibility for a given situation are all necessary ingredients for adaptability. The aim is to solve conflicts of different needs and desires and to create an atmosphere of harmony.
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