effort and ease

 

“A” for Effort

For almost two decades, I believed that I could outsmart the differences and disintegration. But when my crumbling marriage finally lay in heaps all around me, I heard a common sentiment from my tribe.

“No one could ever blame you for not trying”.

In the devastating aftermath, I already had plenty of guilt, shame and fear of the future to juggle so there was some small comfort in being told that I could let go of some of the blame due to the fact that I had been “trying” so hard.

But now, after almost a decade after the dust has settled, I see the game I had been and still am playing. It’s a sleight of hand trick. To intentionally draw attention to one thing to keep them from seeing another.  Hey, look at me trying.

It’s like the fiction authors who insert themselves into the plot ensuring that the reader thinks of the author often and is not able to get lost in the story. Or the actors who don’t let you forget they are acting thereby not allowing you to suspend belief for the length of the movie by believing they are who they are portraying.

Or it’s like me in yoga class when I make my effort clear to the teacher so that they don’t expect the same perfection in the pose that I am expecting because they see how hard I am trying.

But that is exhausting.  Trying hard to outrun criticism or suggestions for improvement  is a dead end run.

EoA2blog
Do or not do. There is no try.

How can I move from “try” to “do”?

In yoga class, instead of trying to get my heels to the floor in Downward Dog, what if I simply do the Downward Dog that is accessible in the evolution of my personal practice, and extend my heels towards the floor and call it a day?

And what if I considered that I might have an unhealthy attachment to trying?  Ouch. That’s uncomfortable.

This came up recently in yoga class when the instructor asked us to gauge our level of effort in a challenging pose. She encouraged us to give about 70% effort.  I have given that same instruction in classes but always resist it when the instruction is given to me.  The alternative to actually exerting less effort is to try to look like you’re not trying so hard. That’s something I would totally do and you’d be justified in putting me in a padded room for it.  That is just crazy-making!!!   Easier just to give a little less, non?  

Then another instructor asked us to go deeper, to look beyond the bold noticeable effort we were exerting and consider what “subtle efforts” we were still engaging in. Where were still trying hard to rescue ourselves from this challenge in hidden ways, down deep beneath where they couldn’t be seen?   Yikes, this will take some work!

Outside of yoga class, what if I gave less than 100%? What would that look like?

What if, in my relationships, I didn’t try to play a role in that relationship and just be in it?  What if I didn’t keep inserting myself into the universal story line?  What would look different? What would look the same but feel different?

 

EoA blog

Ease = Effortless Effort

Ease. Not a place where I tend to hang out. Trying hard seems to have been permanently etched on my moral compass. Trying hard has seemed to be tied to authenticity to me. Even in failure and loss, if you tried harder then there was some consolation. Ah, my old friend, consolation. You are never far.

Ease. Would actual authenticity be easier? What would the ease of authenticity look like?

Ease.  I’m putting a pin in the map at that location and seeing if I can let go of trying so hard and can meander into a clearing of effortless effort.  All the chronic over-achieving, perfectionist, try-ers are welcome to join me.  Bring your own hammocks!

 

EoA3blog

 

medication / meditation

 

Medication?

The casual statement over dinner was not tossed into the centre of the table as a controversial conversation starter. To the one saying the words, it was a matter of fact and as practical as leftovers.

“There’s no way we are meant make it through this life without self-medicating.”

Resistance bubbled up from somewhere deep inside of me.

Wait! That can’t be right. Can it?

And what does she mean by ‘self-medicating”? Does she think, like me, that self-medicating refers to anything that significantly distracts or numbs us to the way things really are? To take the edge off? To help us avoid dealing with the hard emotions and thoughts?

But should we not be able to make it through a day without having to numb ourselves to reality? I pondered this question as I filled my wine glass yet again. Yup.

How do I personally avoid feeling the discomfort of stressful challenges?

I over-plan. It borders on an addiction. Stress can’t get to me if I map out each day with detours around all the potential potholes. Seems reasonable to me except for the hangover-type reactions I have to predicting a smooth route during construction season.

 

Meditation?

But then, another day and another conversation with someone else resulted in my companion responding to the knowledge that I regularly facilitate “Meditation for Resilient Living” sessions with his own unique take on things.

“So you teach people how to sleep, then!”

Meditation as self-medication?

While sleeping is a common form of self-medication, what an interesting suggestion that a regular practice of sitting meditation could actually be a way to avoid feeling the discomfort of the bumps in the road.

Meditating in a seated position where the bones can be stacked on top of each other and your spine can be long helps with the desire to doze off during a sit but the real work is with sitting with whatever comes up.

 

Anything and Everything

Instead of avoiding the not-so-fun stuff, sitting is a chance to notice it, feel it, even get royally ticked off that you have to feel something uncomfortable but not have to do anything about it or to fix it.

So done with intention, clear instructions and lots and lots of practice, meditation is the opposite of self-medicating. There is no need for numbing, distracting or avoiding. It is all acceptable.

 

Now what?

Now what about my attachment to over-planning?  Self-medication?  Probably a proactive kind.  A preemptive attack on stress!

I think that some people are born planners. We are the same people who have not-so-hidden addictions to office supplies especially the ones that assist in keeping us organized. I’m thinking of starting a support group.

As a work in progress, I’ve decided to continue planning because, it reduces my overall stress levels and supports me tremendously in my life’s work.

But, the real work will be in letting go of my aversion to potholes and bumps in the road. I’m going to attempt to be aware of when I reach for my favourite self-medicating organizational tools and ask myself:

What am I avoiding feeling?

If I allowed myself to feel it, what would happen?

porch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step one is good for now.  I’ll keep you posted on the support group, though.

 

teacher, student, teacher

 

A four-leaf clover.  In my front yard.20150701_163357

On this day.  A day of no work.  A day of rest. The start of a sabbatical, of sorts.

A day of sitting longer at the table after lunch and talking about everything and nothing.

Laughing.

Listening to the midday downpour through the screen door.

A day made for a nap.

A day of walking.

A day of yoga. And red wine. But not at the same time!

I have no need for luck, though.

Gratitude about how much I have is as close as my next breath.

Funny thing about this ‘find’ is that even on a blissful day such as this, I didn’t even notice the clover and even resisted being ‘dragged’ outside (I may be exaggerating but it’s my post and my prerogative) to be shown it.

So, on day #1 of Danette’s Summer of Being a Student Again, I’ve already learned that everything and everyone can be a teacher for me.

It may be a yoga teacher, a four-leaf clover, rest from work or my own resistance to small miracles.

Here’s to the teacher in all of us.

Happy summer!

Be open.  Be ready.  Be a student.