The first is to soften, the second is to go gently and the third is to take time to ask, “What would be nourishing right now?”
When I am struggling, I slow down and listen. Over the past few months, I have been held by these three beautiful ideas that have taken root in me and helped me to move through this time of transition that I am in.
The first idea comes from Ingrid Bacci through her book, The Art of Effortless Living: Do Less, Let Go, and Discover Health, Emotional Well-Being, and Happiness. After reading the book multiple times, at the beginning of this year, I made a commitment to effortlessness and ease.
At work, I shared with folks that I was going to commit to bringing more ease and fun to my work – not sure what that would look like on the outside, but knowing that I would be doing meditation this time. I purchased Ingrid Bacci’s audio files and begin doing the meditation and body awareness tracks almost every day.
In her audio overview of The Art of Effortless Living, Ingrid Bacci says,
When you make your inner state, how you feel inside, more important than what you accomplish, how much you get done, how many people you impress…you end up performing at a higher level and you find much greater pleasure in what you do….Focusing on flow, on maintaining a balanced internal state creates success. This idea is not new. It has just been forgotten by our commercial, action-oriented culture.
To embrace this paradigm of effortless, I had to do two things:
- Change My Mindset – I had to believe that cultivating an internal state of ease and effortlessness made sense. And it was hard. Because at first I didn’t believe that my internal state was something that I could manage, or that it had such a powerful effect on my external experience.
- Build a New Habit – I had to commit to the daily practice of meditation which relaxes my body and focuses my attention on noticing my breath moving through me like a gentle caress.
Right away, I noticed that the meditation, which I do lying down, felt delicious. My body absolutely loved being invited to relax, to soften, to feel the breath, to slow down and stop. Doing the meditation has been important to show me the feeling of relaxation that I am going for.
Believing that being effortless is more important than having the right answer, saying the right thing and looking good has been challenging.
Intellectually, I already knew that pushing creates greater resistance – when I push on myself, I tighten. When I push others to get things done, they push back – maybe through words, a glance, their energy. . . connecting is harder, and so is achieving results.
I would notice that I’d be in a conversation with someone and I’d feel my body tense as I got ready to make a point, so I would pause and take a breath, notice my jaw, my neck. What if I don’t make the point right now, I’d say to myself, then I’d lean back a bit, soften my muscles. And maybe, I’d speak after that.
Seven months into this practice, I feel myself changing – my mindset and my behaviors. I am learning to soften when I want to push to get things done.
The second idea is to go gently, which beautifully accompanies this notion of effortlessness. Lisa Sonora recommends that when we feel overwhelmed, to go more gently.
When I think of gentle, I think of holding something fragile, like an egg, conscious of the way my hands are touching the egg, noticing the pressure of my fingers on the egg’s surface with such tenderness. So I turn that quality of tenderness toward myself and stop forcing, instead murmuring softly, it’s ok, it’s ok . . .
And the third idea, also from Lisa Sonora, is a question, What would be nourishing right now?
Over the years, I have often turned to food when I am stressed or pushing through a project. Food is soothing and grounding. But it is not always nourishing.
When I ask the question, what would be nourishing right now? I feel a sense of relief and softness toward myself – I take a deep breath and turn inward. What would be nourishing?
The answer sometimes is surprising – it might be to lie down on the floor, to go outside and touch a flower, to lie in my hammock, to get a cup of tea, to draw in my journal, to SLOW down and breathe, to meditate. Almost always it is some version of slowing down, pausing even, and just being.
In the course of moving house, which I talked about last time, I’ve noticed the challenges of wanting to push, push, push to get it done, to get into the next place, to be done. Moving is filled with task after task. It is a recipe for us to justify being stressed and tense.
Instead of giving into those feelings, I’ve reminded myself to soften, to go gently and to take time to ask, “What would be nourishing right now?” And in so doing, I create spaciousness for greater kindness and creativity while getting done what needs to get done.