When I was first advised by my own spiritual coach to stop white-knuckling my life, I was shocked. Is she missing something? I thought to myself, how am I ever supposed to get anything done?
Clearly, white-knuckling (aka pushing, forcing, controlling, stressing my nervous system to its last thread) was the only way I knew.
I was exhausted. I felt like the hairs on my head were singeing from the amount of stress I was voluntarily inflicting on myself.
But I followed her advice. I eased up. It was scary. Scarier, in fact, than working hard, than pushing.
My fears screamed at me that I would be a failure, and would never achieve my dreams, but as I was feeling all of this, a deeper intelligence took over.
You see, white-knuckling it was not sustainable.
From my controlling mindset, I constantly felt like I was pumping myself up for a big push of work or willpower, and then, when that push was over, I would collapse, exhausted, on my bed – or (more often) dive into the refrigerator – and pray that eventually I would get back on my feet again.
There was no feeling of flow to my life, and, importantly,
~ I wasn’t having any fun.
Then I learned something magical, that I would have never learned had I not taken that leap into a more relaxed, surrendered mindset.
What I learned was this:
Small acts of change ~ so small that they actually feel effortless ~ is enough to create the life that I want.
First, I have to allow my nervous system to relax. From a jacked-up place of pushing, this process of unwinding has sometimes taken days. I clearly remember one specific time when, in the middle of a stint of binge eating ~ which I did out of panic that I wouldn’t have the energy to keep living my life, so I would try to store up as much as I could, obviously not from a rational or clear-thinking frame of mind ~ I suddenly realized, “what I really want to is go lie down with a book.”
And, for some reason, that time ~ maybe because I was so sick and tired of the struggle of binging and depriving ~ I let myself do it.
I not only let myself lie down and read a book, I told myself that I didn’t have to get up. Ever.
I told myself, against all reason, that I could stay in this bed for as long as I needed, even if that was forever. That was how I honored myself in that moment.
And that evening, I got more deep insight into the dynamics that were running my life on a core level than I had in many, many months of running around frantically trying to achieve. I also got very creative; without forcing myself in the least, I reached repeatedly for my notebook and pen, spilling insights onto the page. I read Marion Woodman and watched videos of her and Joseph Campbell and remembered the magic behind the curtain of this whole 3-dimensional reality.
Since then (a few months ago), I’ve been progressively loosening my grasp and trying that on for size. What has been the effect? Well, for one, there is more space around my relationship with food. Much more, I’d say. Coming from a relaxed nervous system, I can almost always tell when I am full – though there are still definitely times when I overeat, or eat emotionally, and those times are inevitably the times when I am stressed in relationship with myself or others.
At least I am no longer creating and re-creating that stress as though my life depended on it – literally.
When it comes it comes, and I experience the intensity and if I overeat, I experience the intensity of having done that. The rest of the time, I put space around the whole situation. I trust in the bigger picture, which from what I have seen, always has our back.
In fact, there is more space around my relationship with everything and everyone. I no longer get triggered as easily by my children, or jump at the chance to take a too-quick action out of fear that if I let things be, something will go wrong.
Every day I am further shown that life does not ask of us to squeeze out ~ using our willpower ~ all of our life juice in order to get the carrot; the carrot being the life we want. All we have to do, in fact, is remain alert. Not too tight, not too loose, the Taoist way. The Zen way. The Yogic way. The way of Wisdom.
It isn’t that we don’t take action – it’s that we take actions that are guided – like a wind at our back propelling us forward.
Otherwise we just take a bunch of the wrong actions, frantically, because we are afraid.
By contrast, the middle way does not feel stressful, or bad. We do not have to do anymore than we can do, and we do not have to push. We can slowly allow ourselves to get stronger, using our awareness to choose what it is in our lives that we want to grow, and then watching that part of our lives flower.
It’s like sitting behind the curtain and delighting in the creativity of directing your own movie, rather than being identified with yourself as the main actor out on the stage, doing all the physical work.
More than anything, we just have to envision, intend, and choose.
Envision the life you want, intend it, and then choose it.
Personally, I am choosing an effortless life in tune with the greater flow. I am choosing not forcing anything that does not want to happen.
What are you choosing?