Expert Column: Soften. Breathe. Flow.
Thank you Tara Stiles for sharing this article with us. I've learned something incredibly valuable over the last several years, and it goes against everything I've been taught about achieving in my life. It's been a
Thank you Tara Stiles for sharing this article with us.
I’ve learned something incredibly valuable over the last several years, and it goes against everything I’ve been taught about achieving in my life. It’s been a revolution for me, allowing me to achieve more and actually enjoy the process of working toward my goals, without stress, tension, struggle and defeat.
When I started to dive into what I was discovering, I found there was a strict rulebook in place for life. If we follow it diligently, work really hard, keep our head down, and push on through all the stress and struggle, it tells us we might just get to something good, someday. I don’t think this is the best way, and I’m not really sure it works all that well for any of us. I think there’s something better.
What I realised was revolutionary for me, and the more I started to get into the process, and actually practice being in this new way, the more my whole world expanded and exploded. It put me in a new place of playing catch-up with all the awesomeness that I experience, more than I ever dreamed. It’s a wonderful place to be, and I know we can all be here.A ll the sacred yoga and philosophy texts tell us that when we are in control of how we feel – not in control of our circumstances, but changing how we feel about them – then we can become ok with how things are.
They tell us the the world is full of suffering, stress, and struggle, and our job is to practice this suffering, as a way of becoming ok with it, and of one day transcending it. I get it, that’s nice. But with all the progress we’ve made around the science of stress, we know this just isn’t a great idea. We don’t need more stress, and we certainly don’t need to practice it. I knew I wanted something more than this. I wanted to feel great, and live an awesome life. I wanted to create and recreate the world around me, release stress, and when challenges arise, learn to move easily through them. Too much to ask? I don’t think so.
I started to practice my life in a different way.
I started to make the following statements my mantras.
Move easy. Everything you’ve got. In every direction you can.
Use what you need. Rest what you don’t.
Do the simple and challenging tasks with the least amount of effort.
How you move is how you are.
And everything changed. My body started to work really well. My mind became more calm and clear. I was starting to gain access to my whole self, instead of my partial self, the rest of it locked up in tension, stress and fear. Things started to get good, then really good, then awesome.
We all grew up with “no pain, no gain.” As adults, the busier you are and the more stressed you are with everything you’ve got going on, the more we get tricked into believing all this is a sign of success. Sleep deprivation is something to aspire to. Pushing against obstacles all day every day is proof that we’re achieving.
Who cares what yoga poses you can or cannot do. How you are, how you move, how your energy is – is all that matters. And when you align how you are with how you’d like to be, all the poses become easy anyway.
You realise they are only one frame of the flow, arbitrary waypoints along a journey without endpoints. The flow is our life.A gigantic shift – even bigger than the big bang – was the big softening that must have come before it. This softening is the transition we can take to get more, do more, see more, achieve more, all with less energy. It’s the transition we can take to feel fantastic during the entire process. This one is important. How you feel when you get where you’re going is created by how you feel along the way.
Believing in yourself is the root of the issue here. When we lack belief, we stress, tense, judge, and basically act crazy to get the things we think we want. When we take the big leap of faith in our selves, and our own natural ability, we can begin the process of softening. Trust your body will do what it needs to do without you tensing it. Trust your mind will do what it needs to do without you stressing it. Let your spirit run wild with the natural energy you contain. We block our energy when we fill ourselves with this extra tension and stress. We become unblocked and limitlessly capable when we drop the stress, and learn to move in harmony with our selves.
When I get stuck, I have a simple process to come back to this ease.
Try it out and let me know how it goes.
Without softness, very little is possible. Energy, movement and flow are blocked. You can still do your life tense, but you won’t live up to your full potential. Softening comes in two parts. The first is physical softening. Bend your joints a bit, and relax your muscles. Allow some space to enter. The second is emotional softening. Soften your whole self. Ease your mind. Allow some space to enter.
2. Breathe deep enough that you can feel.
Breathing is one thing we can do all day long without getting tired, and there is so much more we can do to access the power of our breath, besides simply breathing automatically. The beginning of this is breathing so deep that we start to notice how we feel, how we are.
3. Sensitize. The first 2 steps will lead you to actually feel what’s going on with you. This can be quite scary, especially when we’ve been trained to block out sensation and push through pain. Sensitizing is incredible information, that makes us each our own best caregivers. From here, we learn to release, relax, heal, and simultaneously get in the flow, doing more with less energy.
Using more effort and tension than needed to get where we’re going is a strategy that breaks down over time, because it breaks us down over time. Worse, you’ll most likely feel miserable during the process, as well as when you get there. The prize may arrive, but how you feel about it lacks the value we crave.So this brings me back around to all those sacred yoga and philosophy texts. I think we can rewrite the message in a way that makes sense for us now. The world isn’t just how it is, full of stress and struggle and suffering, so we just have to get used to it.
I don’t believe we’re so limited. The world around us – how we feel, how we navigate through it all – is what we each create. This incredible power is in all of us: you can change your circumstances, your life, by changing how you are in your body and mind. It’s in how you move, through everything you do. Slow down, breath deep enough to feel, believe that what you feel is worth responding to, and respond. This changes everything. You literally can have it all – because you create it – and more.