Living with Ease - Possible dream or "tell him he's dreaming"?
I'm walking up a small hill (wish I could say it was bigger, but I'm actually not that fit), sweating, slightly puffing, and feeling my legs and feet hurting.
My feet have been hurting a lot more than usual. I fear it's the onset of a deeper level of fibromyalgia...I've seen it in my mother, and I know it's not a good sign (more about that in future posts).
I'm looking at the top of the hill, trying to tell myself it's not that much further.
I'm telling myself that the exercise is doing good, even though it's feeling bad.
And I'm reminding myself why I don't have a car...good for the environment, good for my budget, good for my fitness (supposedly).
But it's hard work. Despite all this positive internal dialogue, it was hard, I was a bit grumpy, I was struggling up that small hill.
Practicing Living with Ease
So as I was walking along, feeling the struggle, the physical effort and pain. The grumpy emotion countering the attempts to be positive. I thought about the concept of living with ease.
It kinda sprung to mind because I recently heard Rachael Kay Albers make the humorous comment that her word for the year was Enough...with an Ease wing. It's a pun based in Enneagram language (it's not important to get this joke - read on).
My life certainly doesn't feel easy. Specially in moments like this. I know I hardly have anything to complain about really. I have a fairly good life. I've got enough resources to not fear hunger, homelessness or medical problems. And a decent amount of excess, over and above what I need.
But life still can be a struggle. Humans struggle. Pain happens to everyone. And here's one thing I know for sure: if our own struggle depletes us too much, we can't effectively help others. You help others in their pain and struggle by first doing your own healing and happiness work.
Help the world from fullness, not depletion.
And so here's what occurred to me, as I pushed my sore and tired body up a small hill, trying to be positive with my grumpy self...what if I've not built the right mental pathways to live with ease? What if I've been practicing positive thinking in a less effective way, rather than the most effective way?
I slowed down, looked up through lovely, tall trees, to a sunny, blue sky.
I thought about ease.
What would this moment feel like if it were easier?
How would things feel and be different if I was living with ease?
And my body changed.
It stood straighter.
I felt the warmth and the sunshine and noticed the natural beauty around me.
A slight smile rippled over my face.
Maybe living with ease is actually more of a deep practice (google it, it's a thing) than a positive thinking activity.
Maybe the practice required to cultivate more ease if life isn't a forced positivity, countering my negative thinking and feeling (though I believe that may play its part).
Instead, perhaps it takes stopping the forward momentum I've built up.
Acknowledging the struggle.
Taking an expansive breath, looking up to the goal I really want - like looking to the horizon.
And then realigning to it.
I stood there, breathing more consciously and thinking about living this moment with more ease.
I thought about how I get into this psycho-physical pattern. I keep my head down, my shoulders hunched, my mind closed and focused on getting to the next thing I need to do.
It's like I "crust over". I put on a protective shell, to help me push through whatever I'm experiencing.
Like I'm bolstering myself against the world, the struggle, the pain. Even before I'm feeling it.
But in the end, that shell, that hunching, that pushing through, just creates more struggle.
And it shuts out the beauty and the bigger picture.
I get hunkered down in it. It feels normal. It feels familiar. And, yes, it feels kinda safe.
Exercises in Living with Ease
So I'm taking this as a lesson. Living with ease is not impossible.
Well, at least, with more ease.
I've just gotten very used to living without it.
I've trained my thinking to take other pathways. Ones that cement my focus on negatives, which I then try to bandaid over with positive thinking.
I now have a new method. It starts from my inside, looks up into an expansive and open horizon, and then asks how to feel a greater sense of ease.
And because I want you all to experience how good this felt, I've written out some instructions. I hope you find them useful!
1. Living with ease in your body
Find a part of your body that is uncomfortable, cold, hurting or unwell right now.
Take 2 or 3 deep breaths into that part of your body. Imagine the air, fresh and clean, being channelled to that part of the body as you breathe in.
Then ask your body how you could experience this discomfort, pain or illness with more ease right now. Listen for the answer.
Perhaps changing position will come to mind. Perhaps putting socks on, or a rug over your knees. Perhaps lying down to rest your body or sleep. Perhaps just relaxing a clenched jaw or tense muscle.
Do whatever comes to you and as you feel the relief, however small, relish it. Richly. And thank your body for its guidance.
2. Living with ease in your thinking
Find something that's contributing to negative thoughts in your life.
Maybe you've had a run-in with a difficult person. Maybe you're facing a decision that's not easy. Maybe finances are stressful. Perhaps a loved one is struggling with something you can't help with.
Identify the actual thoughts causing you stress, or negativity.
That person really ticks me off, I want to punch them."
"I just don't know how I'm going to pay the bills I know are coming this month."
"I'm so worried about Mary, I can't imagine how hard things must feel for her".
Think that thought, and feel the feelings it raises.
If you can, feel the negativity or stress in your brain, as if you can feel the mental sparks flying as you think those thoughts.
Again take a few deep breaths, and imagine the air moving into those parts of your brain.
Feel the expansion and lightness of the fresh, clean air in that part of your brain.
Now ask yourself "How can I bring more ease to how I'm living with this issue/thought/situation?"
Listen for a few minutes, while continuing to breathe deeply into the negative thinking. Feel into your body for any responses. Repeat the question if it feels helpful, "How can I bring more ease to my experience of this issue/thought/situation?"
- It might be a physical movement - stretching often releases emotion stored in the body.
- It might be an actual action to take - forgiveness, telling someone you love them, buying a gift.
- It may be a self-care action - find more distance between you and the other person.
- Or it might just be to sit still, feel more relaxed and remind yourself that you love you; you care about you; you're here for you.
3. Living with ease in your day-to-day life
As with the previous exercises, make a daily practice of sitting and breathing deeply 2 or 3 times.
Imagine the clean, fresh air bringing lightness to your whole body.
This should calm and centre you a little. It's important to get a little calmer and more centred as you ask the following question, "How can I live with more ease today?"
This is a great little practice to pull out at the start of the day, as a morning ritual.
Over time you'll develop the neural pathways that make calming, centring, asking and hearing answers more innate. After that, it'll be super helpful to use at times when you're feeling negative, pushing too hard or experiencing stress.
Create more ease.