“Life is what happens when you are busy making plans.”
I have had a lot of conversations with people over the course of my career. People that are facing burn-out, depression, anxiety and physical pain and illness. We usually trace it back to the source of the discomfort and find tools to process, manage and restore greater balance in their bodies, brains and lives.
I have narrowed it down over time to what I really see being helpful in my office and classes and getting continual feedback from the people I see. Over time this has evolved and continues to evolve and change, but I have spent a long time really thinking about what it is that I am doing, and why. This has brought about a great deal of refining, adjusting, throwing out old tools and trying out new ones. But why? It may be obvious: to help people feel better, live better lives, live longer, find peace. Yes, all of that for sure. But why?
I will start with a short story that is told by my teacher, Max Strom. Max is a long time yoga and breathing teacher that embodies wisdom and peace in all his teachings. It goes like this:
There was a student in a yoga class who practicing diligently, with such dedication and commttment for over 20 years. She showed up, tried and practiced until finally one day she managed to stretch her leg up behind her head and slip her foot up behind her head, something like this:
She quickly ran home to tell her husband the great news. Look what I can do! She plopped down, put her foot behind her head.. see?
Her husband looked up briefly from his newspaper and gave her a nod.
She stood up, “Don’t you understand? I’ve been working on that pose for 20 years! Look what I have achieved!”
He looked up sadly and said “Yes, but you are still mean to me everyday for the last 20 years.”
In other words, what are we doing?
Are we working towards some unforeseen goal in the future at the expense of what is happening right now ie. life?
The truth is that at the root of a lot, if not most, of the issues that I see is a lie.
A lie that says we must do more, make more, get more, be more.
It comes out as work harder, make more money, exercise more, look better, buy this, eat this, don’t do this.
Hey, all good messages. But unfortunately our society is relentless with it’s messages about who we should be.
The lie says “I am not worthy”, “I am not loveable” and “I am not enough” just the way I am. The emotion that follows is fear. Fear arrives in different forms like anxiety, worry, tension, guilt, and low self-esteem.
All of the work that we do together, and any personal development work, is usually focussed on clearing out… clearing out negative thinking, clearing out muscle tension, clearing out old core beliefs, clearing out trauma, but why?
Because in the letting go and clearing out lies the indisputable truth of unconditional love. When we have cleared out our mental houses and are left with empty space, that is what fills the space.
To go directly to the endpoint without doing the housecleaning is like spraying Febreeze in a smelly room… it doesn’t last.
When we look at where we get anxious, it’s a person, place or part of yourself that is crying out for love.
When we are sad or depressed, is there part of us we can love a little more… the part that wants to get better?
When we have relationship problems, what part of the other or yourself is like a child asking to be unconditionally loved?
It always leads back to the same place. Peace in it’s purest form is love.
So, what are we doing? As we run around like hamsters on a wheel, doing more, exercising more, working more, burning out, injuring ourselves, breaking down, what are we doing?
Are we turning into machines in reaction to this invisible underlying belief?
When do we start to turn towards ourselves and start asking questions?
The only way to know is to find out what happens when you don’t do that thing you always do. What comes up?
Rest and relief? Great. A feeling of missing something you love? Super, you do it because you enjoy it.
Anxiety and a feeling of ‘not enough’? Ok, you’ve just unearthed a driving force in your life that is probably underlying a lot.
Until this belief is resolved, you will continue to be a hamster on the wheel until the hamster gets tired or sick, or the wheel breaks down.
Only you can find out by finding out what gets in the way. Spend a few minutes this week to think about why you do the things you do.
Next week we will dive into simple ways to stay present and re-connect with yourself when life gets crazy.
Lots of love,
PS. One of the best parenting tips I have ever heard follows from this: to love your children just as they are, for who they are, not for who you think they should be.