When I observe myself and others in daily life, I notice a whole heck of a lot of effort but not much ease. I don’t just mean we’re all working hard. Yes, we are. But the effort I notice comes from all the extra stuff we pile on to everything we do. We make ourselves sick with worry about things in process, thinking of a dozen imaginary outcomes and scenarios for failure. We lose sleep over nuances and implications picked up in conversations with colleagues and family. We catalogue everything that’s left undone during the day and berate ourselves for being so far behind.
The challenge is how to leave some of that stuff behind and deal only with what’s necessary and what’s real. Yoga helps you ramp up the ease factor by encouraging mindful attention. Starting from a place of mindfulness, it’s possible to identify when you’re making things more effortful than they essentially need to be. Then you can let that stuff go.
If you look around, you’ll see plenty of examples of people who practice the perfect balance of effort and ease. Think about the front-runners in the Boston Marathon. These top-class athletes are working hard, placing one foot in front of the other mile after mile, but they’ve stripped down their performance to only what’s necessary to support this basic effort. You never see one running in cleats, or with a birthday cake balanced on the top of his head. That would be silly, and would surely make it more difficult to perform skillfully.
Allowing stress and worry to dominate your life is just like that. It makes everything you do much harder than necessary, so you’re exercising your nervous and endocrine systems, interpersonal relationships, and emotions much more than is strictly necessary in order to finish your task. All that wasted energy could instead be redirected toward feeling better about yourself, achieving work/life balance, or battling back from stress-related conditions.
Commit to trying to observe your stress, taking a mindful approach. The next time you notice yourself getting stressed and worried, imagine yourself removing a giant, heavy cake-shaped hat. Take a deep breath and a long exhale. Then continue on with your day, free from your ridiculous, unnecessary burden.