Meeting The Moment Without Stress
Fifteen or twenty years ago, I heard someone say that if you are stressed, you are in your ego. At that time, I had no idea if that were true or what a life without stress would look like. But somehow, the words stuck in the recesses of my mind. They have acted as a backdrop to the ongoing spiritual experiment that is my life.
As I have been in the recent process of honouring an unstoppable force moving through my life, a new vibration has begun to reverberate in my cells. I now feel closer than ever to understanding what a life without stress means, and what it looks like to live in effortless ease in every moment, every day.
Through my Hatha Yoga practice and teaching, I have come to know that any form of movement that arises from wanting is one that perpetuates or creates karma. Whether we push into a pose and reach for some elusive sense of externalized perfection, or move out of a pose feeling uneasy or even repulsed by what we felt in it, we are acting from an unyogic, that is, non-unified or divisive, state of mind. This will only generate suffering for ourselves and others. At its heart, Hatha Yoga is not an end in itself, but a powerful alchemical crucible in which we can witness the transformation of our consciousness from wanting to presence, from brokenness to wholeness. Yoga poses are a metaphoric training ground for the positions in which we find ourselves as we go about our lives.
As I continue to explore the full meaning of yogic presence in my life, I have had the great privilege of being able to experience one of the most developed forms of healing available to us on the planet at this time: biodynamic osteopathy. Unlike any other healing modality that I have encountered, osteopathy in the cranial field as developed by Dr. James Jealous speaks to me more naturally than breathing itself. As a performer and composer, I tend to experience the world sonically, so perhaps this description of this healing work is fitting: during a session I feel as though I am an instrument being fine-tuned, while at the same time witnessing the most exquisite symphony, of which I am an integral part.
As I have been making way for the volcanic, unstoppable force to move through my spine with necessary dispassion, I have increased the hours of my daily meditation practice. I also have gone for a biodynamic osteopathy session as I described above. Following the session and supported by the increased hours of meditation, what I am left with is beauty — profound, effortless beauty, simplicity and potency beyond measure.
Each breath we breathe happens in harmony with the universe breathing. It is as if everything that exists is one giant lung. The pumping of our hearts and the shifts in the tissue that makes up our bodies are in sync with the ebb and flow of ocean waves. The synapses in our brains that go off and on to create thoughts are like the sparkles in the stars that light up the night sky, or the auric field that shimmers to make a tree or a flower look so alive. We are literally one with everything that is. This palpable interconnection has never been more present for me.
As I sit in meditation, the unstoppable force fearlessly expands into the potent fullness of being. In that fullness, the sense of “I” hovers as a memory, a flicker in a field of pure possibility, as my true, timeless self expands into the perfect now.
Integrating this presence into my daily life outside of sitting meditation continues to be a process. Faced with a production schedule, due dates, plans and ambitions, I feel the older parts of me attempt to arise and take over. However, such attempts are futile within the quiet potency of this new field of the eternal now. Old ways of being literally feel painful as they constrict and twist the perfection of the moment into what I think I need because a deluded sense of self believes I am other than I am.
Through this, I have come to touch a place of greater balance, where time is an illusion as much as any thought – just a temporal and passing expression of the constructed, divided sense of self. The urgency to take charge, have a fixed plan, set goals, target for what is ahead, are forms of the limited self that is disconnected from the whole.
Within the whole, there is immense room for planning. But this planning is organic, co-creative, in flux and evolving. It floats in the ocean of possibility and is carried by the ebb and flow, the tide and the waves. Both soft and strong as it rests in the supportive body of water, this structure appears separate but is a part of the ocean. It shifts, adjusts, never pushes but evolves.
Just as I know that a flower blooms in spring, there is a trust I now find in my own inherent flower nature, the way I am part of the whole. The flower does not struggle or question its ability to bloom, but effortlessly expresses itself without any sense of separateness from its nature. For me, separation expresses itself mostly in doubt, a moment when my mind starts to question and think it must get busy making the flower, “my” flower-self, bloom. I now know viscerally that there is literally no sense in any such effort. To do so is to only cause myself and others pain. We all act in some form of constriction most of the time. We push through or resist the day, day after day, year after year. Eventually we are left in a pile of unanswered, restless and empty questions, wondering on our deathbed if all the struggle has been worth it.
So what does life look like without struggle? It is rooted in presence in the moment, based on understanding that what is here right now is everything you need. It is expressed as trust in the now, through which you access all the creative support you need to flourish in the world – not by calling out in urgency, but by knowing that the universe’s joy is your joy. Your heart prayers are heard before even you know them. It is manifested through surrender to a force much greater than your limited ego or will. It is shared and enjoyed as love. It is seen in humble unity, where the present is not separate from the past or future, but containing it all and no-thing. Yes, daily challenges arise. But you meet them from the vantage point of wholeness with a natural, unquestionable and effortless confidence that rests in knowing you are already home.
Exercise: Easing Into Life
The way you rise in the morning can set the tone for your day. When you wake up, take a moment to breathe deeply. Feel your body and your aliveness. Get out of bed with presence and awareness. Feel the extraordinary dynamics that take place in your body to move you from a horizontal to sitting position. As your feet touch the ground alongside your bed, take a moment to welcome the connection you have with the ground, your source of physical support as you move throughout the day. Notice the shift in pressure in your feet as you move to standing and imagine that you are growing up from the ground like a tree or flower, opening to the now.
As you go about your day, become aware of tension you may carry in your body. One of the most quick and effective ways to notice when you are in stress is tension. As such, your body is a true ally and teacher in helping you to learn to live with ease. Popular places to hold tension are in the shoulders, the tummy, across the forehead, between the eyebrows or along the jaw.
When you notice tension, do not try to change it. That will only add more tension. Instead, simply notice it is there without any judgment. In this way, you soften to the tension and it effortlessly dissipates. In the softening, an expansion occurs. The energy that once was caught in the tension is now free to move to more creative expressions. Allow such shifts to happen, such as a lowering of the shoulders, a refreshing thought to come to mind, a change in the course of your actions. As you cultivate ease, you will feel more open, rooted and vital. You will meet the fullness of this moment, just as it is.