Relax With What Is

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Relax With What Is

When I was younger, I couldn’t catch a ball to save my life. Every time I saw the ball coming towards me, I panicked. I either so badly wanted to catch it that I tried too hard and couldn’t actually focus on catching it, or I was convinced I’d never catch it anyway, so didn’t really try at all. Only many years later did someone give me a piece of advice that seems to universally apply: just take a breath and focus on the ball.

It sounds so simple, and yet it can be so difficult. We often encounter the same thing on our yoga mats. We dread a particular pose in the sequence. And when the time comes to do it, we either struggle, straining and frustrating ourselves (and finding only strain and frustration in the pose), or we just do the pose half-heartedly, believing it’s not really possible for us anyway.

But what if we just took a breath and focused on our bodies? If instead of forcing or avoiding the pose, we relaxed into it? It is in those moments, when we let go of our thoughts and just stay with each inhale and exhale, noticing our muscles, our discomfort, our boundaries, that we realise we are truly in the pose.

Paradoxically, it is when we surrender that we find our power.

Yet it can be so hard to give up control, or even to admit that we never had control in the first place. We want everything in our lives to go the way we expect, the way we plan. The fact is, they never do. Things happen all the time—in the broader world and in our own little one—that we don’t want to happen. Things that hurt us, things that challenge us, things that change our plans completely. We can spend all the energy we have fighting or denying those things, but the truth is, that energy is simply wasted. So why fight?

Accepting that we are not in control can actually be freeing and empowering. It can allow us to take control of what actually is within our power— our own reaction to the events around us— and use our energy efficiently to move forward in a way that serves us.

We’ve all been stuck in traffic. We watch the minutes tick by as our car or bus inches forward, then stops. Our ears are congested by the sound of honks and stalls and sputters; our eyes are assaulted by the sea of cars; our chests start to fill with panic as we realise there’s no way we’re going to make it to that important meeting on time. Our plans are ruined and it’s maddening.

We can bang on the steering wheel or honk the horn or shout until we’re hoarse, but that’s all we’ll be. Because none of it makes any difference. And once we realise that, we can relax with what is. We can take a breath and focus on what we can do—let people know we’re going to be late, use the time to prepare more for the meeting, look around and appreciate that everyone on the road is in this together, or just breathe! After all, as Jon Kabat-Zinn said, “You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf.”