Small Tweaks in Thinking and Focus can Lift Weight and Heaviness in Life
How often does living feel heavy, your heart feel burdened, your steps slow, your joy dimmed? Many are feeling this way now and were before 2020. Stress is not new, nor are feelings of weights on our shoulders. We yearn for more lightness in our lives, a sense of ease. And, importantly, we are not talking about "easy." Life can have lightness and still have many challenges. "Ease" and "easy" are not mutually exclusive. Following find a few ideas of how to bring some lightness and inner light back into your life.
1. Choose the time that is right to take something on.
I have a problem with New Year's Resolutions. I actually don't make them anymore. Some set growth and betterment goals at this time of year....and stick with them! I feel a weight and a load going into a new year with vigorous resolutions and what I feel as a burden as opposed to lightness and new beginning once released through the gate of the previous year.
On the other hand, a vision and intention for life going forward can be extremely empowering and valuable for attaining goals and enacting change for the better on the path to breaking through to a being of true self and happiness, giving hope and energy possibly.
Several forces are at work this time of year. As we discussed in our program last month about being more at ease in winter, the season of less light, more cold, and often less energy, this is often not an ideal time to set fervent and active goals. In tune with the natural world of which we are a part, albeit removed, the winter is post-harvest, post activity, a time of proverbial dormancy, perhaps hibernation, introspection, peace, more sleep, more gathering of warmth, coziness, contemplation. Aligning with the clock and sun our bodies are more efficient in winter when we go to bed earlier and wake with the sun, or just before.
With more light as we pass the winter solstice, and more warmth as we turn the corner to Spring in a couple months, we regain energy. Our bodies and neurotransmitters react. Thus the term "Spring cleaning." That surge of initiative to organize, refresh, turn out the old and make room for the new. Ideally, this is the time for resolutions, intentions, and a better chance for success perhaps.
Heaviness of winter, dark and cold and aligning with it instead of working against it is one example of how to bring lightness into your life. Recognizing seasonal alterations and how we change with seasons can truly lighten the load and release us from striving against an unmovable structure, in this case, a season. Paying attention to what works for you and how your body responds seasonally is key. There are certainly some personal differences!
2. Know that your true self is one of lightness. Work to peel away the layers.
Let's examine the idea of "lightness" further. Light has two meanings of value to us here. There is the light within us, the glow, the purpose, the joy or contacting what is truly meaningful and valuable. Secondly, there is a lightness of being, or a feeling of release from weight and burden, worry, regret. The two concepts can merge and offer, well, illumination;).
From the Huffington Post, Dec. 23rd, 2014:
Each one of us is born with light. We are the light at our core that's our essence. Our light is always there, and it's available to us to access at any time. What covers up that light is all the fears, negative thoughts and past baggage. Our energy becomes dense and heavy as we walk around carrying the weight of the world. We have convinced ourselves that this is who we are and we are meant to live in this way. This is not the case. The truth is we need to let go of everything that is weighing us down, holding us back and limiting us in life. ... When we let go of who we think we are based on the ego keeping us captive, with its insistence that we are our thoughts, fears, personalities and dramas, we give space in the present time to find out who we really are. Who you are is a radiant soul that has come here, in this time and space, to shine your light and share your gifts with the world.
This short excerpt is dense with meaning. In our PART Program, Aimee teaches techniques and a new way of living that enables us to begin stripping away the fear, tension, stress, lingering and reliving the past and worrying about the future, so that we can start to come back to who we really are at the core. A recent PART participant noted how, at the end of the course, they were "starting to feel like themselves again," after quite a long time. The vision is one of peeling off layers, of removing what holds us back from feeling more ease, more lightness in life. The start is believing that inside you dwells a spirit at peace.
3. Listen to what your body is telling you. Tune in to intuition.
A good decision that resonates and comes from a place of love is often the one that just feels lighter, does not make the shoulders sag, or the stomach twist. Paty Mariposa gives us some more insight and a way of gaining lightness through intuition and a love mindset:
1: Release the blame and compassionately forgive yourself.
2: Begin listening to your body and the subtle ways it speaks to you. When faced with a choice, ... ask yourself: “Does this feel light or heavy?“ “Does this tire me or inspire me?” “Is this a whole body YES, or heck NO?” Ultimately, these questions are directed to your intuition and your response leads to trusting your it so you can start choosing love over fear. When you choose LOVE you feel light, expanded, inspired, and it sets you free and it creates more of what you want. Fear, on the other hand, causes you to shut down, drains your life force, your energy, your sparkle, and your body responds.
4. Be flexible and accept, even take positive advantage of, changes that you cannot control. Don't fear a personal paradigm shift.
Flexibility and adaptivity are keys to feeling unweighted in life. The shackles of being adverse to change and set in our ways is heavy, a true burden, keeps us form moving forward with ease. This is not to be confused with having standards or a code of personal conduct. We all have tenets that we try to live by/love by. In HeartMath, we learn that to feel "in the zone" or "coherent" with life, activities, interactions, challenges, the most constant attribute, among several, for achieving this state is flexibility. My mental image here is a pine tree, bending in the wind but not breaking, living to 500 years old as a result of resilience and the ability to adapt. Barbara Voesdisch lends some meaningful words:
Like nature, you are subject to constant phases of change. Your children are born, grow up, leave home, the relationship with your parents, siblings or grandchildren are sometimes closer, sometimes more distant or break off completely. You will experience emotional, mental, physical, private and professional changes. Whether you experience these changes light-heartedly and in freedom or feel forced to your knees and burdened, depends entirely upon how much you let go of people, ideas and expectations and how flexibly you can adapt to the circumstances of your life, reshape them and reinvent yourself again and again.
5. Meditation and relaxation breathing techniques bring and create light and lightness.
My mother is a world class meditator. She started a few years ago and honed her craft through working with Aimee, but she can set herself into a meditative state as soon as she hears "now close your eyes and tune in to your breath." She describes the feeling as floating, as many who meditate do. It is well documented that when we are able to bring our mind to one pointedness, focus inwardly on the breath or a mantra, we can evoke a parasympathetic state of ease (opposite of stressed state, sympathetic) that brings a feeling of lightness. We also talk about the light and space inside often when meditating and relaxation breathing. Both applicable definitions of "light" are at work here. Feeling light and spacious inside, while being able to stop the everyday train of swirling twirling thoughts is a direct path to lightness in life, and to setting a tone of lightness, ease and more resilience for the day.
Religious belief, faith and prayer are certainly ways to find lightness. As is meditation. Meditation and faith can be mingled. Or kept separate. Meditation is a secular endeavor that can be enhanced by the user in many ways, depending on their belief system. We teach secular meditation to fit all students.
A meditation mantra, or repeated phrase that helps to quiet the mind:
Om Laghu Bhavam Laghu means “lightness,” or “having the quality of space.” Bhavam is our state of consciousness. This mantra affirms that, “My essential nature is lightness itself. ”
Mantras, or repeated phrases or words, are powerful tools to support your meditation practice. As you silently repeat the mantra during meditation, a few things happen:
You quiet your mind – Repetition of the mantra helps you move beyond your thoughts and access the stillness within.
You experience deeper awareness – The mental vibration created by the mantra allows your mind to access pure awareness.
You discover your true nature – With daily use during meditation, the mantra helps your body, mind, and spirit relax into their true essence – pure potentiality and happiness.
6. Being in each moment, mindful, is a release of stress that can lighten your experience of life.
Meditation is a mindful state. Mindfulness can be defined as just being aware of present moment activities, connections, thoughts feeling, sensations, without judgement, and with compassion. Mindfulness is absolutely a route to being "lighter" in life. To understand more fully, it is often helpful to look at the opposite state from mindfulness. You wake up and look towards a day of work, chores, possibly some stressful interactions, or any such combination and manifestation. You also wake up to reliving a past mistake or a feeling of loss, longing. You start the day with your mind in the past and future, perseverating back and worrying forward. This is heavy and can bring us to our knees before we even eat breakfast. On the other hand, imagine waking up and stretching and when you stretch you feel and are attuned to every muscle and the delight of the movement. You smile and open the window for fresh air that you note the feel, smell and temperature of. No judgement. Paying attention to every movement you go about your morning tasks with MIND TO THE MOMENT. Looking into the eyes of a loved one and listening, checking your calendar then letting it go and taking each task one at a time. Living each moment as it comes. Knowing that adaptation, recovery and flexibility are in your toolbox of skills. Which feels lighter? The picture is not one of floating through the air whipped hither and thither by the wind of our fast track minds. The picture is one of being grounded in the present moment. Steady but light. Light in spirit and light in being.
When I am in the woods calling in my senses to all that is around me, having what is called an MOE, or Mindful Outdoor Experience, I am light, I am joyous even. I am utterly present and alert, energized. You may have different activities that bring on this state or where you can call it in. If so, then you know the feeling we are shooting for.
7. Be light, with humor and compassion for yourself as you go about your business of being human.
When Aimee and I are working with students, who are trying new skills and practicing for the first time, we often remind to bring a lightness to the endeavor through humor and self compassion. The Practices of meditation, mindfulness and relaxation breathing, gratitude integration, HeartMath, adaptive positive thinking, connection and pro-social behavior take practice, integration and self-awareness. Along the journey an ability to be light and easy with oneself is key and brings a lightness to the endeavor that keeps you going, AS WITH ANY LEAENRING SCENARIO. Humor brings energy and resilience to go forward. Self-compassion means we are ok with mistakes and we go easy on ourselves to allow time to learn without judging. The Mayo Clinic reminds us that humor can be learned, as can self-compassion:
Humor can be learned. In fact, developing or refining your sense of humor may be easier than you think.
Laugh and the world laughs with you. Find a way to laugh about your own situations and watch your stress begin to fade away. Even if it feels forced at first, practice laughing. It does your body good.
Go ahead and give it a try. Turn the corners of your mouth up into a smile and then give a laugh, even if it feels a little forced. Once you've had your chuckle, take stock of how you're feeling. Are your muscles a little less tense? Do you feel more relaxed or buoyant? That's the natural wonder of laughing at work.
To wrap up, let's put all 7 lightness strategies together in one scenario.
28 YEARS AGO I was the assistant soccer coach at a college. It was mid-season and the team was heavy, burdened, lacking energy and joy in the game. Before Mindfulness was a term or concept that we all knew, I asked the head coach if I could talk to the team. We gathered in the weight room and I talked to them about finding joy again by setting goals, knowing you want to win but then being in the moment with every play. Finding the joy in each good pass, settled ball, positive run, good decision. I was hitting on our #6 above, Mindfulness. With the other six points in mind now, I might have added:
a discussion of choose your time to bring energy, to bring decisions, to slow the pace, to put the burners (from coaching perspective, mid-season was a fit time to introduce a slightly new pattern of thinking).
a talk about peeling away ego and expectation, to reveal just the athlete, the learner
a reminder to listen to your body and intuition - what does it need? what is instinctual?
a cue to be flexible and adapt to what you see on the field. If something does not go your way during the game, take a moment to note, then move on and change it for next time. Adapt to the game.
relaxation breathing and meditation visualization for clarity
a reminder to add some humor and lightness to the view of your game and the enjoyment of the game
Put yourself in the place of that group of mid-season athletes or students or parents, or caretakers, or employees. How would that talk make you feel? How would it release you to allow for "in the zone" growth, energy, lightness, and adaptivity?
I am no expert or perfectionist in practicing the above 7 techniques/perspectives. I am and always will be a student, a practitioner. But, experience has made me aware of heaviness and, in contrast, how more lightness in life can enhance the experience of living. Love, believe it or not, can really lead the way. As can starting the day in a mindful and meditative way. When Aimee and I remind ourselves to go forward with love first in our teaching, caring for our students, the ego calms, the striving settles, the sense of having to be perfect and prove oneself all the time drifts away and opens a space for bringing forward our true selves and genuine integrity for teaching. We can work to and push our potential in a way that is lighter because love is leading the way, humor is abundant, and when we are making a decision we often tap into intuition and the heart/brain connection and ask ourselves, "how does that feel?" We have up and down days like anyone. But the lightness, ... the lightness comes more often!
As with so much, the move to lightness is a choice point. How heavy should a challenge, a moment, a task, an interaction, a life, be?
"Lightness and weightiness...are both choices in life." - Erik Pevernague
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PART classes are filling now for January. Tuesdays Am and Sunday PM still have spots available.
HeartMath for PART grads is being offered in February as is 28 days of Mindful Movement and Meditation.
Benefits of Nature Connection is closed and will be offered again in March.