I spent yesterday scurrying down the local shopping strip in the rain, getting completely whipped in to a frenzy that I had not bought enough gifts.
Part of me knew it wasn’t true. I had, after all, sat down and thoughtfully made a list of the gifts I’d give everyone. I was only out to pick up a few stocking stuffers for our kids – since we actually have stockings this year, a first – and a little something for the daughter of the friends who are having us over for Christmas Eve dinner. But being out in the stores amid all the other shoppers who were having their own crises of holiday shopping confidence knocked me for a loop. Eighty-seven dollars and an hour-and-a-half later, I’ve got a shopping bag full of gifts my kids don’t need, and that goes against my whole Christmas wish for them—which is to not be all about getting more stuff. Sigh.
I’ve now got the words “Trust” and “Relax” taped up on my bulletin board. In my shopping-fueled whirlwind, I forgot both of these important concepts.
Instead of trusting that the careful list of gifts I’d made was enough, I got hooked in to thinking I had to try harder, buy more. Instead of relaxing and enjoying the holiday displays in the windows, I got competitive when I saw the other shoppers fawning over seemingly incredible merchandise.
In these last few weeks of the year–whether you’re buying gifts, hosting gatherings, setting goals for 2012 or taking stock of 2011–it’s all too easy to get overly vigilant, to feel you’ve got to buckle down and be better. The problem with this thinking is that it prevents you from being open to grace–the flash of insight, chance encounter, or secret longing that can only be heard when you’re not busy berating yourself and making lists of things to do.
Trust and relaxation are like the chicken and the egg: Trust without relaxation doesn’t hold water—it’s like your boss telling you, “I know you’ve got it under control,” then micro-managing your every step. Or try relaxing when you don’t trust that everything is unfolding exactly as it should—it doesn’t work. You need both, and when you’ve got one, the other will follow.
Aside from connecting regularly with wise people who can remind you to occasionally ease up on the striving (thanks, Darla), the best way I know to invite more trust and relaxation in to your life is goddess pose, also known as reclined bound angle pose (or supta baddha konasana in Sanskrit). In this pose, you lie on your back with your knees bent, soles of the feet touching, and arms resting either palm up on the floor alongside your torso or palm down on your belly. That’s it. Then you stay and breathe, allowing the weight of your body to sink further in to the floor and your thoughts to float by like clouds in the sky.
If you really want to amp up the deliciousness of this pose, find a firm cushion (couch cushions work nicely) to place under your shoulder blades and head and roll up two bath towels and place them under your thighs so the stretch in your inner thighs doesn’t become uncomfortable. But if the thought of gathering any doo-dads makes you feel like you don’t have time for the pose, just do it unadorned.
As you lie there, you’re completely vulnerable—your belly, chest, and lady parts are exposed—and yet you find comfort and release in that vulnerability. The goal of the pose is to help you relax so fully that you can be receptive and intuitive—two all-powerful feminine traits. (Hence the name.) Guys, you can do it too. We all need a little yin with our yang, y’know?
Aim to stay in the pose at least a minute (use a watch, or better yet, a timer—a minute can last a lot longer than you would ever imagine it could), although you can stay as long as it feels good. Sometimes my whole practice is 10 minutes in goddess pose.
Try it just before you do any resolution-making or year-end analyzing. I promise it will help you see the world as a sweeter place, and help you make connections you simply can’t see when you’re in a vigilant mental state.
“See” You in the New Year
I’m taking next week off from this newsletter. I hope your holidays include a healthy dose of relaxation, receptivity, and revelry!
Take care and keep breathing,