Practicing Relaxing

Rhododendrons excel at "just being"


It’s been over a month since I last posted. There are always a million reasons why you let something fall by the wayside. Most of the time, though, it boils down to this: I was too busy. This past month, however, I’ve been trying to rewrite that old tale. I have been busy, of course. I wove a pack basket, blanched buckets of green beans, and read Fifty Shades of Gray in about three days (I admit it!). But really, I have been practicing relaxing.

I say practicing because it is not easy to relax! For years I have been creating an existence of “doing.” It’s insidious…and addictive. (If you have ever found yourself bemoaning all that you hadn’t done at the end of a long day, you too have fallen into the exquisite and subtle trap of “doing”) Honestly, I have been operating at a pace that has left me feeling malnourished and tired for years… and i’m not alone.

At my core, I am a “be-er.” My idea of bliss is sitting with my hands in a creek and just thinking, listening, existing. Unfortunately, our society doesn’t tolerant a whole lot of being. In America, “doing” reigns supreme. From a young age, I internalized this cultural pressure. I remember the distinct moment that I decided to pour myself from the wide pitcher in which I floated into a tight fitting mold of purpose. It was the beginning of high school. Grades now “counted,” and if I wanted to enter that mythical kingdom called college, I better steel myself to the best, most accomplished, most productive version of myself. It felt like sawing against the grain with a pocket knife. But it was only temporary…right?

Turns out, once you hop the “doing” train you can’t just step off. You have to jump. The more you do, the more there is to do, and the faster your life will just whiz on by. It’s a quick-moving paradox and, if you don’t catch yourself, a coursing river of to-do lists will sweep you swiftly into the rapids.

So here’s how to reverse the agonizing treadmill: Do what you want to do, when you want to do it. I’m serious. This idea scares people. I’ve had more than one conversation with a devil’s advocate who could not see beyond some doomsday vision of a worldwide lazy-person apocalypse fueled by fast food and reality TV. But I disagree– most of us are pretty motivated people. Given the chance, the majority of us wouldn’t just check out on living. The key is to let our joys, our desires, and our intuitions guide our actions. Besides…isn’t this “doomsday” already so many peoples “todays”?

Our intuition is a powerful tool. Those small-voiced instincts aren’t just random, they are the magic of knowing something before your mind has time to reason it out. Haven’t you ever been called to do something completely random, like heading for a different check out lane or taking the long way home? Was there ever a time that that split second decision led to something life changing? Next time you have a “free” moment– put down the to-do list and just check in with yourself. What are you yearning to do? Lie down in the sun? Do it. Clean our your car? Do it. Make strange noises with your mouth and think about star trek? Do it.

When we feed these profoundly individual desires we learn, ever so slowly, how to be free. We better understand the subtleties of ourselves– who we are and what we dream of. We can begin to accept the whims of life like a kite, catching and sailing through each moment, buoyed by a profound faith in ourselves…even if we know the fair breeze is only temporary. When we really listen to these momentary inspirations, we have a chance to discover something truly brilliant– why are we here?

This whole journey definitely hasn’t been a cakewalk for me but, each day that I practice relaxing, I find that I feel just the slightest bit lighter, more centered, happy.  Relaxing may not be easy but, if there’s anything in this life worth working for, it must be this.