The first step in relaxing is to stop all activity and let your body be quiet. That’s half way there. The next step is to actually allow yourself to be no where but exactly HERE, not foraging through the past or planning the future. Even the future minute is too far ahead. Let the mind that wants to think encounter itself, see itself, know itself in the present moment ~ now you’re there. This is a space that can open up and become a very engaging experience. The mind can drop into the body and see what’s up, the heart, the gut, and the physical body from the inside. Hello Body! Hold to this place of observation allowing yourself to witness how the mind wants to reengage with time and specifics. See if you can stay on the banks of that river and watch those thoughts float by. There’s no need for perfection here. Only seeing and returning to seeing just the experience you’re having right now. This kind of stillness and attention is a kind of down time that few of us give ourselves. It is true refreshment.
The Tao of Letting Go
Letting go is the hardest thing for most of us. If we let go of trying to control the outcome we don’t know what will happen. Our minds love to make up stories about this. Scary, exciting, hopeful, but all mythological. Until something happens it hasn’t happened. It is just a story. We create a huge amount of stress for ourselves by working these stories and then acting and reacting to them. There is such a lack of freedom in this. And a huge lack of trust, faith and the willingness to take risks. LIfe happens on it’s own terms. Here we are struggling along and resisting all sorts of realities about how much control we have. If we used half this energy toward creating a peaceful inner life that then directs our outward reality......wow....can you imagine the difference that would make. The following is a dialogue like many dialogues that have happened in my sessions with people who are struggling to let go.
Client: “there’s just nothing in me that wants to continue working at that company. I feel completely stuck and stunted.
Therapist: “Okay, what’s keeping you there?
Client: I have responsibility. I have a mortgage and bills to pay. I am responsible to my spouse for the life style that we have created.
Client: I can’t just throw up my hands and walk away.
Therapist: Why not?
Client: That could mean we would lose the house.
Client: But having this house means so much to my wife.
Client: What do you mean Soooooo. I can’t do that to her.
Therapist: So it feels as though you would be doing something to her?
Client: Yeah......I would.
Therapist: Have you checked that out with her?
Client: No, but I already know what she’d probably say. I know how important this house is to her. To me too. It is our dream house.
Therapist: So you’re telling me that the house is more important to her than your happiness.
Client: Well, no. Well, maybe. I don’t know. It just seems so selfish for me to do anything but continue where I am. It’s good money. And frankly, we both really like the lifestyle we’ve created.
Therapist: Ahh, so now you’re including yourself in this equation. You’re not sure you want to give up the lifestyle you’ve created. Is that right?
Client: Well, yeah. Of course that’s true for me too.
Therapist: Okay then don’t.
Client: But I am soooooo unhappy with my job.
Therapist: Besides leaving what could you do about that?
Client: I don’t know. It feels like I either have to stay or leave and there’s nothing in between.
Therapist: What if you didn’t believe that it was all or nothing. What if you believed there were a lot of possibilities in the place between staying or leaving.
Client: Well, that sounds much better. But I have no idea what is there. Honestly it just doesn’t feel possible for there to be a middle ground.
Therapist: Well, maybe there aren’t any possibilities. But I do know the way you are thinking about it - all or none - causes it’s own form of stress. And I know that it is evoking a lot of feelings of hopeless, frustration, and resentment.
Client: That’s exactly what I’m feeling
Therapist: Yes, you have shut your brain down to all other options because you are telling yourself that there aren’t any. You brain is obeying. It believes the story you’ve invented - you have to leave or stay and there’s nothing in between.
Client: That’s true. But I am still worried about what this whole line of thinking could do to my marriage.
Therapist: Have you brought this up?
Client: No.....I’m just talking about it in here right now.
Therapist: Well, I think it would be interesting to find out what your spouse thinks about all of this. Ask her right now.
Client: Honey, I hate my job. We’ve talked about that. But I don’t feel like I can put you thru the possibility of losing our house.
Spouse: The house isn’t more important to me than your happiness. It’s just a house. I am more than willing to look at all the possibilities. I don’t want you to be miserable for a house.
Therapist: Are surprised to here her say that?
Client: I guess I am. And I really appreciate that. But I still feel like I should be able to just do my job and leave it at that.
Therapist: Okay.........I can support that.
Client: Yuck, it just sounds so awful.
Client: Every part of me wants out. I want to devote myself to my creativity. But there’s a part of me that just says “ No, You can’t do that. You made your bed now you have to lie in it.”
Therapist: Soooooo. Maybe that voice is right.
Client: Then I feel hopeless,
Therapist: Do you see how circular this has become for you? First, you are telling yourself it’s an all or none decision. Then that creates a huge bind because you feel like you are letting yourself and your wife down. Then you feel horribly trapped and resentful. I can’t Stay but I Can’t go. Is that right?
Client: Yeah that’s exactly how I feel.
Therapist: Okay let’s go back to the beginnning. What would happen if you left your job and pursued your creative passions?
Client: We’d lose the house.
Client: We’d probably have to move.
Client: We would probably lose all sorts of money.
Client: Well.......that would be a huge adjustment
Client: Yeah I guess that’s right. Sooooooooo. What’s the worst thing that can happen. And if my wife is supporting me in this change.....then I guess we could face it together.
Therapist: Absolutely. Who knows how beneficial this could be for your relationship, your health and your highest good. We don’t know what the outcome would be. But that’s the point. Your are so busy trying to control the outcome that you have boxed yourself into a corner. That is a stressful and unhealthy place to be. And I can almost guarantee you that you will end up incredibly resentful and burned out. If you were content with you’re job then that’s where you’d be. But that isn’t where you are. Some part of you is asking to be heard. Some part of you wants something different. I don’t know what that will be.....but I do know that you need to investigate that fully and be willing to follow what is revealed by that kind of inner process.
Client: That sounds so good. I hate being boxed in.
Therapist: Soooooooo....... don’t be. Being boxed in is just a thought. It might be true and it might not. If you believe it you are absolutely boxed in. If you don’t you’re absolutely not.
Client: Yeah but that all sounds so simple. This is complicated. There’s a lot a stake.
Therapist: Of course there’s a lot at stake. Your highest and best good is at stake. Your wholeness is at stake. Something in you is not sitting still for the status quo. I trust that. I trust it more than your scary stories about what could happen if you do one thing over another. What I’d like to see you strive for is a congruency between your thoughts, emotions, sensations, and intuitions. Then you will be aligned with what is in your highest and best good. From there you can take action.........the action that is right for you. Right now you’re like a ping pong ball being bounced back and forth between two opposing sides.
Spouse: I know that whatever we decide we will be okay. I want us to be in this together...we are in this together. I would be sad to lose our house. But it is only a house. And down the road, I don’t want you to look back with resentment and regret about your life. A house and even our lifestyle isn’t worth that. If you end up miserable our marriage would be miserable too.
Client: Wow! Is that how you really feel?
Spouse: I do.
Therapist: That sounds like a re-newed wedding vow.
Spouse: Yeah, I guess it is.
Therapist: Where are you landing with this (to client)?
Client: Well, I’ve got a lot to think about. It’s kinda scary. And it’s kinda exciting.
Therapist: Sounds about right. Soooooo......?