The first two changes I’m making are tangible, you can hold them in your hands and see them with your eyes: drawing, and reading books. This third change is abstract, but just as real. Change 3 is Effortlessness. To live with Effortlessness.
What does that even mean?!
I have been going to the physiotherapist every month or so to get some muscle in my back manipulated back into place. If I were more mindful of my posture in chairs, and slumped less on sofa’s, I would apparently save myself a fortune. After she has sorted that out, she squeezes the knots of tension out of my shoulders and neck. Every time I go back, there they are again. It sort of annoys me. ‘Is it stress?’ I ask her… ‘Yup!’ She replies. ‘Grrrrrrrrr…’ I growl to myself, ‘I want to live without stress!’
I left the last session promising myself, and her, to take a look at my life from a metaphorical 50,000 feet, to see why these knots of stress keep coming back. What am I doing wrong? The answer was clear: Effort.
Effort as in: toil, stress, strain. Effort isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it has plenty of worthy synonyms too: application, aspiration, industry… But I often do things the first way, stressing, toiling and straining. I toil my way across town on a walk instead of taking a relaxing ramble. I stress my way through an evening’s parenting instead of smiling at all the chaos unfolding around me. I strain my way through a new piece I’m learning on the piano, and give myself wrist strain. It’s exhausting!
I really want to live like the Bobby McFerrin song, ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’, or Bob Marley’s ‘Three Little Birds’ (Rise up this mornin, Smiled with the risin sun…) I need to chill out!
I want to master the art of letting go, letting go of stresses, of worries and anxieties, of frustrations and expectations. Letting go of the troubles of the world. Letting go of all the mad, mad running around.
Effortlessness, I believe, means living as the real me. Deep inside, this real me is very peaceful and quiet and clear. He doesn’t need to get swept away by the furious pace of our world, doesn’t need to run around, overdo it, strain and strive. The real me knows exactly what effortlessness means and knows exactly how to do it: with ease, pause, peace. All I have to do is listen, and practice.
I went looking for help from my books, and rediscovered this from Thich Nhat Hanh. It’s exactly what I have in mind:
“Have you ever met someone who seems to be skilled in the art of letting go? [They] can remind us and help us let go of worry, craving, and concern, so we can be free to encounter the wonders of life that are in the here and the now. If we see someone living in this world who is not disturbed by the ebb and flow of life, not enmeshed in afflictions, that person has freedom, that person is solid. To see such a person is the highest blessing. When we master this quality, all of our worldly afflictions dissolve and we become indestructible, completely at peace. We can become that person by practicing happiness in the present moment.” – From Two Treasures
I read it to my wife Marina. ‘Do you know anyone like that?’ she asked? ‘Just the man who wrote it…’ I said. But I know that we all have the ability to live like that. And I’m working on it.
Rise up this mornin, Smiled with the risin sun…