Body-Mind-Spirit - Inspiration for Writers, Dreamers, and Seekers of Health & Happiness
“This could save your life,” my father told me, teaching me how to roll over onto my back in the ocean and effortlessly glide through the water using a simple frog kick with arms to match. “You can’t fight the water. You’ll exhaust yourself. The trick is to relax and let the water support you.”
As a child messing around in the water at Jones Beach, I had no idea my father’s water safety tips applied to life, or that I’d revisit this lesson countless times when life became turbulent and I felt like I might go under.
It’s futile to fight strong currents. Yet, when challenges arise in life, I do just that. I crank into high gear and execute the equivalent of swimming head-on into the waves. I do this by thinking, I’ve got to fix this. I then make up, and ruminate over, scary scenarios of what will happen next. I do this habitually, which means it not only feels familiar, but also oddly comforting in its familiarity. This makes me cling to my position. I don’t want to budge. After all, I’m accustomed to my uncomfortable feelings. They’re predicable. The known is better than the unknown, right?
Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, wrote: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” I want growth. I want freedom. I want these things even more than I want my cozy, painful (and yes, sometimes pitiful) habits, which innocently create my suffering.
So I bring on life’s elementary backstroke equivalent: I relax and allow myself to be held by a force greater than me. I quit judging myself and nix my allegiance to anxiety, as I acknowledge that tension, stress, and resistance won’t help me deal with my problems, but will likely exacerbate them. I realize that acceptance is the only helpful response to things I can’t control, and contrary to my wishful illusions, I don’t control life.
Once I’m “on my back,” it’s time to practice the glide, which means finding an effortless way to work with what I’ve got. I do this by slowing down, taking a step back, quieting my mind, and trusting that I don’t have to do so much heavy lifting in life. I can chill. I’m much more likely to solve my problems when I’m clear-headed and calm.
The “glide”—the path of no effort—is tantamount to a commitment not to fight your own mind. It’s about cultivating a zero-resistance policy to what is—when your challenge is beyond your control. It also means not judging or bashing yourself. This requires the ability to see what you’re doing when these (often unconscious) behaviors kick into gear, and a commitment to ask yourself questions, such as: Where’s the joy here? What’s my lesson or opportunity? How can I love this, too?
This path also invites patience. Let others be who they are. Let yourself be who you are. Forgive. These are hard times. We are all doing our best. Perhaps now more than ever, we stumble. We fall. We fear. We tighten. We constrict. But we also have the capacity to open, release, relax, allow, trust, grow, and transform.
Try letting the water hold you up—and keep practicing your glide!
If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy my forthcoming book, Where Do You Hang Your Hammock: Finding Peace of Mind While You Write, Publish, and Promote Your Book. I’d be honored if you’d join me at my Virtual Launch Event. It's free and open to the public, but you must register. I'll be in conversation with author advocate and publisher, Brooke Warner. It's going to be a fun and inspiring hour filled with tips from inspiration to publication and beyond. We'll also be raffling off books and a hammock!