Ease is a fitting theme for summertime. You know the famous song, Summertime, where the first line is "Summertime, when the livin' is easy." Yet, just because it's a particular season doesn't really carve out our inner experience. Our internal climate has nothing to do fundamentally with the external climate. Still a good song and a wonderful suggestion, to experience ease in the summer, yet it can take more than "summer" to invite ease into our beings.
I've always been touched by one particular phrase in the metta or Buddhist lovingkindness meditation, May I be at ease. There are a number of other phrases within the classic lovingkindness meditation but for me, there is something fundamentally important about May I be at ease. Really creating ease in our psyches and bodies can be an answer to so much of the stress, anxiety, struggle, confusion and pain that we experience. Many of us have such a tendency to live from push, pressure, self-judgment and blame-all opposing energies to ease!
I remember when I trained in a particular form of bodywork called Trager Bodywork about 30 years ago. As we were moving various parts of our client's body, we were instructed to reflect while gently moving a leg, for instance, "What could be easier...what could be freer...what could be looser?"
Holding that question, "What could be easier?" while engaged in action- while engaged in interaction-was so profound, so transformative! It totally influenced the way I participated in that moment-from old habits of pushing and trying to get something to happen to a place of deeper connection, acceptance and attunement.
I invite you to try on that question while doing anything, or even while just sitting here and reading this article. It's a question for both your body and your mind-what could be easier or freer in my body and mind right now!?!
I was recently listening to a wonderful dharma talk from Gil Fronsdal that you can click here to listen to entitled Learning From Ease. I found it a very inspirational talk that applies to meditation and life, it has a very simple message-establish ease and return to ease. Yet honestly, it's not necessarily easy to do. It really takes ongoing intention and commitment to both establish ease within ourselves, track when we leave it, and then come back to ease whether its in a meditation practice or the practice called living life.
So here are the two nuggets that I've referred to above in his meditation instructions, but again, it can apply to any activity you are engaged in:
Start by establishing a sense of ease in your mind and body
Then observe all the moments of moving away from ease and gently guide or invite your mind and body back into ease.
That's it!! Simple, huh? Super easy to remember! Is it easy to do?
As I experimented this morning with this meditation practice, it proved quite challenging-I observed how my mind was vacillating between spaced out and agitated and my body had a quality of tension around my heart area with a sense of fear being present. Was I at ease? Not really.
When the mind is spaced out, the mind is not in a state of ease and restfulness, but a state of avoidance, distraction, even a quality of dissociation. I finally found my way towards ease by really encouraging my mind to rest on the breath, moment to moment. In fact, I had to consciously start to regulate my breath first. One technique I like to strengthen the parasympathetic nervous system is to double the amount of time it takes to exhale compared to the inhalation. The inhalation energizes the sympathetic nervous system and the exhalation stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system.
Another great breathing practice to create a balanced flexibility in both branches of the nervous system is to equalize the duration of your inhalation and exhalation. This is a great way to initially wake up and relax the mind and body.
After 5-10 minutes of either of these approaches to regulated breathing, just allow for natural breathing. I like this question to pose to the breath and body, "How does breath want to breathe in this moment?" Then follow the answer that your body provides through the natural expression of your breath!
The 2nd step is to then observe how various thoughts, states of mind, and emotions can carry you away from ease. Thoughts about what to eat for breakfast, concerns about a challenging meeting that is scheduled later for the day, planning what you want to do today etc. can all be exit routes away from ease.
It may be helpful that in order to establish ease, you may want to encourage yourself to be a "C" student, not an "A" student. The "A" student within us often works from lots and lots of pressure and self-judgment-try being a "C" student at this!
How's that for inspiration to find ease, be a "C" student at achieving ease and it may be a lot easier to find ease! Maybe even try on being a "C" student in the way you live your life this day and notice if you find more ease, a more relaxed and grounded you and maybe more of the true you!