Working today on letting go of The Struggle and bringing in Joy.
The meandering search for Joy in daily life seems more challenging now during these times of collective anxiety than ever before. Yet happiness should be simple! It’s a choice, they say. (but come on… if it were really just that easy, why wouldn’t everyone just choose to be happy??)
Because we can’t let go of the Struggle.
The grip on the Struggle runs deep in our society. Anxiety and worry over what will or won’t happen; dwelling on the past; fear and dread; escaping through distractions or food or substances – these are all examples of how we live inside the Struggle. Some of us may even live FOR IT (whether we know it or not) – the adrenaline and stress hormones are addictive and familiar.
I have been mired in the Struggle lately. I can feel it in my cells, tightening my facial muscles (RBF, anyone?), and dulling my eyes. Sometimes I can even feel myself grimacing as I wash dishes or fold laundry, or even as I am supposedly engaging with friends or family. My mind gets lost in worrying, obsessing, and dwelling. My thoughts are scraping against my brain like nails on a chalkboard. I can shake myself out of it sometimes, but I can’t seem to stay away for long.
Things I’ve found that contribute to The Struggle:
- dwelling on past conflicts
- worry about what will happen tomorrow
- boredom/ wishing something else was happening right now
- worrying about what other people are doing/going to do
- fearing the “what ifs”
- reliving past scenarios on repeat in my mind
- pining for something I don’t have yet or hasn’t happened yet
- letting other people’s negative emotions impact me
- worrying about how other people are feeling
- guilt over feeling happy/positive/free when others seem to be suffering
- fear of judgement
- replaying conversations I have had, or wishing I had said something different
- holding in my truth – spoken or action
- making excuses for inaction
This attachment to the Struggle puts our bodies in a constant state of Fight or Flight. We become irritable, snapping at our loved ones. We become bored or lethargic. We find ways to self-soothe, many of which are detrimental and numbing. We suffer from anxiety and depression. We medicate and search for answers. As these stressors build up in our tissues we may eventually find ourselves sick or in physical pain.
Here’s some good ole Buddhist wisdom (paraphrased by me): The sooner we accept that LIFE is what is happening right NOW, in this present moment, the sooner we will alleviate our suffering.
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to release that damn Struggle and revel in some JOY.
Life is NOT what I’m planning to do tomorrow or when XYZ finally happens or what I’d rather be doing or what I wish I’d done differently.
LIFE IS WHAT I AM DOING IN THIS MOMENT. LIVE IT and let go of all that other shit.
That doesn’t mean that we don’t plan for the future, reflect on our past, or have goals and dreams. Our present moment can have direction. It can have purpose and forward movement. But in order to take the next right step, we should fully experience the place our feet our currently planted. When our awareness is focused on what we are experienced right now, we have released the Struggle (at least for that moment! It’s an ongoing process …Ha!).
There is a mediation you can do while walking (also paraphrased, probably from Thich Nhat Hanh or the actual Buddha): Before I can place my foot in front of me, I have to experience its current position. I have to feel the ground beneath me in the present moment. Only then can I lift my foot to take a step. I may not move as fast as if I am running, when my mind is reaching ahead of my body, but I am enjoying the full experience of forward movement – the pause, the breath, the pressure on my soles, the contraction of my muscles, the freedom of lift, and the firm reconnection with the earth.
It is only natural to be comfortable in the present moment. That is how animals move through life. We see it in small children – in their ability to be fully connected to what they are doing right now. I watch my daughter walk through a patch of wildflowers: she swings her arms, feeling the warm air against her skin, humming as she moves. She stops suddenly, her attention now fully focused on a bee and his golden legs. She marvels at the curve of a stem and the symmetry of the petals. She is in no rush. Nothing else matters except this moment.
I have found that I have to purposefully release my grip on Struggling before I can fully appreciate my present. I have to first make space in order to let in the JOY that comes with the awareness of right now.
When I catch myself contemplating – my face tightened and my mind on repeat – I am learning to recognize it with compassion and say (out loud or in my head) I RELEASE THE STRUGGLE. Often I can even feel it leave, like a weight lifted.
What a grand epiphany: I don’t have to stay stuck in the Struggle. I can just LET IT GO.