I have been working a lot lately. I have been teaching my classes, subbing lots of extra classes, finishing and (finally) leading my workshop, Also, things in the “mom” world have accelerated as well, as we careen toward the end of the school year. And, not only have I been working a lot, I’ve been working hard, if hard means pouring your heart and soul into your work. But it is very odd, I never feel like I’m working. I’m busy during the day, tired at the end of it, but the work is so ease-full that it is confounding all of my preconceived notions about what “work” is.
I worked in the corporate world for over 25 years. When we were working hard it was obvious. Stress was high, patience was low and pulses were racing. Even if you personally weren’t feeling the effects yourself, you got to participate in the shared duress of the workplace. Even the most steadfast could be affected during “crunch times”. Intellectually, we knew the stress wasn’t helping the work get done, but it sure felt like it was crucial to embody the importance of the task at hand by living that stress.
In my classes, I often talk about making the practice “ease-ful” even when it is not “easy”. When a student faces a challenge in practice, physical, emotional, spiritual, or whatever it may be, I encourage the student to stay with the sensations, don’t look away, and see where you can bring ease to the challenge. Sometimes I will joke that they can take the effort out of their expressions, and that gritting teeth and grimacing faces do not really help you balance. But I understand why it happens because we are so used to seeing and feeling evidence of our work that it has to “show up” somewhere on the outside. Bringing in an element of ease does not mean to shy away from the “hard work”, it means to soften to the work instead of resisting it, or bringing more aggression or struggle to it. . With ease, and acceptance, you can often go deeper into what you are doing, reaching a higher level by letting go of the struggle. But you have to give up the habit of having that stress that is your evidence that you are working hard. Instead you have to acknowledge it more internally and allow that to be your own “proof”. I have found in my own practice that ease and softness can support strength, and sustain it even more than an aggressive approach. It may not look like I am “efforting” so much to someone else who is watching, but so what? I have also found that work of all kinds can be joyful, exciting and exhilarating if I let go of the notion that it is hard.
I think we are conditioned to think that if it’s “work”, it has to be “hard”. And we gear up for it, barrel through it, attack it, or whatever other aggressive metaphor we can think of. Sometimes we even create struggles that aren’t really there, just to prove that we are really working, putting in the effort, really earning this badge of “hard worker”. If we don’t look and feel like we are battling, struggling, overcoming, is it really work? And what about these made up struggles,, these invented dramas that occupy our time? What are they really proving, and to whom? Swami Chetananda says, “Your work really begins when you release struggle”. A-ha! So maybe we create struggle to avoid the real work? Can it be that the day-to-day dramas protects us from our real work of going inside to get to know our inner authentic Self? I think, perhaps he is on to something.
I am enjoying the ease that comes with work that is aligned with my passion. The past weekend, which I am now referring to as ” my dream weekend” included teaching Yoga to over 85 fabulous individuals at Barton Springs, leading a new workshop I created called “Yoga for Effective Workforce Communication”, and teaching my regular class with Frank, Zoe and Seth in attendance, as per my Mother’s Day wish. So I worked all weekend! But the words that come to mind when I think of the weekend have nothing to do with traditional “have to work on the weekend” vocabulary. Instead I think , “joy” and “bliss’ and above all “santosha” which means contentment. And, when my old habits creep in, as they always will, I will continue to remind myself to release the struggle to allow the real work to begin.
The Self has no problem. Since the Self is essentially what we are, we, too, have no real problem.