If you’re the kind of person who has any problems in your life—your days get too full or your to-do list gets too long or things aren’t going the way you wish they were with your career, or you keep finding yourself in the same unhappy relationship pattern again and again and again—you’ve probably asked yourself, more than once:
What do I need to do to fix this?
You’ve probably tried 100 diets to lose the weight, a dozen “programs” to deal with your emotional issues, a handful of training programs to beef up your skills. Some of these things have worked, temporarily, but all of them have brought you back to that same place you’ve always been.
Tired. Overweight. Overworked. Frustrated. The same old you.
Is it just me, or does life sometimes feel like the same merry-go-round again and again and again?
Recently I got some insight into this.
I have been taking private yoga lessons for a little bit now—as part of my post-divorce plan to get healed and healthy “over this” as fast as possible (if only you could hear the sarcasm in my voice right now—the acknowledgment of my own dysfunction here). Anyway…
For my first lesson, I was prepared for what I expected would be basically the hardest yoga class of my life. After all, this was the point of having private lessons—right?
We talked for a few minutes about what I wanted to work on and areas where I felt like I was struggling. Then, she had me lay on the ground, do a few simple poses, and she did very light adjustments—where she would press me deeper into each pose. By the end of our time together, she was like:
“Okay, great job—see you next week!”
You should have seen my reaction.
I was like, “huh? That’s it!? Aren’t you going to make me do something that feels virtually impossible, and then hold it for a ridiculous amount of time, until I’m shaking and sweating and can hardly stand up? I mean, isn’t that how I’m going to get better at this yoga thing? Isn’t that how I will get strong?”
Her response surprised me.
She told me that her “homework” for me was to work out less, to take naps, and to stop trying to hard to fix and improve myself. She told me that my whole job was to learn to accept myself just the way I was.
You’ll make more progress doing that than you will pushing yourself so hard, she said.
I was floored.
She went on to tell me that when I found myself facing a problem or obstacle in my life, and I wanted to work hard to “fix” it, that I might try actually doing nothing. You should have seen the look on my face… but she continued.
I might try, she suggested, stilling my mind. I might try getting quiet, getting centered, choosing not to panic, not to stress, and letting life unfold as it was going to unfold.
She told me that she could give me a list of exercises to do—hard ones—but she knew that, for me, that would be too easy.
The hardest thing she could have me to, she said, was nothing.
Oh dear God.
She was right.
We get so focused on doing all the things to try to fix ourselves and our situations, but what if we don’t need to be “fixed” as much as we think we do? This is not to say we are perfect, or that our situations couldn’t use some fresh perspective or fresh insight, but what if what we need, more than “fixing,” is just a radical acceptance of where we are RIGHT NOW?
What if all the crazy diets and workout plans and regiments are really just distracting us from the terribly difficult work of receiving ourselves right where we are.
What if radical love is really the only medicine?
I’ve been practicing her advice for several weeks now, and I have to say, things actually seem to go much better for me when I don’t try to control them. My days are lighter when I am not trying to manage all the outcomes. My heart is lighter when I’m not constantly punishing myself for not doing enough.
As it turns out, doing nothing might be the most effective self-help program I’ve tried so far.