Went to a yoga class last week. It was awesome, the first one I’ve been to in forever. It also happened to be at the end of a three day juice fast AKA get-off-the-caffeine cleanse. More on that later. It was at the end of class, when we lay down in Sivassana, or Corpse pose, flat on our backs with our eyes closed, that the voice started talking to me.
“It’s no use, you’ll never relax,” the voice taunted. I looked and I saw him, there in my head. A little man, a bit like a gnome, a miniature tweaked out stress freak. Greenish wrinkly skin that accentuated every bone in his wiry body, big bugged out wicked-looking glowing eyes.
I sighed. “You again,” and I felt my body tense up, fighting gravity, resisting the gentle lull of letting go.
Then I remembered something I read once by the Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. I can’t find the exact quote, but the basic idea is to invite your challenging feelings in for a cup of tea, figuratively speaking. Welcome them into your home and embrace them.
“Come on in,” I said, “Have some tea,” and I whipped up an imaginary magical sedating elixir.
He stood motionless, eyeing me suspiciously.
I held his eye contact steadily, consciously working to see past his appalling presentation, because I know he has something of value to offer me. He has to. “You know, you don’t have to be so stressed out,” I said. “I know it’s your job and all, but you don’t have to do it.”
“Lady,” he said, shaking his head, “You gotta stop sending me mixed messages.” And he took a sip of tea. “Yum.” He exhaled and relaxed. I relaxed.
I reflected on that. There is something in my subconscious mind that believes I need to be stressed out, that I need to try so hard all the damn time. And that part of me calls this tweaker to do the job, and he makes my life hell.
The other part is the caffeine habit. I find myself having such an attachment to caffeine, such an impulse to consume it all the time. I sometimes believe I need it to function, that I can’t just let myself get through a wave of tiredness, relax and rest into it. The caffeine summons this little green mean machine, as well. He comes and fills me with energy, which is great. But then, when it’s time to wind down and rest, he’s still there, contracting my muscles and chasing my thoughts around in circles.
Always on. Always up. Always energized.
Exhale. I gave the stressball a refresher on his tea. “You’re right,” I said. “I do need to work that out.”
He drank more tea. I relaxed more deeply. “This is nice,” he said, reclining on my chaise lounge. “I could get used to this.”
My body melted further into the floor. And I remembered that the bliss of relaxation is so much more deliciously fulfilling than the high of adrenaline.
I decided on my new mantra: EFFORTLESSNESS
I poured a cup of the tea for myself and drank deeply. Slow inhale. Long exhale. “It is nice. I could get used to it, too.” I turned to the green man and smiled. He smiled back, a slow lazy smile.
I closed my eyes and all thoughts disappeared.
Awesome photo credit: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/central%20africa