We live in an age when continual work and huge amounts of effort are held in high regard. Many employees are expected to work above and beyond their contracted hours, sometimes for no extra pay. And people almost seem to compete as to who can work the hardest, or the longest hours.
And yet, when we really look into this culture of competitiveness, of excessive drive and ambition, we can perhaps recognise that this constant effort, the drive and ambition that characterise so many of us in our working lives, can be counterproductive in terms of our quality of life. The sense of balance between work and rest, between giving and receiving, is so easily lost in this way. And sometimes we put ourselves under the sort of pressure which actually makes us less, rather than more, productive.
In yoga philosophy, we now see a domination of the dynamic solar energy, the energy of the pingala nadi, affecting the majority of us. When this dominance is allowed to continue, the sympathetic nervous system is stimulated which induces stress, and may result in any of the stress-related illnesses. Yoga practices which quiet this system, such as asana, meditation, pranayama (breathing practices) and yoga nidra (deep relaxation), help to recreate balance by fostering the qualities of ida nadi, the parasympathetic nervous system, and the serene and peaceful energy of the moon.
In Jin Shin Jyutsu, we learn to perceive the attitudes which underlie our way of being. These attitudes are largely recognisable emotions; worry, fear, sadness or anger, for example. Emotions which, when they become dominant, affect our whole perception of, and reactions to, the circumstances of our lives. Another attitude which affects many of us is that of ‘trying too hard’ – where everything is an effort, and life is not allowed to flow more naturally. The quality of our ‘being’ is often overlooked, crowded out by the effort of ‘doing‘. We can then fail to notice the way we are affected by the things we do, both on an emotional and a physical level.
So if you frequently feel exhausted by the daily effort you put in to your life, it might be time to look afresh at the way you do things. Is the amount of effort you put in to a task disproportionate to the effort that is actually needed to accomplish it? An Alexander Technique teacher once told me to notice the physical effort I used during the simple task of turning on a tap. Sure enough, when I thought about it, I was using way more effort than needed, and way more than I had ever noticed until my attention was drawn to it. And of course, the same could probably be said of many other simple daily tasks. The key is to start to observe, to be more mindful of our actions and the way we live our lives.
And then there’s the huge amount of energy we can put into resistance. ‘Trying to’ hold on to things the way they are, to maintain our sense of familiarity and safety with what we know. And herein lies the attitude of fear, the attitude which is said to be at the root of all others. If things change, we are scared that change will be for the worse. But then we are stopping the natural flow of our lives, which just might get better if we can learn to relax all that effort and let go.
The following quote comes from The Tibetan Book Of Living And Dying
by Sogyal Rinpoche. If effort and resistance to change is an issue for you, the exercise might be worth a try:
“Let’s try an experiment. Pick up a coin. Imagine that it represents the object at which you are grasping. Hold it tightly clutched in your fist and extend your arm, with the palm of your hand facing the ground. Now if you let go or relax your grip, you will lose what you are clinging on to. That’s why you hold on.
But there’s another possibility. You can let go and yet keep hold of it. With your arm still outstretched, turn your hand over so that it faces the sky. Release your hand and the coin still rests on your open palm. You let go. And the coin is still yours, even with all this space around it.
So there is a way in which we can accept impermanence and still relish life, at one and the same time, without grasping. “
I love this exercise. Through our yoga practise, we learn to identify the areas in which we are grasping, striving, and holding on. In asana, in pranayama, in meditation, we identify our blocks, and then we let go of the effort of holding on to them. We learn to flow with our lives, to use only the effort needed, and rebalance our bodies and our minds. We gain a wonderful sense of space around us.