My mind is usually abuzz with thoughts about what I have to do, what happened in the past and what the future may bring. Imaginary conversations take up space in my head, dragging me down down rabbit holes. All that unnecessary mental activity can get exhausting.
Meditation offers a reminder that I don’t have to do that.
I recently attended another mindfulness retreat. It had been a stressful week with many worries. As I took my seat, thoughts swirled in my head about everything that had been going on. It felt like I was juggling plates over my head, trying to keep everything in the air. I was tensing without even realizing.
And then it hit me like a bolt from the heavens: I could choose to let go of it all. There was nothing that I had to do and nowhere to be, except sit in stillness exactly where I was.
We practiced mindful movement. I have a habit of challenging myself by trying to make poses more difficult to make my muscles work harder, and I’ve found myself doing this even during retreats.
But this time, I let go of striving and took a simpler route. No need to set personal records, hold the pose longer or deeper; I wasn’t competing against anyone.
I didn’t need to do every movement perfectly, I needed to mellow out. It took more than a few breaths to bring myself down and feel the ground beneath me.
Not worrying about who was watching, what they thought about me or how I looked — what a concept. I gave myself permission to set all those pressures aside, and for the first time that week, everything calmed down.
Obviously, this is not something I do enough of. If I forget that I can simply let go during a formal mindfulness practice in a supportive community setting, then it’s not surprising that I tie myself up in knots during everyday life.
And everyday life is what really matters.
I’m still not good at this. But maybe each time I stop myself, I do so just a bit earlier. With time, I will get closer and closer to stopping before I even start. And that’s something I can look forward to.