It’s rarely what we do that harms us. It’s what we do too much that can become a problem.
So is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Sure. For me it’s cookies. Sugar isn’t a bad thing on its own. In fact, it’s a fundamental component in cellular respiration that we need to survive. But, it’s pretty easy for us (me) to have way too much, because there’s so much available all around us now. Which can lead to all kinds of serious health problems, ranging from depression and anxiety to diabetes and cancer.
So yes we can have too much of a good thing. But what about ease. Can we have too much of this in our lives? Do we need to input some stress to stay on our toes?
It’s a reasonable question, and there’s a short answer that comes to mind.
It’s unlikely that any of us find ourselves living with too much ease. It’s unlikely that any of us are living too much in an optimal chemical state. That’s just not the reality of how we live. So with this particular good thing, ease, we don’t need to worry too much about steering away.
But, some good vigorous challenge-tackling – the ability to handle stress and accomplish great feats – is also good. In fact, it’s part of navigating our way to progress. And ease in this context, in a chemically and neurologically useful sense, isn’t just sitting on a couch doing nothing. Because this doesn’t lead to much of anything.
Instead, our aim is to have ease in the midst of everything, so we can handle greater and greater levels of challenge. It’s how we fulfill to our greatest potential the very human desire for creation, invention, progress.
I’ve been thinking of this a bit lately. The best fighters I know, best rowers, best climbers, aren’t stressed, rigid, anxious and afraid. So they endure and thrive much longer, and much more successfully, than someone living in an anxiety and stress-driven chemical state. Go into battle as if already dead. It’s a very old Chinese writing. Simmering in stress and tension, you’re already at war with your self on the inside. There’s nothing left for the war outside. So you have no energy for challenge, death will come soon. But that’s not what anyone wants. So much better to be already dead.
The thing about survival states, we’re designed to be here for only very short times, measured in seconds to minutes, not hours or whole lives. Which means they’re not a good performance strategy, unless what we want to do always takes less than 2 minutes.
So if you’re a 2-minute kind of person, maybe your performance can be all stress-based. But for most of us, really we want both. Ease and challenge at the same time. It’s how we create progress, both inside and out.
How to get there? Practice. We’re not used to practicing ease, so it’s something we actually need to practice, just like we’ve practiced stress and struggle. And to make it effective, start simple.
Practice the simplest things, easily, all the time. Whenever it’s possible, it’s really useful to approach your body and mind through how you move in your life – hopefully before serious conditions or symptoms develop that need more urgent intervention. This practice creates the conditions we want – in our chemistry, neurology, gene expression, and psychology – to accomplish much more, in everything there is.
It’s why yoga, tai chi, qigong, can all be such useful places to practice, when we use them to practice moving well. Practice just the forms, making poses, maybe not so much benefit, if you’re thinking of neurology, chemistry, rewiring our old habits. We don’t change so much by making a shape. But how we move and breathe is at the heart of how we handle stress, how we age, our healthspan and disease, and what we’re able to accomplish in this body. So we use these forms to practice how we move.
It’s not often that we learn to climb in the Karakoram by dropping from helicopter onto a vertical wall of rock and ice at 7,000 meters. More we like to start simple, discover how to use our body in the best possible way, how to create some harmony with our whole selves. From simple, we can gradually escalate the level of challenge we approach, sticking with the strategy of ease, harmony, using just the amount of energy needed to handle what’s directly in front of us. Nothing more.
When we slip back to the old stress and struggle strategy, we use too much energy. On the mountain, use too much energy and you have not enough for the next challenge. So if that challenge isn’t optional, maybe you die. Or you get carried home.
In yoga or tai chi, when you slip back to using too much energy, too much stress, some disharmony, you get to see yourself some more. You see where you are, what layers of pre-tension, disconnection, exist between here and the un-layered uninhibited version of your self. Who you really are. And from here keep working on creating something better, something bigger for yourself.
The amazing thing about this un-layering process – this path to finding connection and harmony as our way – yes, it works. Better than the other way. So we do bigger things. But more, this forming a positive connection with our selves, without pretense, with ease rather than struggle, we form also a positive connection with everything. Everyone. So this is much much bigger.
– by Mike
About Strala Yoga Training
Strala combines the movement and healing wisdom of tai chi with the form vocabularies of yoga, tai chi, qigong, and Traditional Chinese and Japanese Medicine, to help people release stress, move easily through challenge, and live radiantly inspiring lives.
It begins with a mindset, that says our best way to get where we’re going is to feel good along the way. It also works miracles for whole health, helping us to find ease in our bodies and minds, and create the right conditions both for healing and optimal performance.
In our Strala Training Courses, you learn to shape your destiny on every level that counts, from your psychology, chemistry and neurology, to your chromosomes and even gene expression. The unique set of skills you develop – for connecting with yourself and others, unblocking your energy, healing what needs healing and accomplishing challenge with ease – uncovers your ability to create the life you want, and be an inspiring leader to the people around you.