[mk_blockquote style=”quote-style” font_family=”none” text_size=”16″ align=”left”]“Take it easy: Don’t hurry, to proceed at a comfortable pace, relax. – Urban Dictionary”[/mk_blockquote]
From the time I was a little girl. I was taught that anything worth doing was worth doing well, that a tendency to work hard is a virtue and that laziness is the worst of the vices. And, as a mother myself, I’ve tried to teach my three kids that they can do anything they can dream of if they work hard enough at it.
Let me take a moment to define what I mean by hard work. Sure, sometimes it’s good old fashioned work – the kind that leaves you sweaty, out of breath and exhausted. But, just as often in my life, hard work has required tenacity, a refusal to quit, a willingness to try something a hundred times until I finally get it, and a dedication to practice – both to learn and to hone a skill. In short, hard work is very active. Sure, I might take a deep breath before trying again. But that breath is less for restorative or re-centering purposes than to provide me with the necessary resources to work even harder on my next try.
A gift of age and life experience has been an understanding that sometimes I need to take it easy in order for my hard work to pay off. If I hit a block when I’m writing, often the best thing for me is to step away from my keyboard. In fact, if I don’t step away, I find that the tangle of words and thoughts on my screen actually worsens. The break gives me space and perspective. Clarity typically makes an appearance quite suddenly – whether I’m in the shower, behind the wheel of my car or on my yoga mat, the missing segue or idea will pop into my mind like a light bulb turning on. When I return to my keyboard, the remainder of my essay or chapter often flows from my fingertips fully formed.
The same has proven true with all kinds of struggles. If I’m in the midst of a disagreement with my husband, stepping away helps me gain clarity both in understanding more clearly his point of view and in better expressing my own. If I’m struggling with a decision at work, saving it for a new day is usually exactly what is needed for the solution to become clear. Taking a break has helped me in mastering a complicated piano piece, curing an ailing serve on the tennis court and in figuring out how to effectively move into a yoga posture. Somehow, my mind and my body manage to figure out the required actions while I’m doing something entirely different.
In one of yoga’s seminal texts, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the 46th sutra is “sthira-sukkham-asanam.” Translated, this means that practicing yoga postures with strength and in a relaxed manner brings harmony to the body. On our mats, then, in every posture from the simplest to the most challenging, we are meant to find a balance between effort and ease. For me, learning a new posture almost always begins as hard work – effort. This is often a sweaty, exhausting time as I try again and again to find my way into the pose. This is a very active time requiring a lot of tenacity, stubbornness, and willingness to keep practicing.
It is not until I begin to develop proficiency, to understand the nuances of the posture, and to become more experienced and confident in my ability to be in the posture, that I am able to begin to find the necessary ease in the posture. It’s not until I can let go (at least a little bit) of the hard work of “doing” and let the posture do itself that I really begin to get it. Without fail, it is when I can relax in the posture that the real magic happens. It’s when I find the balance between effort and ease that I suddenly feel growth, increased flexibility, an ability to go deeper and a desire to explore and play.
It’s important to note that “taking it easy” or “taking a break” are never going to get you anywhere without hard work. Just as we seek a balance of strength and a relaxed manner in yoga postures, hard work and taking it easy are two parts of a whole off our mats and in our lives. Taking it easy is a chance to allow your hard work to take root. Taking a break gives your hard work the time and space to bloom into the growth and change you were dreaming of. Hard work sets the stage for your new ability or idea. Taking it easy is often necessary to coax this new ability or idea out onto the stage to shine.
Work hard to fulfill your wildest dreams. But don’t forget to take it easy,