I have found that we, as humans, have a strong desire for everything to be (or at least to appear) neat and clean. There is something comforting about order that helps us to feel safe from the chaos. But, neat and clean is not how life really is.
I was recently walking on a friend’s property after having had a discussion about hosting yoga retreats there. As I was walking the dogs around the forest-laden acres, I was seeing broken limbs, a downed and decaying tree, and piles of leaves and weeds around. Basically, nature. I immediately thought, “Well, we would need to clean that stuff up in order to host a retreat”. But then I stopped and marveled at my own moxie for thinking I needed to improve on what nature had done. I mean, wasn’t the whole point of a retreat to be in nature and let go? To get away from the things we try to control every day? And why did I feel the need to make it look a certain way?
This “tidy” compulsion is tied to emotional comfort. It feels better and safer emotionally when things are neat and clean. It is a way for us to escape from the dirty business of dealing with ‘real life’ when things appear closer to ‘perfect’. In the south, women are frequently taught to make it appear that we have it all together, we can handle it “all” (whatever that might be) and that everything is ‘just fine’. It’s an illusion to trick the mind into believing that there is nothing to worry about and to support the illusion that we are strong and need no help. This illusion can work in the short-term, but over time, it has a great price of physical and mental health. And it never really accomplishes anything, the underlying issues are still there behind the fake smile.
But, back to my walk that day. I became curious as to my need to make nature more presentable and I started to think about how Mother Nature doesn’t care about appearances. Mother Nature does what she does and doesn’t think twice about what anyone thinks of her or how she goes about things. Mother Nature is a bad ass and if the point of a retreat is to unplug and just be, maybe I should take a lesson from Mother Nature and not be so concerned with appearances. As I continued on my walk with this perspective in mind, I was able to find comfort, beauty, and peace all around me.
We hear the direction to “Let it Go” a lot, but what if we just “Let it Be”? I have found that people tend to get anxious when directed to “Let it Go” because they get caught up in exactly how to do that. If, instead, we could “Let it Be“, we could take some of the pressure off. We don’t have to do much of anything except observe and notice; be with it, whatever it is.
Once we can just be, we can begin to practice the yogic teaching of Santosha or contentment. Santosha is one of the ethical teachings on how to live a more peaceful life. Santosha guides us to work on being content no matter what is happening. Santosha directs us to notice, to be with what is happening, and to practice acceptance of what is. When we can do this, we can be content and recognize that we are ‘ok’ no matter what is happening. That this moment is complete just as it is and that we can just be in it. I fell into contentment on my walk and this brought peace and ease.
I am not recommending that you give up on working toward growth and improvement, but I am saying that putting up a front or creating the illusion that everything is ‘ok’ when it is not won’t take you where you want to go. Many times, we try to make everything clear-cut, cleaned up, and neat looking, but it’s not realistic. And many times this prolongs what we are dealing with and it pushes our contentment further away.
Everyone has challenges. Everyone has struggles. Everything is not neat and clean. It’s life. Life is not concerned with appearances. Life is going to do what life is going to do. So, what if you just let it be? What if you paused and took a breath and noticed that you are ‘ok’ in this moment? What if you invited contentment into this moment by being with it just as it is? How are you making things more difficult than they need to be by fighting the natural flow of things?
Try on some of these questions this week and then just let it be. I will be trying right next to you.
Talk again soon,