Lean into the *e*x*p*a*n*s*i*o*n*
(3 quick & easy bite-sized bits of big Winter Solstice wisdom)
1. Physically slow down (even some of the time).
2. Quiet the mind using presence tricks.
3. Don't rush your healing and evolution. Much more often, tell yourself kind, allowing message like this:
Love & blessings, Jaya
(Practice during the holidays, REV IT UP DURING A PANDEMIC, carry on year-round!)
Could it be true that NOTHING IS INHERENTLY STRESSFUL? Whoa, what?
The thing is, if something MUST be stressful, then stress is the only thing possible once you’re in that something. If the holidays are stressful, then, stress. If work this time of year is stressful, then, stress.
If, however, that same something is not inherently stressful, then … what else is possible?
It’s been almost 15 years since I encountered that idea through Byron Katie. This writing is not about Katie or her inquiry process, but hey, I love to give credit where credit is due. Um, and I used to be ridiculously quick to declare stress, overwhelm, exhaustion, and ultimately how very depressing it all was. I’m still stunned that I live with so much ease, that I have for more than a decade. It’s kind of amazing that I’ve made a motto of There’s no problem.
Here’s what I did: I launched an experiment to test the idea that nothing is inherently stressful.
I wasn’t convinced of this no-inherent-stress thing. I’m still not. (The experiment is ongoing.) My visual imagination can conjure up scenarios that would seem to me inherently stressful (how about a war zone, or my kid in ICU?).
But it takes much less for most people to agree to obvious, automatic, absolutely warranted stress: moving, for starters, or divorcing. Or getting together with family of origin (or your partner’s!) over the holidays. I’ve stopped considering such things stressful. In fact, declaring stress seems to me a deplorable waste of my life force, which I’d rather use to be present to any situation I find myself in and get myself through it with as much grace (clarity, humor, kindness) as possible.
So I invite you to your own experiment. And (at the distinct risk of repeating myself), if you’re going to bother experimenting at all, make it a grand experiment!
Here are some things you might try in order to play with the possibility that nothing must be categorically stressful. Really (really) try them on. Keep coming back to them. Keep practicing. Leave no scenario or individual out of the reckoning. When you think, No really, this, STRESSFUL, ask yourself, What if nothing-inherently-stressful could work here too? It’s a great way to open to new lenses to look through.
There’s nothing to lose and plenty to gain. If the experiment makes a fool of you, you’ll be a more open-minded, more present, less stressed-out fool. Not half-bad, right?
Start with this basic premise:
So with a basic acceptance that life does what it does and people do what they do (oh, and you’ll have to keep coming around to accept that again and again, now and now and now), and that you’re in charge of you—not of other human beings and all of life--then you can get present to any situation (whatever its comfort level) and go about the business of creating the greatest possible ease in the context of reality.
From there, go into and/or be in any tricky situation with a mindset of not-inherently-stressful. Remind yourself:
Go in expecting to keep bumping up against your old beliefs of STRESS!—as they’re likely to kick in as quickly as you feel discomfort. This will serve you much better than imagining that an open mind going in will translate to freedom from old stories. Oh, no no no. So if you don’t need it to mean that, now you get to simply keep your eyes open and show up for what’s actually happening. (That’s a whole chapter in my book, Scooch! You’re already doing much better in the ease department if you’re willing to show up for what’s actually happening, not what you wanted to have happen or thought should happen.)
Stay in witness mode while you’re in the potentially (not inherently) stressful situation. I love to remind people to reach for the compassionate, dispassionate witness once you’re consciously witnessing. That is, witness with compassionate eyes that will look upon the scene (and you in it) with loving kindness; witness with dispassionate eyes that can hold a neutral gaze no matter what’s going on, that won’t get sucked into any story. The compassionate, dispassionate witness does not judge!
And know that the witness is a part of you, sitting right next to the scared kid, the teen who wants them all to fuck off, the escape artist who’s eyeing the emptying wine bottle. It’s fine: witness all of it, judge none of it (which means, drop out of judgments as you notice them, and get okay with their lingering presence if they won’t just march on command).
Let me point you to a couple of free resources. In November, I sent out recipes for going through the holidays with ease, and there are some great strategies there. (Use the headings to read what’s relevant to you. They’re all given near the top as well as throughout the text.) I’ve also created a 3-page pdf that lays out a clear formula with clear examples for staying firm (boundaried!) in difficult conversations. (It’s great to use with manipulative people or convincers.)
I’ve also got an audio program with written and audio supports that’s chock-full of super-helpful, clear, applicable mindsets, tools, tactics, with stories and examples. I taped it this December with so-called holiday stress in mind, and I’ve gotten fantastic (and sweetly grateful) feedback from takers. Check out the (Before they drive you crazy) Take the Wheel Program, which puts you in charge of your well-being in any situation, no matter how others are behaving ($55). (This means you can’t be a victim of what they do or don’t do, or of any circumstances, or of some concept of inherent stress!) This program, by the way, will help you apply the concepts in this writing and take them further.
Finally, to work in an ongoing way with this simple idea of nothing-inherently-stressful, you can learn to witness and monitor your feeling states and thoughts and use the information they give to point yourself consciously to self-care in the moment. You’ll also get swifter at course-correcting from upsetting thoughts to ones that feel more peaceful and empowering, and from your own powerless reactions that you disapprove of to quick shifts back on-track. Monitoring your feeling states as you go, you’ll also catch thoughts more quickly and stay out of what creates spiraling momentum you can’t get out of! All of this is laid out in my $33 Expansion program, along with lots on resistance and making your way with the greatest ease along a path of least resistance, one available step at a time.
For the record, these offerings are part of a current intention to offer affordable programs full of hefty, deep, nuanced content (sprinkled with humor and, um, occasional profanity) for those looking for solid, low-cost support that doesn’t require a one-on-one coaching process. You can listen to them at home, in spurts, in your right timing. (I always welcome interactions with real people—I'm happy to get your questions by email. The expansion program includes a custom-made audio for you, which I create and send along once you send me the optional homework.) I’m excited about this new programming, and the feedback that keeps coming in tells me it’s on-point. I invite you to these great offerings to support you now (in the stress season) and anytime.
Love and blessings, Jaya
Want to get on with it? Find your point of least resistance.
Hey, have you figured out yet that it’s just resistance when you keep putting off what you say you want to do or what you think you should be doing? It really helps to know it as resistance. It helps to call it resistance. Otherwise, you have to call it lazy or lame. You might get into self-scolding or even self-loathing. And I bet you know that’ll never get you where you want to go. In fact, judging your resistance is more likely to increase it.
So what if, instead, you noticed the resistance and just got okay with it—human thing that it is, for human being that you are. What if you declared that you’re in no rush, you’ll get there in your own good time, and you’re simply going to head that way through your point of least resistance?
Ah, then you get to actively enjoy the binge-watching (and notice when it’s not fun anymore, because enjoying it means it’s not fraught with shame or misery that keeps you stuck there). Or you get to appreciate prioritizing the easy task, and move swiftly and surely through the ease of the simpler, more obvious, more joyous thing that must also be done. As you feel good about working with ease, you get to increase feeling good in general. And from that place of feeling good, and having had some guiltless fun or checked off a to-do or two that cost you little, you might take a (satisfied, can-do) breath and go for the harder thing.
I’m giving you three examples to illustrate the point of least resistance, so check out the one or ones you’re most drawn to. Example #1 targets the Enneagram’s self-preservation instinct (self-prez to Enneagram geeks): getting yourself to the gym. Example #2 correlates with the sexual instinct: working up to leaving the relationship, or agonizing over the belief it’s really time to go (but you don’t or can’t). Example #3 addresses the social instinct: wanting to rev up your connections or grow your circles. After reading your preferred example(s), drop down to the subhead “More implications of the point of least resistance.”
# 1: What if, instead of judging yourself for not getting to the gym, you welcomed yourself to the human race and considered how very many people struggle with how to work in working out? What if you stopped calling it lazy and instead took a look at the actual issue for you? This could lead you right to your point of least resistance. You might be inspired to get an accountability buddy, try a new modality that looks more fun or doable right now, or find a YouTube guide or a class. You might start simply walking or biking more to get from point A to point B. You might determine that a few good stretches could change how you feel in your body and start taking two-minute stretch breaks when that scrunched-up-at-the-desk sensation creeps in.
So much is possible! But not when you get trapped in resistance, and not when you see a point of least resistance but don’t grab it because you treat it like an evil (or at least believe that you’re wimping out, not doing it right, not doing enough).
# 2. What if, instead of forcing yourself to walk out of the relationship you suspect you’ve outgrown, or even forcing a stay-or-go decision, you located your point of least resistance? What if you gave yourself full permission to hang out there for a while and see what comes next? Your point of least resistance here could be about spending more time alone or with friends. It could involve making a pact (with your partner or yourself) to have fewer arguments (walk away at the first whiff!) and spend more time in appreciation or admiration, while putting aside stuff-to-work-out or what-to-do-next for a time. Or it could be working on passion and connection in every other realm of life while allowing, in the relationship realm, the relief of simplicity and neutrality (but not misery and criticism, at least on your end)—then you could see where that takes you.
# 3. What if, instead of telling yourself you’re hopeless at the social thing (as you wish for more of it), you told yourself that growing your connections is a good intention to hold and play with? There’s already less resistance in that. Then you might consider what feels manageable and aims you roughly in the right direction without some great overhaul of either character or habits. It could be going out to eat alone, even with a book or device for starters, or going to the movies solo or with a friend or partner and appreciating that others are about, having a similar experience. Or you might join a class so that you have a repeating experience of gathering with a fixed population on a shared point of interest in shared space. Your point of least resistance might even be an online group! It might involve self-permission to join something in silence, allowing yourself to begin by focusing on your inner experience. It might be to find a buddy to do something you’ve never done or want to do more of (salsa or karate? wine tastings or vegan cooking? choral singing or meditation?)—something that happens to be done with or among other human beings.
More implications of the point of least resistance
You won’t grow your social, sexual, or self-prez self from a place of feeling like you’re perpetually off your game (or like it’s a game you’re not remotely equipped to play). But you can grow any one of those by stepping from one point of least resistance to the next, and just see what gives as you allow yourself to step onward, curious about what’s possible, open to what reveals itself.
I cannot say enough about my love of the point of least resistance (and how much it’s helped my clients and program participants). It’s all about stepping in where it makes the most sense because it feels best and easiest and most aligned with where you are right now. This concept is super compatible with the idea of scooching (you may already know how much I love to Scooch!). The point of least resistance came to me through Abraham-Hicks, who teaches that it’s also your point of greatest alignment, most fun, and greatest joy. I keep playing with it and loving the experience and results. It’s so much kinder than all the forcing and straining or the judging and shutting down. I invite you to it (and you can learn about it in my beautiful and now beautifully cleaned-up and polished Expansion audio program).
Love and Blessings, Jaya
Note that my post Force Nothing adds to the ideas presented here on least resistance.
Put yourself to bed kindly, lovingly, as you would put to bed a beloved child.
Would you put a child to bed hissing in their ear about what’s wrong with their face, how scary the world is, why they won’t amount to much? Just a guess, but you might instead go with a lullaby, maybe a good story, sweet murmurs of love—anything kind, gentle, and comforting. I invite you to put yourself to bed that way too. As someone who used to struggle with insomnia and take all my woes to bed with me, I’ve loved coaching others in making bedtime truly kind and likely to promote the rest we all deserve. Five easy steps follow, including in step 2 the ABC’s of addressing what needs addressing so you can put it all down for the night!
1. Sleep is the best reset button: make conscious, intentional use of its power.
Take sleep very seriously as the most fabulous (and free!) reset button at hand. Part of what sleep does is pause your current sense of identity and your preoccupations with your life’s conditions to date. If you let it, it can clear the slate every day, allowing you to come back to the truth of who you are—which has nothing to do with these current conditions. By not taking today’s batch of woes, fears, critiques to sleep with you, you allow a new opening each new day, upon waking, to the truth of who you are, and all that this can translate to in the realities of everyday life.
Go to bed with the intention to release, rest, and rejuvenate—intention is powerful. So don’t stumble to bed in a cloud of whatever’s-on-your-mind when you’re ready to drop. Be conscious about what you put down and let go, and what you take to bed with you.
2. Do not admit worries or to-do lists into the bedroom: Easy as ABC.
It’s typical to lie in bed reviewing the worst of today and fretting over tomorrow. Maybe throw in a slo-mo replay of that awkward misstep at the dog park, flash to your favorite childhood humiliation, then take another spin around the globe as bleakly highlighted by the news industry. Ready for something kinder? Make it a rule (or a grand experiment) to take none of that to bed—not admitted.
Here come the ABC’s for minding before bedtime what actually needs your attention. Ideally, consciously give these your time earlier in the evening, then let what occupies you for an hour or two before bed be what you enjoy, what nourishes you, what you love to do and think about. However, if five minutes at the tail-end of the day is all you’ve got sometimes, take five before bedtime grooming. Just sit with paper and perhaps a calming beverage to give a nod to today’s completion and jot down a few notes for tomorrow.
Address practical matters.
If it serves you, glance at tomorrow and write down to-do lists and priorities. Put the thing thrice remembered and forgotten on the calendar so you trust you’ll get to it. (Now forget about that oil change or IRS call in good conscience.) Dash off the text that’s really not so hard to write—but does crack the ice that keeps you stuck. In other words, if you can do one quick thing to begin or complete a task (rather than make a note about it), do that. Now you’ve done what you’ve done for this day: it’s enough, and it’s all good enough.
Be with emotional stuff.
If something emotional from the day needs processing, journal it, talk it out, or take it to a bubble bath. Set up future bolstering by sending the scheduling email to the right support professional or making a date with a friend. Since you’re (absolutely) not going to take it to bed with you, do make it worth your while in the evening (your heart is worth your own time and attention). Set yourself up to let tender matters go during sleep hours by letting yourself know they’re being tended to.
Consciously be done with today and open to tomorrow’s total potentiality.
Go to bed with nothing in tow about today or tomorrow: you’re done. You can reinforce this on the physical level by moving slowly and deliberately as you groom and change for bed. When thoughts of this day or the next offer themselves (and you know thoughts—they will), don’t engage. Just say, “I release you” or “Done!” or “Shop is closed.” There’s nothing more to do, fix, or figure out. Things in flux? Feeling like a work in progress? Of course. That’s how a human life goes. Your day is still complete; your mind has no more job to do beyond aligning with rest.
I like to start watching my breath as I head bed-ward so I’m already cultivating a meditative mindset. This, too, supports treating sleep as a full reset, entered into consciously. As you step into your bedroom, make it a ritual by saying out loud, “This day is complete. Tomorrow, all things new, all things possible.” As you say this (or your own phrase that sings to you), believe it as much as you can. Feel it, as much as you can. (It’s enough.)
3. Only good thoughts allowed in bed, and only briefly.
Lying in bed, if you must think at all, only review what you love about your life, what feels good, what went right in your day. (Remember, you’re putting yourself to bed as you would a beloved child.) Flash to moments of loving the beauty and brilliance of people, plants, and critters in your daily world—your own bright, shiny moments included. Honor your completions and notice what was satisfying or glorious. Review hugs and hilarity, easy connections. Whatever nice things you pull out to polish mentally, please keep even this kind of thought to a minimum. Some people love a good gratitude list, so reel off a few gems, if you will, but get in and get out.
4. Drop into love, and let love drop you into sleep.
For whatever conscious time you’ve got left (whether seconds or hours, depending on your tendencies or the day), give your full weight to the mattress and to gravity, releasing every muscle to all that supports you. You are held. Give yourself to love.
Think in terms of lying in the arms of love. You are a child of the Universe: see yourself as Source sees you as you drop into the unconscious realm. Call on whatever you know of love right now and let everything else go. Love is ever-available, as it’s the essence of who you are. (If this trips you up on a bad day or through a hard era, create spaciousness here by looking away from being loved or receiving love—hard pass on a life review of love, please. Just hold the feeling of love in the easiest, most innocent way—even your love for an animal, if that creates no resistance, or for your favorite painting, tattoo, or tree—and allow that to be enough.)
5. Use the breath to support your intentional letting go.
Make a lying-down meditation of your last conscious moments by watching the breath. Follow the breath all the way in and all the way out. I call the breath the only balm you can apply from within: feel it as a healing salve moving through you, easing you into sleep, or simply supporting your rest. (Don’t worry about how much or what kind of sleep you’ll get—breathe into full rest.) Following the breath will help you keep out of your head, too. Remember that the mind does what it does, so it’s not about staying with the breath or staying out of thoughts—just come back to breath right now, one more time, now, and now, and now. It’s working if you’re willing to find the breath one more time in this moment, as many times as it takes.
Sometimes if there’s something compelling or tricky in my world and I catch myself thinking about it in bed, I just remind myself it’s not time to think: it’s time to lie in the arms of love; it’s time to follow the breath and appreciate how it calmly ushers me into rest and sleep. I often then notice that I haven’t even felt the mattress yet, so I tune in to the physical sensations of giving myself to gravity, and this allows my return to these reliable and nurturing bedtime tactics.
Rest well, dear one.
Love & blessings, Jaya