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When Easy Is Hard

And hard is easy. It isn't always easy to tell which side is up. Sometimes we do the easy thing and in doing so, we make life harder than it needs to be. Sometimes we do the hard thing and find that it actually makes life easier. Let me explain...

As part of the Clear your Slate meditation, I guide listeners to imagine they are standing high on a mountain top and surrounded by 12 streams or rivers that serve as a metaphor for the streams of consciousness in which we create our lives. There’s one that looks something like Niagra Falls, one that is completely dried up, and everything in between. The meditator scans the streams to find the one in which they are currently creating. They find their boat, port it, and then place it into the stream that would be the most supportive of the life they want.

I wrote that meditation almost 7 years ago and I am just now realizing that my perception of the various streams was reversed. Those which appeared to be easy, wide, flat, and slow flowing, were actually the hard ones while those that were narrow, fast, and filled with rapids, were the easy ones. Not to say that they were without challenges. The extremes of each were to surely be avoided.

I’m now seeing that hard and challenging are not the same thing and that the easiest and most supportive path down the river probably comes with a few more rapids than I originally thought. I’m now a bit regretful that I never asked those that I guided through this meditation in person about the stream they started in and the one they chose. For whatever reason, I assumed they came out of the rapids and into calmer waters. We all know what they say about those that assume.

If you remember me guiding you through this meditation and you remember the specifics, please let me know in the comments where you started and which stream you chose!

Sometimes in life we attempt to coast without challenge, content to go through the motions, even though it’s not getting us even remotely close to where we want to go. We think that the easy thing to do is the thing we’ve always done. Don’t rock the boat. Stay the course. Be quiet. Don’t speak your truth or stand in your power. It’s not safe. Others may not like it.

When in reality, we are actually making things harder than they need to be and prolonging our suffering. Rome is burning and we’re pretending not to notice. It’s fine. Everything is fine. We suffer quietly because we don’t want to do what we perceive to be the hard thing, even though that thing would make our lives so much easier.

To explore these concepts I’m going to use yoga as a metaphor.

My first experience with yoga involved alternate nostril breathing. I was 24 at the time, a personal training client invited me to go, and I had not yet learned to say no. So, I went. It was a very, very gentle class and offered a pathway to inner peace that I was not available for. On the surface it looked easy. But it was unbelievably hard to make myself stay in that room.

Fast forward a few years later and I accept another invitation to revisit yoga. This time, Brikram.

For those of you unfamiliar with yoga, it comes in many different flavors. If you don’t like one, you could always try another until you find one you do. Similarly to religion or chiropractic, though it isn’t uncommon to try one and then write them all off when we have an unpleasant experience.

I was open to giving yoga another try.

Bikram is on the polar opposite end of the spectrum to the class I first experienced. In my opinion, there is nothing gentle or easy about it. 26 set poses, 105 degrees, 40% humidity. It is intense.

I loved every minute of this class. It was hard, I was covered in sweat, and at one point my vision went hazy and I almost passed out. It pushed me to my limit.

I am currently finding it incredibly ironic that I thought the gentle class was hard, but had no problem at all pushing myself through Bikram.

Perception colors reality.

It was easier for me to do intense yoga, moving my body into extremes, than it was for me to practice alternate nostril breathing and be present in the stillness with my breath.

The same person that invited me to the Bikram class accused me of taking the easy way out in life. I don’t remember the specifics of the conversation, but I was incredulous. Now, I’m starting to see his point.

I joined the Navy right after high school. I would have joined the Marines and went to bootcamp between my junior and senior years of high school if my mom would have signed the paperwork.

Side Note, I’m super thankful that she did not.

High school was an unpleasant experience for me. So, in my mind at the time, I thought it easier to join the military and risk going to war than to face the messes I had made in my hometown.

There was some truth to his accusation. It didn’t look that way at the surface level, but I went a little deeper and things started to make sense.

If I haven’t lost you yet and you’re still with me, but a little confused—fret not. I am too. And I’m pretty sure that’s the point I’m trying to make.

What in your life are you doing because you believe it’s easy, when it’s actually making things really hard?

What hard thing are you avoiding, but would actually make your life a lot easier?

Ashtanga yoga is considered to be the hardest because it requires patience and discipline. I had purposely avoided it for these reasons. It would be too challenging. There would be too much space to not be good at something.

A few months ago I saw an advertisement for an Ashtanga class and found myself for the first time curious about it. I started going several weeks ago, thinking I would give it a fair shot, deem it not for me, and move on.

I went. It was hard. Like, really hard. And, apparently, it gets a lot harder.

The teacher is excellent though and I’m pretty sure she was a big part of my initial curiosity. I went to pay after the first class. She asked me if I wanted a drop-in class or if I wanted to try it for a month. Before I realized what I was doing, I had paid for the month. Guess I was going back whether I thought I wanted to or not.

And so I did. And you know what? After the second class, I could already see improvement. My balance was a little better. I was more coordinated. I could get more deeply into the poses. I was stronger.

In all the yoga I’ve done (flow, hatha,hot, aerial, yin, restorative) this is the only form in which I’ve seen tangible gains in strength, flexibility, and in my willingness to be present—and I’ve only been to 6 classes. I’m finding that which I thought was going to be too hard, has actually made progress really easy.

So, why am I sharing any of this with you? Because I am hopeful that it may inspire you to explore what you believe is hard or easy in your own life and to look at these things from a different perspective. Maybe you too will find that you’ve taken a hard path in the hopes of finding an easy way out.

I’ll wrap this up with a few questions to contemplate and reflect upon:

  1. Which routines in your life are yielding steady progress and noticeable results?

  2. Which are holding you back and making things harder than they need to be?

  3. Can you let yourself be bad at something (communicating, course correcting, exercise, etc.) in order to get good at it?

  4. What easy things are you choosing that are actually hard things?

  5. What hard things could you choose that would make your life easier?

Will I become a dedicated Ashtanga devotee? Maybe, but probably not. Will I master crow, wheel, handstand, headstand? Yes. I’ve already come a long way, but there is still much room for improvement.

For the first time in my life, I'm experiencing no urgency. No push to rush or mental propagations of what I have to or need to accomplish. I’m simply doing the things that light me up and that is leading to more and more satisfaction. I have zero attachment to outcome; not because there’s nothing to worry about, but maybe because I no longer feel those worries are of my concern.

Have the stars aligned? Did Ashtanga yoga bring me into this place? Can I attribute it to 3 years in my Human Design experiment? I would guess it’s due to some combination of all of the above. Whatever the reason, I’m coming into my Goldilocks era and that feels really, really good.

Are you ready to come into yours?

The Preparation playlist for the School for Active Deconditioning is now live on YouTube. Would you like to enroll?

Or maybe you would like a little one-on-one guidance?

If you enjoyed this blog, please give it a heart! Have a comment you’d like to share? I’d love to hear your reflections! Know a friend that would enjoy this blog? Please, forward it to them!

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Oddly enough….i was just sitting here thinking about getting back into Yoga because once upon a time I loved it. Then I check my email and hop over to your blog and I’m looking at photos of you doing yoga ☺️. Somewhere along the way I stopped doing things that were JUST for me. I think I need to start again.

Kate Flynn
Kate Flynn
5 days ago
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Sounds like a great plan!

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