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In my yoga asana teaching, I often talk to my class about ‘finding the balance between effort and ease’ – the wu wei of yoga.  I have been thinking (probably inspired by the energies of Libra, in whose sign the Sun now falls) that this practice is not only positive on the mat, but it is also a stress-free way to live off the mat.

In Libra, finding the balance is thematic. So here is my reminder – to self as much as you, who may be reading this, on how to find the sweet spot, the middle way, the path of least resistance perhaps, the fulcrum between effort and ease, in your life.

In yoga practice, or any physical activity, our muscles, bones, heart, blood and breath tell us when we are over-reaching ourselves, when we are going beyond the bounds of comfort and appropriate challenge into pain and possible injury. Often we neglect to listen to the wisdom of our bodies and pull back, don’t stretch quite as far, don’t run as far or fast as the ego is pushing for.  The mind, oftentimes is the dictator.  But to listen to our bodies, subtle as their messages and their promptings may be, is wisdom and cultivating it underpins the entire practice of yoga asana. The same applies to whatever physical activity you do. Whether it is running, swimming, playing tennis, even walking.  Listen to your body whenever you are doing things with it.  The body loves to move with ease. It was designed to move with ease and to be free of dis-ease.  Not only do many of us move without awareness, but we breathe, rest and eat the same way.  Our dietary choices have a huge bearing on how at ease, how dis-ease free our bodies are.  Let they food by thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food Hippocrates counseled many centuries ago.  His advice is perhaps even more relevant today in an increasingly toxic world. When we make the effort to educate ourselves, to understand fully exactly what our bodies need to feel nourished, energetic, rested and well – then we find we can live move and breathe, with ease.

We all know the consequences of not listening to our bodies and ended up injured. But I am sure you have had episodes of pain and injury that seemingly occurred through absolutely no fault of your own.  Perhaps.

And perhaps not.  I personally believe everything that occurs on a physical level has its origins in the metaphysical. Wrong thinking can cause injury as surely as wrong practice.  To probe for causes is, as often as not, a futile exercise.  A better use of energy, when we find ourselves injured and confused about ‘what we did’ is to work on acceptance.  Acceptance is letting go by another name.  We let go of all self-recrimination, regret, guilt, fear, frustration when we accept that it just is. The effort here is the one it takes to actively accept. Strangely, letting go and accepting is not as passive as it sounds.  It is human nature to beat ourselves us, to feel impatient and frustrated when our lifestyle alters because we have an injury.  It takes some mental and emotional effort, some discipline, to put aside all of the thoughts and feelings around the pain or injury and just go with it.  When we are able to the charge is taken out of the situation and there is a newfound feeling of ease.  The act of letting go and accepting is an act of faith. We trust the body, with its infinite intelligence will deal with our healing.  Our job is to assist it in this.  A little effort is required, but it is well worth it.

The body, mind and emotions are more intimately connected than is commonly known. (All three are intimately connected with the stars and the cosmos.  We literally embody our astrological blue print, our birth chart. Our facial features as well as our emotional temperament  are mapped in the chart).  We talked about the body, but how does the sweet spot of the middle way, the point between effort and ease apply in the world of our thoughts and feelings?  In the same way.  We consciously act (effort) to discipline ourselves to drop all self-defeating thoughts and their accompanying feelings. Remember, this whole life, everything in it, is a creation of consciousness.

And so, we create with our consciousness.  We stop using words and thoughts that weaken us.  Think about how negative our self-talk so often is.  We are not alone in this – the private little conversations we have with ourselves – justifying, judging, feeling sorry for ourselves, on and on it goes.  It becomes habitual. And then entrenched. Brain pathways form around such habits.  It can take real effort then, to change those habits. It has been said that karma is nothing more than habit. Yikes. We all like the idea of good karma coming our way in the future but meanwhile we are probably busily creating the opposite – in our endless self-condemnation, criticism (self and others), fearfulness, regret…..

And so we need to make an effort to change, to let go again. Let go of that inner critic, that inner fear-monger. And yes, you guessed it, when we do – we move along on the continuum to a place of greater ease. We come to the middle way, where we are able to take on challenges, encounter stress and through a conscious process of alchemy rise above them. In coming to ease we negate the potential for dis-ease. We move through our days with awareness and as we open up space within mind and heart we are free to choose joy, happiness and love, instead of the unconscious contractions of fear, doubt, impatience and regret.

We are all works in progress and it is not easy to live in this human form at this time in history.  Has it ever been any easier though?  This existence of ours is inherently precarious. We live in bodies designed to serve us for a while, like the new leaves I see budding forth around me (Spring – love it) whose time comes, all too soon, to fade, wither and die. All is finite. All is transient. When we can accept that with good grace, when we can accept the natural processes of transmutation of which we are a part, when we can accept all that comes to us as being in perfect accord with our destiny, while at the same time continue to do our best to honour and care for our bodies, to respect their wisdom and make the effort required to release all thoughts and emotions that do not serve – then our lives will be a sweet success.   No one is going to crack the whip for us, or force us to live this way. It is up to us, to find it ourselves – our own middle way, somewhere on the enigmatic road that runs from effort…… to ease.  But one thing is sure, when we do find it – we will know.