floating on a lake

In yoga the Sanskrit word sukha is used to talk about the sense of ease. Sukhasana – easy pose – is sitting cross-legged. When I came back to yoga practice after years away, the gentle, kind instructor of our beginner class shocked us one day by saying we wouldn’t start the class lying on our backs on our mats (soooo much sukha), rather we would sit in sukhasana. More shocking to my mid-40s body was that easy pose was anything but. My legs quivered, my hips ached, and I had to use my hands to hold myself in anything resembling crisscross applesauce. Many years later, I find it a soothing, relaxing pose. How did that change happen? Through practice, of course, but what kind of practice? I did not improve by pushing through pain or forcing it. I improved by finding what ease I could in the pose and relaxing into that. I sent my breath to my hips and legs, and they let me in a little bit more each time.

When you face difficulties in your day, how does your body react? What parts call out to you, quiver or ache?

When you hear those calls, send your breath there and ask yourself, what can I soften here?

What can I soften here?

It won’t fix your annoying colleague (not that I would know anything about that … *waves* at coworkers reading this …), give you more time before the impending deadline, or bring justice to the unfairness of life. It will give you a chance to think and choose your next action. Here’s the magic part: Choose an action that will soften the situation.

The challenging colleague? Maybe the ease comes from letting it go, walking away, and focusing on your own work. Perhaps you breathe kindness into the situation.

Deadline pressure? Pushing through the pain or forcing things will lead to mistakes and more pain. Find the balance between effort and ease, work near your edge, then back off when you feel the tension rising again.

As for injustice, well, I struggle most with that. What relaxes my frustration and angst is acceptance – radical acceptance, as per Tara Brach (mentioned in Welcome, 2020! and Self-Improvement and probably other posts too!)  – and a mission to overcome evil (and simple bad luck) with good.

If you’re arguing with me in your mind, telling me that these ideas won’t work, you’re making it harder than it needs to be. Ignore my specific suggestions, close your eyes (after you finish reading this…) and say, “soften” in your head. What pops up? Do that.

Ease isn’t something you make happen, you find it. You clear away the complications and overthinking and tightness you’re bringing to the situation, and behind the temporary mess, is ease.


4 thoughts on “Ease

  1. It’s interesting that “soften” is such a powerful word. Because of my history with food, I sometimes find myself holding tension before I eat. I hear myself say “relax” but I’m wondering if I might prefer “soften”. Thanks for this, Karen, and the idea of sending your breath where it’s needed in your body – I love that.

    1. Let me know if you try it and it makes a difference (or not!). I love the word “soften”, it melts me a little every time. 😊

  2. I love this post. I don’t always have a lot of ease in a sitting pose either. It helps when my practice releases my aches and pains so I can sit with more ease. Your question: “what can I soften here?” is so relevant for me today. Thank you.

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