That’s what it has taken for you to succeed throughout your life.
You’ve accomplished an enormous amount in your lifetime. You’ve set goals, worked hard to achieve them, and then set new ones, and worked toward those. And so it goes.
This is a life of discipline, achievement, accomplishments.
Success, whether in school as a child, in college, at work, rearing children, or even pursuing something you are passionate about – sports, music, the arts – is the result of sustained effort, and whether you notice it or not, physical discomfort.
This is an outwardly successful life, and has brought you, hopefully, some inward satisfaction. You may even feel good when you push yourself or feel a little physical pain. It’s how you know you are alive.
Congratulate yourself on your discipline and effort. This kind of striving even has its own name – it’s called virananda – the bliss of exertion.
But this is also a life of striving and stress.
It’s a life of pushing, sometimes even shoving yourself into the next thing.
It’s a life that privileges force.
And sustained force weakens you – as counter-intuitive as that may sound at first.
That’s why virananda, the bliss of exertion, while valuable as a foundation in your youthful days, is an obstacle to deeper insight into your life and existence, if deeper meaning is what you seek.
Think about it. Sustained forceful effort weakens your body. When you force your muscles to work – when you push them too hard - they shake, they refuse their duty and won’t work. They weaken.
A forced, tight muscle becomes weak because it’s deprived of the oxygen and nutrients it needs. Tight muscles compress your arteries and veins that carry life and strength giving nutrients to your muscle tissue, as well as carry away the carbon dioxide and other toxins.
Force and tension rob your body of the natural energy that enlivens all of the cells of your body, and makes your mind vibrant.
When you push yourself over time, over years, you accumulate physical and mental fatigue. It sneaks up on you.
You notice that you don’t feel as good as you used to, even though you are doing all of the right things. You eat well, you exercise, and so on, but nothing restores you quite to where you would like to be.
The cumulative tension over years means that your body is less comfortable than it used to be in small, yet significant ways. This manifests differently in different people: headaches, neck or jaw pain, back pain, knee or foot pain, wrist pain, fatigue, etc. All things that you didn’t have before.
Your tensions become obstacles to the one thing that all of your effort, striving, and goal setting has not allowed you to accomplish yet – the discovery of the depths of your soul so that you may abide in the You who is calm, tranquil, blissful, joyful.
The Real You.
Calm, blissful, joyful. You can’t exert your way to expanding these gifts of your soul.
In fact, you cannot undertake the search for these, your greatest gifts, until you reach a point in your life where you are able to use the positive aspects of your character – your discipline, your dedication, your curiosity and passion – and apply them in a new way to yourself.
What is this new way?
It’s a path whose landscape is that of the gentle and subtle.
Rather than the familiar “Push Through,” “Overcome,” “Tough it out,” you explore and unleash the power of your own innate subtlety and gentleness.
The sounds of this landscape are whispers rather than shouts.
Think about that.
Think about that in your body.
Remember times when you have whispered, and times when you have shouted. Which is the more powerful? Which conveys greater depth of meaning? Which is more likely to be effective? When do you feel more at home in your body – when you whisper or when you shout?
If you feel it’s shouting, then the degree of tension in your core is so great that you cannot yet attune to the power of a whisper.
Even if you cannot feel the potential of a whisper yet, if you can entertain the idea that a whisper may actually be more powerful than a shout , then you can embark upon the exploration of how that might be true.
And how it works in you.
How could it be that something subtle is more powerful than something bold, strong, or loud?
This is not the way you usually understand things.
The usual understanding is that...
1. An act is more powerful than a word – “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.”
2. A word is more powerful than a thought.
You think that whatever you can see, or hear, or feel is more powerful than something you can’t.
But there’s another way to see it. If you have ever been hurt by words - and who hasn’t – then you know there is something wrong with that equation.
The subtle is more powerful than the gross. Here gross has a very specific meaning – it means something clearly evident to any or all of our senses.
Something gross is easier to see, hear, touch, smell, or taste than something which is subtle.
So for example, air is far more subtle than your kitchen table. Your kitchen table is easier to see and touch. The table is more gross, the air more subtle.
This new way of looking at it turns your perspective upside down.
A thought is more powerful than a word
A word is more powerful than a deed
How can that be?
Because without a thought you wouldn’t have a word. Thoughts give rise to words.
You think about chocolate cake. And then you create words, “I am going to eat that chocolate cake.”
And then you eat the chocolate cake.
Your thought is so powerful that it causes you to formulate words.
And the words propel you into action. No thought, no action. This is the power of the subtle.
Your action, your deed would not have taken place without your thought and then your words.
Your thoughts are more powerful than your deeds because it is your thoughts that propel you into activity.
Only you can’t see your thoughts. You can’t hear, taste, touch, or smell them.
They are extremely subtle.
They are extremely powerful.
But you aren’t used to looking for and experiencing the subtle.
Nearly everything you have done with your body and mind throughout most of your life has made attentiveness to the subtle more difficult. That’s not your fault. It's our culture now.
It’s nearly impossible to be aware of the subtle, especially the subtle within yourself, when you are filled with unnoticed core tension. Tension that has sneaked up on you over a lifetime as a result of living your life as our culture now supports you to live it.
Here’s the wonderful secret: it isn’t necessary to strive and strain to become aware of and harness the power of the subtle. In fact, just the opposite. You must be gentle.
The Real You - that deeply joyous part of you that’s the source of your innate peace and calm, the source of all of your innate gifts, is what you uncover as your awareness of subtlety increases.
This is a matter of learning how to hold and support yourself on the outside and on the inside so that your tensions dissolve and the real, peaceful, vibrant you can emerge and expand.
The hardest part of this new way is the not straining. The not doing what you’re used to doing. It means learning to be gentle and not push, not stress, not strive.
It doesn’t mean you can’t do the things you enjoy. But it does mean that you have to learn how to do those things, as well as everyday things, without tension and exertion.
Or if you choose to exert yourself and strain, learning how to unravel those tensions so that you arrive at even more vibrant levels of enjoyment in the things you do.
Your Mind Body Breath – these three - are all you need on this new path. They are with you all of the time, and they are wholly and uniquely yours.
You have everything you need to re-discover the You who you really are. You remember that self – the Real You who is filled with love, laughter, enjoyment, ease.
This is who you really are. It’s time for you to remember by engaging the power of gentle.
It’s a process of remembering and reconnecting.