I believe we can more easily give up effort, or at least question its necessity, when we know there is something else doing the work for us. This is very much what my work is about, being that this mindfulness practice has evolved from my experience as an Alexander Technique teacher where the primary focus is reducing effort. As that work primarily assists with physical pressure and tension, this practice, Mindful Reality, addresses mental/emotional/psychological pressure and tension.
One of the comparisons I like to make between the two bodies of work is what I call the “Either Way Syndrome.” I will explain. Whether or not we are tensing our body (tightening, contracting, stiffening) to hold up our own weight, Alexander students learn that the ground (in coordination with the natural design of our skeletal structure) is always holding us up, so there is no reason to apply tension for that purpose. Our application of muscle tension is generally subconscious, and, so, we do not even realize we are doing it, however, once made aware that our body as a whole is always being supported by the ground (or whatever surface we are on that is itself on the ground) and inner reflexes, there is a knowledge that we can come out of this habitually ingrained muscular holding ourself up because we can rely on these other forces. So, in this case I say, “either way,” whether we are seemingly buoying ourself through voluntary muscle tension or not, Earth was always the only thing supporting our body weight; the tension was extraneous. It’s a strange understanding if you have never experienced Alexander lessons, but once learned makes a lot of sense. I am not trying to teach that here, just referencing it.
Here is how I apply this concept to my practice. As I have greatly discussed on this blog, time is an involuntary phenomenon in our life, provided by Earth’s rotation around itself and orbit around the sun. Our symbolic representation is the clock. The present time is immediately the next second in time, and so on, because the changing of the clock is continually upon us. This is not something we can prevent, and we get it for free. Consequently, there is nothing for us to do to cause next to occur and with the next moment is our next action. We could walk through life ignoring ourself completely (not that that would be possible) and we would still always be in our next physical activity because of what next is. Next is the next moment in time, not something we make happen with our effort.
I love this awareness because it is another justification for effortlessness. Whether we tense our minds or not (worry, stress, push, strain, etc.) our next actions are happening faster than the blink of our eyes. Accordingly, in this case, I say “either way,” whether we are mentally/emotionally/psychologically stressing or not (about what we are going to do next or in the longer-term future), our next actions are procured for us. Earth’s movement was always the only thing making them happen.
At the start of this post, I stated that to feel safe in letting go of effort (work in our thoughts or muscles), we would need to be convinced there was something else taking the burden, doing the work for us. In the first example, I explained that the ground holds us up, so we do not have to support our own weight through voluntary muscle tension the way we suppose, and when we experiment with letting go of various holding patterns in our body (what I also refer to as our overall fight or flight muscular reaction) we see that the ground/furniture was holding us up the whole time. Of course, children don’t yet have tension patterns as adults do (they aren’t told to hold in their bellies, squeeze their buttocks or push their shoulders back) and they are clearly supported by the ground.
In the second application, we need to feel convinced that without mental tension and effort something else produces all our future actions. (For most people this would sound ludicrous, but I suppose for some/many of you reading this you are not entirely of that opinion.) As I have just explained, time changes for us because of planetary movement. Whether we pay attention to ourself or not, we are always in the next moment in time and thus in our next activity. Since Earth works hard spinning around as it does, we don’t have to do anything to produce next.
We can think of this as getting a piggyback ride from Earth taking us into the future because our body is physically attached to the planet and, thus, forced to go along on these rides. I compare this to being in a time machine traveling through time. That is just a funny way of thinking about it, but it is kind of true. This feels supportive because when we get piggyback rides there is great relief; all the heavy lifting is done for us and we can relax and enjoy the journey. We still must wait to see what we will do in our future; nevertheless, we get carried the entire time. This is a luxury not only for children!