Since a viral setback a couple of weeks ago I’ve been taking a new approach to life, or rather I’ve been able to get back on track with a very successful old approach. Being so unwell for a while meant that I had to let go of all my determination to get things done at an extremely busy time of the year. And that is more or less the secret to this approach: letting go completely!
What has absolutely amazed me though, (although it shouldn’t as I’ve discovered this before) is that the world doesn’t end; everything that really needs to be achieved gets achieved, and it gets done in a way that is calm and caring and respectful of your body’s needs. Once again, I’ve experienced the great wisdom behind Lao Tzu’s perplexing statement “do nothing and nothing shall remain undone.”
Because of how successful this approach has been over the last few weeks, how relaxed I feel, how quickly my health has bounced back, I’m feeling rather reluctant to get sucked back into a way of achieving that involves striving. No matter how much I have understood the need for relaxed effortlessness in order to give myself the best chance of good health over the last year, I have not been able to achieve it to the same elevated level that led to my original recovery. With hindsight, I can now see that I’ve been too focused on what I want to achieve and what I need to do in order to get there.
These last two weeks have taught me that all I really need are gentle intention and an extreme permissiveness to do only what I feel like doing in the moment. I’ve realised that whenever I expect myself to do anything, it becomes a pressure, but it feels quite extreme to give myself permission not to expect anything of myself at all. For example, although I am extremely grateful for how well my routines support my wellbeing, I can really bully myself into taking part in them. Instead of allowing myself to do what feels right in the moment, I hang a threat over my head that if I don’t do such and such, I’m not giving myself the best chance to get the most out of my day. This pressure brings tension into my body and uses a lot more of my energy than when I only do what feels right at the time. The kind of permissiveness that I need to offer myself in order to do only what feels right in any given moment can feel rather extreme but it works!
I’ve discovered that instead of planning what I need to do in order to be successful, all I need to do is have a gentle intention and then stay present to the moment, listening respectfully to my body. Because of my intention, whenever my body has the resources to do a particular task, I tend to find an impulse to do it. If I listen to these impulses and just go with the flow, things that can get done without causing harm to my overall well-being get done. And because I am not doing any harm to my well-being, I have more resources available to get things done sooner.
This year, instead of setting goals and breaking them down into small steps, tackling them one at a time, I’m going to try my new/old approach: Intention and extreme permissiveness.
I’ve found that best way of gently setting an intention is to imagine myself having achieved what I am hoping to achieve, particularly focusing on what it feels like. The coach in me is very tempted to then ask myself what’s it going to take to get there, and then plan how to do each of those things. But instead, I want to choose to trust my wholeness to take the steps it can take in the order that is right for my wellbeing, allowing my intention to guide the direction but not push the moves.
I have found that this approach only works when I can absolutely let go of all the “shoulds” and listen very carefully to what my body has to offer in any given moment. I find I have to give myself permission not to “do” and to really allow myself to “be.” What this really comes down to is trusting the innate wisdom of my body to know what it needs best in any given moment. It’s hard to do, even though I have experience that the first-time round it led me to full health!!
The first-time round I chose this approach because it seemed as though I had nothing else to try; this year I choose it because everything else I have tried has only gotten me so far. But most of all, because I have really enjoyed the sense of peace I have experienced over the last couple of weeks simply by letting go!
If you find that you can easily bully yourself with your goals and strategies, why not experiment with intention and extreme permissiveness instead? I’d love to hear how you get on!
Julie Holliday, ProHealth's Inspirational Editor, is a holistic life coach and writer committed to helping people take back control from energy-limiting chronic illness to live a more relaxed, balanced and fulfilling life. Julie loves spending time in nature, growing her own vegetables and spends as much of her day as possible in a comfortable pair of yoga pants. Writing as the ME/CFS Self-Help Guru, Julie shares tips on her weekly blog. You can also follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.