New York City is not known for being easy. It is known for being intense, fast paced, loud, crowded, dirty, culturally rich, diverse, beautiful, the best city in the world...but easy? Oh no.
Yet here in the mecca of highly productive, famously neurotic millions, something very slow and gentle is happening to my whole being. My anxious and neurotic mind has begun to still and clear. My control mechanism, forever tightly wound, has begun to relax. Where I used to see only one possible path, I am beginning to actively recognize the endlessly creative array of ways in which life can happen. My summer goal was to learn how to have fun again, and as we tiptoe into autumn, I feel the cumulative effect that a season of playfulness has rendered: so much lightness, so much ease.
Summer wasn't entirely joyful, though. True to form, New York put me through the hazing that seems typical for all new recruits. When I got the keys to my apartment after sweating through an insane handful of weeks of Craigslist hell, I experienced an incredible wave of satisfaction. I had made a list of things I needed and each was met in my new home. I closed my eyes and took a few slow, deep breaths, memorizing that feeling of having my prayers answered so directly. Like every time before, the God of Abundance who loves me had taken care of all the details.
And like every other time, I had forgotten. Fear and insecurity produces a contraction of my mind and heart, and I suffer the dense illusion of disconnection. I forget how loved and supported I am by those I know and by people I haven't even met who may never know how they've helped me. I forget that each of the breaths in our bodies is bound together as if we were all one great lung, rising and falling. Don't let the space and difference between our physical forms fool you: we are all made of matter and we all matter. There is no real separation.
Osho talks about the importance of doubt, about how in order to enjoy a rich faith, we must not believe blindly, but that we must keep seeking our own experience. Far too often I find, though, that even as I experience profound confirmations of faith, that I suffer terrible amnesia when faced with the next trial. I am almost immediately lulled back to sleep by the lie of separation, and the false power offered by control, anger and worry. Once again, I contract back into myself, folding over and over in lonely misery.
Until I stop and breathe deep into a moment of perfect peace and confirmed faith. There is always a point in which we have the opportunity to flip the script and rewrite the story. When it arrives, let the Truth carve down into your marrow, into new neural pathways that shape your personal reality, into your DNA. Let it change everything you knew. Soften and receive a new way to be.
The new way for me is the Path of Joy and the Way of Ease. Having confidence that I am connected, loved and supported, I am able to relax in moments big and small. When I feel my blood pressure and cortisol levels rise, I ask, "How can I bring more ease into this moment?" Most often, the answer is to breathe consciously, smile and drop whatever burden I've chosen to saddle myself with. If the subway is late, the subway is late. I can rage and fume, indulging my intoxicating addiction to anger, or I can let it go. I can disengage from the limiting contraction of No in favor of continuous expansion by embracing every moment. I am running late and stuck behind a slow moving mass of tourists. Yes! Something didn't turn out as I'd hoped? Yes!
Sometimes No is the more expansive option. This relationship isn't healthy anymore? No, byeee! Accepting dysfunction or trauma as normal or healthy may be normal (as in regularly occurring), but it's not healthy. As the prayer goes, we accept the things we cannot change, change the things we can, and have the wisdom to know the difference.
In every moment we have the power to choose how to receive and respond to our experience. We are the sculptors of how it feels to live in our bodies. Our choices and perspective change everything. What will you choose for yourself? Do you wish to live small, scared, contracted inward, feeling isolated, always lacking? Or would you rather live with grace and confidence, openhearted, connected, loved, supported, provided for, in joyful celebration of the reality of your life?
The latter may feel far too vulnerable and prone to heartache and disappointment. It is true that living bright does attract all kinds of attention from all kinds of people, some of whom would wound us. Relying on others does mean sometimes being let down. Yes, it is a risk, but the possible rewards are unlimited. However the former is a slow, lonely soulcrush, a long, hard road full of struggle, one battle after the other with no end in sight. It offers no room to breathe and grow, no support, heaviness, isolation. It may feel safer than living wide open and ready to receive, but there is nothing to receive when you refuse to open up.
It seems counter intuitive for hardened, badass New York to be my teacher in softness, but this city is really the perfect classroom. Every day is an assault to the senses, presenting constant opportunities to practice everything I've ever learned about keeping calm and carrying on. To become gentler and more loving in such a place is my greatest challenge yet, but I suspect that it will make my gentleness strong as iron, and my love bold and mighty.
How can you bring more ease into this moment? What will it take for you to choose a life of joy?