I felt some relief when I saw a post from Glennon Doyle this morning about how she hasn’t written a word in a while. I know better than to seek validation from the outside but there was something comforting in seeing that the most-talked about writer right now is also a bit blocked.
I can take that post as permission to continue to stand still… or I can exhale and see things differently (which clearly I did because I’m writing to you today). Glennon’s words just took the pressure off… taking the pressure off has been a theme for me lately. Release that self-inflicted pressure valve.
Two weeks ago, a memory popped into my head of my mother telling me to “Lighten up” when I was younger. Mommy, if you’re reading this THIS IS NOT A BAD THING. You were absolutely right. You never said it as a put-down. You said it when I was being ridiculously hard on myself… but I didn’t really know what that meant, to lighten up. That’s exactly what I needed to do, and often still need to do. Just like RuPaul’s 10th grade teacher told him: “Don’t take life so f…ing seriously.” I find it no coincidence that I too teach 10th grade.
I just never knew how to lighten up. Sure, I could have fun… but I always craved, and often still do, this intense structure, control, a formula to know for sure what would happen next. I needed to choreograph, to conduct, to construct. Lighten up… I would love to! But how? This is how I felt programmed to be. This is what feels safe, or at least predictable.
Lighten up. Be the light. Love and light. “Slow down, sister”, as my teacher Gabby Bernstein says. Messaging all in the same vein… take the pressure off. Flow.
And I’ve done that, in spurts, in moments, as I’ve grown in my spiritual practice. Take today, as the perfect example. I could have sat at my desk and forced myself, self-inflicted pressure valve tightly closed, thinking: You haven’t written in weeks. it’s Sunday morning. Sit here and write! But instead…
I’m sitting on the steps of our backyard deck right now, laptop in my lap, as the name intends. I would be sitting in a chair but they are zip-tied to each other and to the table from our last crazy storm. I’ve never written out here. I was stuck in the pattern of writing at my desk because that’s just what you do. But, my goodness, lighten up, loosen up! There’s a whole world out there. Charge the battery and go somewhere else (safely of course). Sitting at the desk for the last 9 weeks, or is it 10 now, I’ve been all in my head. Grabbed a hoodie, walked a few feet outside, and bam… it’s all flowing onto the electronic page. Ah, sweet release.
In those moments, where you find yourself clenching, perhaps your shoulders are up to your ears, your tongue is mashed to the roof of your mouth, your jaw feels wired shut, your thoughts are nearly paralyzing, try lightening up with me. Now, we don’t want that to become the equivalent of telling someone to calm down when they are upset, so let’s craft a practice to Lighten Up (or am I controlling again? See how quickly self-judgment kicks in for me?! Lighten up, Denise).
And please, don’t confuse Lighten Up with making a joke of something or ignoring something. Let’s make Lighten Up our mantra for when we need to see more clearly into a situation, illuminating what’s really important and releasing the judgments and needs to control.
Our Lighten Up Practice
- Gently close your beautiful eyes, if you feel comfortable. On an inhale, observe the clenching, gripping, grasping, whether in the physical body or in the mind.
Often, you’ll find it’s in both and you’ll notice patterns within yourself. Noticing the patterns is a good thing! It will help you feel better faster when you slip into the tough moments.
- Exhale, sending your attention and breath to the physical tension. Envision those parts releasing, flood them with a soft purple light.
- Observe your thoughts. Ask yourself: What’s at the core here? How can I “lighten up” the situation?
- Inhale, seeing the situation in your mind’s eye. As you exhale, see the issue flooded with a soft, healing light. Put yourself in the center of this vision.
- Sit in this light, in this vision for as long as you need to feel better, just one notch better, one turn of the pressure valve released. As little as 17 seconds in this vision can bring relief.
- Return to your Lighten Up practice as your body and minds calls for it. YOU are the light.