I am all for working hard and challenging ourselves to grow. Of course having a strong work ethic is admirable and valuable.
Sometimes, however, we try so hard all the time that we actually undermine our efforts and discourage what we want to bring about.
Have you ever worked so hard on a project that you drove yourself into exhaustion and eventually had to stop working on it?
Or have you ever had such high expectations for yourself and something you were working on that you made yourself anxious and never began the project or kept procrastinating and procrastinating?
Have you ever tried so hard to be somebody’s friend that you drove them away?
Have you ever tried to love someone so much that you actually ended up making him or her feel smothered?
Have you ever tried so hard to find an answer that you actually missed what was right in front of you and staring you in the face?
Have you ever tried so hard to make yourself look attractive that you made yourself look odd or garish or imbalanced?
Have you ever tried so hard to stop feeling bad that you made it worse?
Have you ever tried so hard to avoid failure that you ended up failing?
If you answered “yes” to any or many of these questions, welcome to the club. Me, too. Sometimes we try so hard that we really miss the point. What is the point?
Well, the point is that life goes in cycles of failure and successes, high points and low points, feeling close to people and feeling far away from people, losing and finding things.
This is life, and none of us can avoid these high points and low points of life. So instead of trying to force life to be a certain way or trying to avoid pain or chase frantically after success or specific results, try the easy way.
The easy way is approaching your life and yourself and the people in your life with compassion, humility, and simplicity.* When we approach life in this way, we take life one step at a time. We are aware of and responsive to the people and things in our life.
We accept the up and down quality of life and respond to it with gentleness, compassion, and patience. We appreciate but do not get to caught up (or cling to) the high points of life. Because we know they are just one moment in life.
We mourn but do not get caught up (or run away from) the difficult points in life. Because we know they are just one moment in life.
When we live this easy way, we flow more like water, riding the ebb and tide of life.
It may seem like the easy way is no way at all–that it is just a passive way to live. This, however, misses the strength and wisdom of the easy way.
The easy way helps us to be attentive to all the moments of our life so that we can savor them and learn from them. It also helps us to be attentive and compassionate to ourselves and others so that we can form bonds of love and friendship with everyone in our lives. The easy way also helps us to cultivate calmness, tranquility, and peace as our natural strength so that we have the strength to ride the waves of life.
The easy way actually creates a beautiful space for pleasure, healthy intimacy, and emotional resilience.
That is a great way to live.
Peace to you today, Friend.
If you enjoyed this post, you should go check out this beautiful poem by my friend, Infinite Living.
*These three virtues–simplicity, compassion, and humility–are central virtues to the DaoDeJing, an ancient Chinese wisdom text. I would also argue that they are central to most religions, too. For instance, I think this easy way is reflected in Christ’s words in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (NIV) I also think they are reflected in Buddhist practices of mindfulness and self-compassion.