When those enormous earthquakes hit Japan in 2011, I remember hearing a story about a man walking down an avenue in Tokyo. He felt himself stagger and as his legs give out, and he thought he was having a stroke or a seizure. His first reaction was, “There can’t be anything wrong with the Earth…it must be me.”
In my post earlier this week, I suggested that many of us spend much of our time standing, walking, moving as if we are walking on thin ice: not relaxing into the support under us and trusting that we are held. My invitation was to become aware of how you may be holding yourself up with unnecessary effort and to relax into the support beneath us.
This is a powerful practice that you can do right now: just sense your body wherever you are and see if there is some tension or feeling of lifting yourself off the floor (or your chair). See if you can take a breath and relax into the foundation below you. Can you feel that soft letting go?
But what about when there is an earthquake? What about when the foundation we count on gives way? It’s happened to all of us at one time or another: a phone call in the middle of the night, a surprising shift from someone you thought you knew well, an unexpected death. These times can take our breath away and feel frighteningly like a solid avenue is crumbling beneath our feet. What do we do then?
It is absolutely true that life is full of uncertainty. It could actually be argued that life IS uncertainty. In the face of this reality, one approach is constant vigilance. If I am always bracing for the earthquake, I’ll be ready for it, right? Another approach is to pretend that earthquakes will never happen and move through life denying that we really don’t know what will happen next. Neither denial or vigilance really work, though. Either way, our nervous systems just go on autopilot. Either we expend lots of energy holding ourselves in hyper-alertness or we expend lots of energy pretending that the unexpected won’t happen.
Instead, what if we let go and relax even though we know that nothing is certain and the bottom may fall out at any moment? What if we trusted that there really is nothing to be done but to keep letting go? It can feel scary and even unwise, but when we look at what is so, the way things are, there really is no other choice. As the saying goes, “Let go or be dragged.”
As I’ve suggested, this is graduate level practice, my friends. Let’s do it together – reminding each other that there really is no better choice. So thin ice or not, earthquake or not, just relax into it and let go.