Last week as I was holding sleeping pigeon pose in yoga, our yoga teacher instructed us to recall a recent time in our lives where we were at our edge [of our comfort zone]. In other words, a time when we felt challenged by something. She invited us to get curious about what was happening for us at that moment, recalling sensations, thoughts, emotions and anything else we recalled about that moment.
I felt my body tense up as I remembered a moment from earlier in the week. My breathing became shallower. My chest became heavier and more constricted. I could feel the intensity of the heat in the room. Then she guided us to imagine softening right there at our edge and to notice what happened. Just in hearing the word ‘soften’ I could feel my muscles release a little. My mind wanted to figure out how to soften more, how to get away from the tension and I felt my muscles tighten some. Then I took some deep breaths and felt the back of my chest and belly expand with the breath. I repeated the word in my head. Soften. I felt my muscles beginning to relax again.
I was struck by this simple yet profound instruction. Notice your edge and soften. When we get to the edge of our comfort zone, our impulse is to tense up, constrict, and brace ourselves. Fast forward a week, to yesterday morning: Me at my edge.
I hadn’t slept well the night before so I could tell I was already a little low on spoons. It was super hot and humid out and I was dripping sweat after my morning run. I could feel myself start to tense up when my son and I walked into the crowded breakfast restaurant to order some food to take back out to the beach. As I was attempting to figure out what to order for us, my son was tugging on my shirt and making repeated efforts to get me to buy him one of the pastries that were lined up by the cash register. I could feel myself continue to tighten. I didn’t want him to have more sugar. Why is there sugar everywhere?! I just needed to figure out what to order and get out of there.
I was clearly at my edge (or past it!) but I didn’t feel as though I had any other options in the heat of the moment but to push through. Not to mention this inner voice that was telling me that I shouldn’t be at my edge because we were on vacation and I should feel grateful and relaxed and really, I just wanted to feel grateful and relaxed. And afterall, I had just gotten to go for a run so I should feel good. But I didn’t.
By the time we got back to the beach with the food, I was pretty overwhelmed and agitated. Then I remembered this moment from yoga class. Notice your edge and soften. I stepped away for a few moments and took some deep breaths. I heard the word surrender in my mind. Surrender. Soften. Let go. I felt my ego slowly start to release her grip on the situation. I didn’t have to control it. It was okay to be right where was I was. So what if I was stressed out and overwhelmed on vacation? Not ideal but it was okay. I was okay.
My emotional state did an about face following this short practice of softening and allowing. Somehow, in accepting my situation just as it was and loosening my grip around it, I had changed my whole experience. I no longer needed the situation to be a certain way for me to be okay. Though the situation didn’t change, my relationship to it did. And that made all the difference.
I’m sharing this because it’s such a simple and poignant way to shift your energy. And like anything, it takes practice. So here are some simple steps to try it out right now:
- Recall a recent time you were at the edge of your comfort zone
- Notice what was happening in your body (sensations), notice your thoughts, notice emotions and anything else that stands out
- Soften. Surrender. Allow yourself to be right where you are. Let go of trying to change yourself or change the situation. Don’t try and make it stop, make it easier, or avoid it altogether. Know that you are okay right where you are.
- Notice what happens. Notice sensations, thoughts, and emotions.
I want to highlight something else I’m taking away as I reflect on my own experience. It is not helpful to judge whether we should be at our edge or not. In judging our experience as unacceptable or illogical, we push it away, rather than welcoming and softening around it. It doesn’t matter if one day, we’re able to tolerate a lot and the next we’re not. It just is what it is and we are where we’re at.
Lastly, I want to put in a shameless plug for a yoga practice. Yoga is not just about the postures, the breath, or mantras. More than anything, yoga gives us the opportunity to practice being in a difficult place, noticing the parts of us that want to distract, tense up or leave the situation altogether and instead choosing to soften, to settle into the moment, to be present.
So whether you’re on a mat or in your life, I’d like to invite you to play around with noticing when you’re at your edge and softening there. Notice what happens. Let go of trying to control the situation or have a certain outcome when you soften. Just let yourself experiment and play with it. I’d love to hear how it goes!
Invitation: See above. This month/week, notice what happens for you when you’re at your edge (whether it’s physically, emotionally, or mentally). Soften, surrender, allow. Notice what happens.
Affirmation: I welcome all of my experience right now.