Excerpt from Deep Listening: A Healing Practice To Calm Your Body, Clear Your Mind, And Open Your Heart by Jillian Pransky
BE HERE DO LESS
You don’t need to travel to India to find contentment. You don’t need to push yourself to “be better” or “do more” to have a sense of well-being. In fact, I invite my students to “be here” and “do less.”
We cultivate well-being by relaxing into the life that we have right now. The notion that we can live better by striving less may seem like a radical concept in this age of relentless Internet searches and the endless barrage of information that’s thrust toward us every day. It’s certainly not the type of solution we’re used to. Fostering a sense of well-being does not require anything especially difficult, but it does require showing up and spending time with ourselves in a way we may not be accustomed to.
WHAT IS WELL-BEING?
I think of well-being as the ability to live in a state of contentment. Contentment is a bit different from simply being happy. We usually think of happiness as dependent on a set of circumstances. Contentment, on the other hand, is not dependent on anything. It’s a sense of not needing or wanting things to be different in order to feel “okay.”
When we cultivate a sense of well-being, we are developing a relationship with ourselves that provides exactly the type of strength and security I thought I would find in mastering headstands. Well-being is the ability to stay grounded, relaxed, and open to whatever your circumstances are. It’s the freedom to be present with whatever is going on inside or outside of you. It’s no longer suffering from the exhaustion or disappointment of trying to make everything “just right.” Spiritual teachers refer to this condition as the state of equanimity—being open to things just the way they are.
Well-being is available to anyone at any time but, like headstands, it takes practice.
A LITTLE + OFTEN = A LOT
If you’re new to a daily practice, the idea of doing something every day may seem daunting. But I encourage my students to do a little bit often rather than feel they have to take on a lot all at once. I’ve always believed that we get the best results when we work at a pace that feels right for us personally. However, my faith in how much benefit we get from small, quiet changes was solidified a few years ago through an experience I had with my son, William.
William was born with a life-threatening allergy to gluten and wheat. That means that if he ate a pretzel handed to him by a well-meaning toddler, he would stop breathing. When you have to guard your child from almost everything his friends are likely to be eating, it’s pretty terrifying. Then, when you start imagining your child away at college, having a few drinks and accidentally taking a bite of a hamburger, you become completely overwhelmed.
William was so allergic that he would have an anaphylactic reaction if he were merely kissed by someone who had traces of wheat on their lips. In fact, the severity of his allergies was one of the reasons we were invited to participate in a clinical study about building tolerance to wheat. Every other week for 2 years, William was given microscopic amounts of wheat in progressively larger doses. He started with 6 milligrams—just shy of the amount that would trigger his anaphylaxis. For context, a teaspoon of wheat is about 2,700 milligrams.
Over the course of the study, my son went from being unable to tolerate a wheat-on-the-lips kiss to being able to eat a slice of bread with no reaction. Milligram by milligram, William grew more resilient. This was life-changing for him. We can all change our lives this way—slowly and gently, in tiny increments.
May you always remember, A Little + Often = A Lot.
A little practice for your enjoyment now:
1. Settle into an easy, comfortable position. Feel where you body meets support.
2. Release a few long exhales out through your mouth.
3. Just as the sand in an hourglass drains from the top half to the bottom, imagine, all the heaviness, all the sand; in you, draining from your head, shoulders, and torso, down into your bottom half. Allow your weight to rest heavily in your seat.
4. Move your awareness back to your chest. Welcome the breath into your clear upper hourglass. As if there is a nostril on the heart, imagine your breath moving freely through your chest. Feel the nourishing breath caring for you, as it flows in and out.
5. Slowly ease into your next moment.
Thank you for practicing! When you are more relaxed you have more positive and peaceful impact on everyone you come into contract with. This makes our world a better place...
If you felt the above breathing exercise benefited you, enjoy several simple and accessible practices in my new book, Deep Listening. (Reprinted from Deep Listening by Jillian Pransky with Jessica Wolf. Copyright © 2017 by Jillian Pransky. By permission of Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold.)
Jillian Pransky, author of Deep Listening, is an international presenter, meditation and yoga teacher, and certified yoga therapist (IAYT). She directs Restorative Therapeutic Yoga teacher training for YogaWorks, is the creator of Yoga Journal’s online Restorative Yoga 101: Journey Into Stillness, and is a featured yoga expert for Prevention Magazine. A student of Pema Chödrön’s work since 1998, Jillian infuses her yoga classes with mindfulness practices, compassion, and ease. Enjoy a short restorative practice with Jillian to feel more grounded and spacious here.