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Relax Within The Effort

Finding Balance Between Striving and Stillness

I heard the most amazing guidance during my kickboxing class recently. The instructor was demonstrating the next combo and she encouraged us to relax into the process.

She pointed out that when we are panicked and tense on the inside, our access to energy and power is greatly diminished. When we relax internally, we have greater capacity to draw on our strength, our coordination, and our breath.

We burn out real fast if we are frantic in our lives.

And this is true whether we are talking about kickboxing or simply observing the way we move through our days and our interactions with others.

I could see right away how this could make sense on so many levels. And yet, how the hell do you relax when you are exerting so much effort?

Kickboxing is a dynamic and intense workout. You use a great deal of energy punching, kicking, coordinating and remembering to breathe. Where does relaxation come into the picture? It seems completely contradictory.

But is it?

Serenity in the Struggle

I started to think about other things in my life that tend to create tension for me. Anything that creates butterflies in my belly and nervous energy in my heart leaves me feeling somewhat tense ~ even if It’s something I totally love.

Driving is often a source of irritation and a catalyst to a frantic inner state. I have amazed myself many times at how quickly I can go from feeling lighthearted and joyful to spewing vulgarities at the other people on the road from within the bubble of my car. I’ll catch myself grimacing for 10 minutes at a time just because things aren’t moving at the speed I prefer.

Where’s the fire, for crying out loud?

Activities that challenge me to think and grow beyond my current comfort zones also get a rise out of me ~ and sometimes, contribute to procrastination, which only freaks me out even more!

It got me to thinking about how this balance between effort and relaxation has a huge impact upon how we show up in service to others as well.

You have likely heard things like “it’s tough working in the trenches” or “ being on the front lines is very challenging.” We equate providing service to others with fighting a war. We set ourselves up for panic, tension, and a frantic pace. Imagine how this feels to anyone else blessed to be in our presence. Imagine the impact this kind of energy has on our ability to be present and engaged with others.

If we’re not feeling the love, I bet any money, no one else is either.

I decided that I would challenge myself to bring a relaxed approach into anything that I felt required great effort. I intend to use my kickboxing classes as a place to practice this approach. I will set my intention to let go of any panic and desire to rush as it arises.

When I catch myself holding my breath, I will take a moment, to breathe deeply and carry on.

This is a moment-to-moment practice especially when the current activity requires great effort and energy. I have found that I bounce along the continuum between relaxation and effort ~ between panic and grace.

Notice those times when you begin to tense up. It may be within a challenging activity or it may be in anticipation of one. Either way, patiently nurture yourself into a state of relaxation and peace within.

Let’s see if we can find a place where giving our all doesn’t have to get the better of us.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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