The phrase from her that stayed with me the strongest (and mind you, high school was a long, long, time ago) turned out to be a life lesson as well. We’d be on the floor, trying to push our legs into the splits, and she’d say, “Stretch...stretch...now relax where it hurts.” And then, if we focused on relaxing the precise muscle that was pushed to the limit, somehow, impossibly, we were able to stretch just a little bit farther.
I think of that instruction all the time...decades later it still pops into my mind...usually after a workout at the gym, while I’m stretching my back, my calves, my thighs, because these days it seems like everything hurts! I remember what Connie Jo said, and I relax into it...and stretch a little deeper.
A couple of weeks ago I realized my heart muscle needs some serious stretching. —Okay, that was an understatement. I’ve been edgy to the extreme. Wound up so tightly, the slightest irritant would set me off...on a rampage! This was not just your garden-variety PMS. I started to scare myself. In this insane state, everything was going wrong. People were walking all over me. I started pushing back. Complaining. Grousing. Which only made things worse.
Then a few nights ago, just as I was drifting off to sleep, with my last ounce of energy I picked up this book. And the words of the brilliant M. Catherine Thomas taught me exactly what I needed to hear.
The contamination [of negative thought] is what Tibetan philosophy calls drip. He explains that drip is like a dark, heavy goo that thickens our mind; it accumulates through cultivating negativity, and then life seems to get dark and difficult. This contaminated mental state causes us to engage in “nonvirtue” — unkind acts against ourselves and others— and then the drip gets thicker. Thus we engage in an endless cycle of suffering.I literally saw myself in that "life gets dark and difficult" line. It was so humbling to encounter myself on this page describing drip! She then quotes Deepak Chopra:
On reflection, we see that our gravest problem does not lie in our circumstances, but in our lack of a truer perception of reality, a larger frame of reference, which could liberate our mind from self-will and self-absorption. Much spiritual change can come simply as we become aware of the truth.... Just becoming aware can lessen the power of the negative feelings, as insight and release often go together.
Watch this wave of feeling travel away from you—watch it grow fainter and fainter. Breathe.... Cross the invisible boundary between the ego and the real self.... If you follow any emotion far enough, it will end in silence.And she says Eckhart Tolle suggests a similar process:
...when somebody says something to you that is rude or designed to hurt, “instead of going into unconscious reaction and negativity, such as attack, defense, or withdrawal, you let it pass through you” as though you were transparent, so that it no longer hits a solid “wall” inside you.In other words, Relax where it hurts.
As I read, I initially found chastisement, realizing that most of the negativity I encountered around me initiated inside my head. Then I experienced real healing, as I literally felt that anger release.
I’m still learning to apply that “relax where it hurts” principle to my relationships. Because when I find myself angry or hurt (and mind you, I'm not easily offended!), more often than not it’s my own heart that needs stretching. When I remember to literally relax where it hurts — try not to tighten up or take offense when something rubs me the wrong way; Try to loosen that piece of my heart that feels the most pain; Allow my heart to soften and stretch — it seems like the universe stretches with me. And everything improves.
Remember The Grinch, whose heart “grew three sizes that day”?
That was me. I promise you, the “two sizes too small” pinch was what hurt. I could feel it as though the tightening were literal and physical. But what feels great? is the stretching.
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There are some reviews of the book out right now that you do not want to miss.
Mommy J posted a lovely one here. There's also a bit of sweetness from Shari, here. Scribbit has a great review here (and her giveaway is still open until midnight on Saturday).
And you simply must read what Deb posted here. Be sure to read all the way to the bottom for her "pay it forward" idea...a Random Act of Kindness she'll perform for every order of five or more. Oh, how I love my readers! Thank you one and all!