The Art of Easing Up

The act of letting go could feel like defeat, resignation or even passivity, but it could also be construed as a powerful declaration of trust -- trust that the universe knows what it's doing.
04/15/2014 11:23 am ET Updated Jun 15, 2014

Earlier this year, a variety of circumstances compelled me to confront one of my core beliefs that had been hovering just beneath the surface: Life is hard. For some reason, I found myself invested in the idea that life requires tremendous effort. I think we all formulate certain notions about how the world works based on experience, personality, etc., and then, we perceive our lives through the filter of those beliefs. Because I saw the world through a lens of struggle and hardship, I kept creating circumstances in my life that ricocheted this belief right back to me, reinforcing its apparent validity. If presented with two choices, I'd invariably opt for the more difficult one. When something showed up in my life that was easy, I didn't even know what to do with it. I wouldn't allow anything to disrupt my belief system, even though I wanted life to feel easy, effortless and organic.

I've always been fascinated with people whose lives seem to unfold effortlessly, people who seem to experience a steady stream of synchronicity. They're typically in the right place at the right time as the right circumstances almost magically click into place for them. They seem directly plugged into the flow of the universe. Sure, they stumble at times, as we all do, but they simply brush themselves off, adjust accordingly and bounce right back into the fold.

What they don't do is walk around with the weight of the world on their shoulders. When things don't go their way, they don't buckle under the weight of doubt, frustration and disappointment. Instead, they trust in the divine order of things, deeply knowing that whatever is meant to happen will happen and can't not happen. Because of this unshakeable trust, they move through life with ease, lightness and peace.

How indubitably welcome to move through life with ease, lightness, and peace.

As soon as I came face-to-face with my "life is hard" belief, I became determined to uproot it and replace it with something more user-friendly. Based on the advice of friends, I wrote little memos to myself with the message, "Life is easy and fun," and I sprinkled them throughout my apartment. Whenever I'd catch myself defaulting to old habits of thought, I'd tell myself that life isn't hard; it's easy and fun! Sometimes, I'd tell myself how easy and fun life is 100 times a day. I felt slightly silly repeating these words to myself, but slowly, the message started to sink in. At the same time, I began noticing certain patterns and trends that may have contributed to my experience of life as a struggle.

I firmly believe in setting goals and working vigorously to achieve those goals, but sometimes, trying too hard can actually backfire. The concept of trying too hard never struck me as problematic, since concentrated effort is generally needed to produce results, but I suppose when trying becomes a matter of banging one's head against the wall, it's time to reassess the situation. Whenever I try really hard to come up with a brilliant story idea, I end up feeling blocked. No matter how hard I push, strain or rack my brain for inspiration, I simply cannot force creativity. It has a life of its own, and any attempts to direct or control it rarely, if ever, pan out. Whenever I let go, however, and allow an idea to sneak into my brain, an idea always comes. And the process of writing becomes much more enjoyable. Trusting that an idea will always come, trusting that the right people and circumstances will show up in my life, without feeling responsible for making things happen in a certain way, seems like a much kinder, gentler approach to life.

The act of letting go could feel like defeat, resignation or even passivity, but it could also be construed as a powerful declaration of trust -- trust that there's an order to things (however hidden that order may seem), trust that the universe knows what it's doing, trust that the universe has our backs. I've noticed in the past I would sometimes feel obligated to impose my own order onto things, since I didn't believe that life would fall into place on its own without my striving valiantly to force it into place, based on my own expectations and timetable. Trying a little less and trusting a little more... what a nicer, lighter take on life.

Plus, if I feel as though I'm banging my head against the wall, perhaps the universe is sending me a signal to shift gears. Becoming too fixed on a particular result could blind us to the possibility of another outcome that's way more suitable for us. Not getting our way could be the universe's way of protecting us from something we're not even aware of. We may think we know what's best for us, but really, we only know in hindsight whether what we think we know is in fact best for us. We could be partially, if not entirely, off course. Who knows? So, loosening our grip on a desired outcome gives us wiggle room to change directions if need be. Holding too tightly onto anything just seems to exacerbate the mindset of life as a struggle. There's a flow to the universe, and going with the flow instead of railing against it allows us to experience life as effortless. Distinguishing between what's within our control (ourselves) and what isn't (everything else), and then placing our attention only on that which we can control, makes life feel a lot easier.

Another tendency I've noticed that amplifies the belief of life being hard is being too future-focused -- which can cause us to perceive the present merely as a means to an end rather than as something of value in and of itself. If we think achieving a certain result will kick-start our happiness, then the process of reaching that result just becomes something to be endured. Instead of getting through the present in order to arrive at a (so-called) better future, why not savor the moment? Instead of fretting over whether or not I accomplish a particular result, why not take action for the sake of taking action, regardless of the outcome?

So, bottom line: Try a little less, trust a little more, stop with the head banging, go with the flow, detach from results, savor the moment and enjoy! Life is easy and fun, after all.