Headstands and other things that happen when you don’t try

An unexpected thing happened today. I did a headstand during my yoga practice. This might not sound unusual for someone who does a reasonable amount of yoga, however I haven’t tried headstands for years. The last time I did one was probably about 4 years ago and it triggered the injury in my neck from being hit by a truck so I stopped attempting it. I think I had probably done about one before that without assistance.

Today however, I felt the urge to do some headstand preparation exercises and much to my surprise I realised that it actually felt pretty easy to lift my feet off the ground. After a few tentative explorations, I went up there safely and with control. This was also curious because I haven’t been doing as much yoga or other exercise as normal because I have been travelling.

The headstand got me musing on how things happen when you stop trying. This is quite a big part of my Slow journey, being someone with a strong sense of purpose combined with the internalisation of the dominant story that says in order to make something happen you have to apply some kind of force. This is a big difference between the mindset of Slow and the mindset of Fast[1]. I see Slow as correlating with an appreciation of interconnectedness and Fast with a worldview based in separation. There is a contrast between the theory of change offered by these two worldviews[2]. One dictates the belief that you need to force things to change, which is necessary if everything is separate. If you believe that there is an intelligence behind things and that everything is connected you can trust that you do not need to force things. You can trust that the flow is not just random, that there is an order.

Many times in the past I’ve got the message that I shouldn’t try so hard. This is the source of some conflict for me in that I also feel that I have a responsibility in this lifetime. So I have a little conversation with life saying, ‘Life, you want me to do things that are important, yet you also do not want me to try so hard? How do I find the balance between these two things?’ It is an interesting dance.

Sometimes change happens when you set an intent then release it into the field. There is an initiation of action from you. Then once released you wait for something to come back to you in response, you do not need to take action at that point. I think this was the case for me with the headstand. I hadn’t really been trying to make that happen right now in particular. However in the past I had thought that a headstand would be something that I’d like to include in my practice, something new for my body to learn and would indicate some level of getting past the injury.

Other times, things happen when you have not tried to set an intent, rather you have got a message or a feeling that this is something that is right for you to do. And then you do have to put in effort. It’s not like everything that is worthwhile doing is necessarily always easy, but there is a sense of ease within the understanding that this is something that would be good for you to do. There is the dance.

There is a balance between being in the flow and allowing things to come to you and choosing when do you initiate an action or initiate a flow, but there is always a sense of reciprocity and teamwork between you and the universe when things are right. Sometimes I am a little hesitant to try to ‘make something happen’ because if it is all you trying then perhaps that is a sign it may not be completely in alignment.

Contemplating this topic has lead to a question about the difference between trying and intent. It feels to me that working with intent requires meta-awareness, continual reflection on what is happening. There is a sense of an inner rudder. I know sometimes I start something with a very good reason but perhaps because of external or internal distractions I end up in a grind of trying, having lost a sense of the original intent.

I wonder also how this translates into the sphere of work. Some of the ‘hard structures’ we have to operate within (that arise from the mindset of Fast) such as the economic and employment systems do not leave much of a playground for this dance between trying and allowing. However, at least there is often capacity for allowing and use of intent in the realm of creativity, i.e. when new ideas are initiated. All of us are creative each and every day at least in small ways.

That all these reflections would come from one single posture is something that I like a about yoga. It can give you an embodied understanding of patterns of life and enables seeing what happens through the body and its relationship with the mind. It relates to one reason why I count undertaking yoga teacher training as part of my Slow journey, because Slow calls for us to move out of our minds and into our bodies.

Of course this was not the blog post that I meant to write, but hey, why try so hard?

[1] I use the terms ‘Slow’ and ‘Fast’ to denote two opposing dynamics of culture. ‘Slow’ as in the Slow movement and ‘Fast’ is the aspect of dominant culture of which Slow is a response to.

[2] Thanks to Charles Eisenstein for illuminating this point

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