A couple of weekends ago, Elizabeth Gilbert, the bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love, spoke at the International Women’s Summit with the message that what we need is more “relaxed” women in the world. While I was prepared for the re-packaged dogma of “work hard to get ahead,” it took me by complete surprised when the opening night’s keynote question was: “How much more would you accomplish if you chose to be a relaxed woman?”
This message has been swirling around in my head, especially as I have been ‘on assignment’ as Granny Nanny to my two granddaughters, ages 3 and 7, while my son (who just graduated from medical school) and his bride of ten years are vacationing in Europe for a little well-deserved rest and relaxation.
As a longtime practitioner of Life Coaching, I have come to master self-coaching— asking myself deep, probing questions for the purpose of clarity. So upon listening to what Gilbert had to say, my first question to myself was, “Is this new thought true for me? Would I accomplish more if I chose to be a relaxed woman?”
An Answer from Within
Without a moment of hesitation, my inner Guide-Advisor answered my question in a not-so-subtle way. Instantaneously, I received this simple “spirit-download”: E.A.S.E. U.P. Although some may think it strange, I’ve accepted the fact that the language of my Guides involves acronyms. Let’s take a closer look at the advice this “answer from within” has to offer…
In Elizabeth Gilbert’s newest book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, she advises, “Be the weirdo who dares to enjoy.” That works for me! Whether refereeing the banter of my young granddaughter divas, doing homework, wiping up dog doodoo, or responding vigilantly to the gazillion emails I receive as a part of my role as CSA (Chief Spiritual Advisor) for SWIHA, I made a conscious decision this past week to enjoy what I was doing! Given the choice between stressing about the tasks at hand or relaxing into the chaos, I will accomplish more if I choose to be a relaxed woman!
One amazing way to “ease up” is to give up one-way thinking—the idea that something is either right or wrong. In real life, solutions are rarely "either/or"; they are more often "yes/and." Elizabeth Gilbert espouses on this matter, “A creative (relaxed) life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life.” Given what’s been coming my way lately with my grandchildren, I’ve made room for an awful lot of creative alternatives! I hear myself saying:
- “What a creative way to put your clothes away. It will be interesting to see what those little clothes balls turn into!” (The key here is to comment without sarcasm and with a big smile on your face.)
- “Hmmm, what a creative/interesting/FUN choice! Help me understand what you are thinking!” (Again, no sarcasm or disapproval. The bigger the smile you offer, the more humorous the explanations and creativity become!)
This approach has produced a lighter way to redirect, a lot more laughter, and ample cooperation!
To bottom-line this whole ‘ease up’ thing, we only have to realize how seriously simple it is. Relaxed is the new black! Relaxed is the new perfect! You’ll love the tidbit of life coaching Gilbert has to offer about trying to be perfect: “Perfectionism is a particularly evil lure for women! We must understand that the drive for perfectionism is a corrosive waste of time because nothing is ever beyond criticism. No matter how many hours you spend attempting to render something flawless, somebody will always be able to find fault with it. At some point, you really just have to finish your work and release it as is…”
This is such a profound thought when working with a team of people—or two very expressive grandkids! The simpler the options or the request, the less drama there is. It is indeed possible to make things just too darn complicated. My new self-coaching questions are:
- What will be the simplest, clearest, most non-complicated way to do this?
- What is the most relaxed way I can accomplish what I think I want? Is there a chance I need to relax about what I want or think I want?
- How can I ease up a bit so as to give others permission to be creative in their approach?
One of the funny things about children is that it’s usually very easy to know what they are feeling. Happy! Sad! Joyful! They emote, when they feel safe. As we master easing up, emoting is an important skill to learn. One of Elizabeth Gilbert’s good friends is Brené Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection. Her research, revealed in her New York Times bestselling book, confirms that most people put up emotional shields to protect themselves. Emoting—expressing those emotions—puts them in a vulnerable place. Most interesting, Brené claims, “Joy is the most vulnerable emotion we experience!” She goes on to explain that, “… if you cannot tolerate joy, what you do is you start rehearsing for tragedy.” Dramatically she asks, “How many of you have ever stood over your child while they’re sleeping and thought, ‘Oh my God, I love you’ — and then pictured something horrific happening?”
As we get better at easing up, we can fully embrace the research done by Brené Brown. She reports meeting people who had a profound capacity for joy: “The difference,” she says, “is that when something really blissful happened to them, they felt grateful, and they expressed it.” They emoted enthusiastically!
Unite with the Unknowable and the Undefinable!
This step reminds me of Rumi’s promise: “That which you are seeking is seeking you.” As you ease into uniting with something that is undefinable, wonder and delight will be found. Children are such great teachers of this principle; they don’t know, yet are willing to wonder! One of the more joy-filled ways to spend bedtime is wondering: “I wonder what our guardian angels saw us do today? And did we make them laugh?”
Elizabeth Gilbert shares her way of uniting: “I can always steady my life by returning to my soul. I ask it, ‘What is it that you want, dear one?’’” The answer is always the same: "More wonder, please."
Somewhere along the way, it occurred to me that play is a child’s lifework. When we constrict the ways we allow children to express their “work,” it’s equivalent to how we feel when one of our ideas or projects are disapproved of at work or by family members. It hurts our soul! Elizabeth Gilbert has a lot to say about play in Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, including, “It seems to me that the less I fight my fear, the less it fights back. If I can relax, fear relaxes, too.”
From all this, my granddaughters often hear a new freeing invitation from me: “Come on, girlies, let play as if our hearts depend on it. Laugh loud so the angels can hear us! Don’t be afraid to be super silly!” As for me, I now know and believe that living beyond fear is one thing; modeling permission to be silly, happy, and relaxed is my true mission as a granny!
If you’re interested in learning more about how to “E.A.S.E. U.P.” into a more playful, productive, lovable life, check out the incredible Life Coaching training that is offered at SWIHA.