Most of you who read me regularly know that I like to talk about yoga sometimes in the blog. My yoga practice is one of the foundations of my sober life. It quiets my head, focusses my attention, and gives me a place to leave everything I find unacceptable at any given moment. When I’m busting with enthusiasm and have so many ideas I can’t keep them straight in my head, I take it to the mat. When I’m cracked and broken and grief is seeping out of me like a leak in a levee, I take it to the mat. The practice of taking myself to the mat is akin for me to the practice of taking myself to a meeting. I don’t always want to go, but I know I’m gonna feel better when I’m done.
I also know that where I bring my body, my brain will follow–it has to, and I learned that very valuable information right here in Alcoholics Anonymous.
So back to this woman in the photo. She’s in Bakasana, or crow pose, and if you’re wondering how she’s supporting the weight of her entire body on the palms of her hands, let me tell you, it’s not easy! In yoga we’re often working really hard to get into or to maintain a pose. Once in a pose like Bakasana, we might be gripping with all our might to control it. But my teacher will always remind me that it’s important to find the balance between effort and ease. So the effort is all of our muscles cooperating and working together to achieve something; the ease is being able to relax enough inside the pose to find (and control) our breath. I promise that I’m getting to the point of what this has to do with sobriety.
Most of us get to sobriety in pretty bad shape. I mean that’s just the nature of the beast, right? What do we know about a newcomer? Well, we know that they’ve just had the worst freaking year of their life. As we get sober and embrace working a program (hopefully!) we are taking a lot of action. We’re going to meetings, being of service, working our steps, repairing the wreckage of our past, learning how to live like grown ups on the planet. It’s a whole lot of effort.
And the best outcome of that is that we stay sober, and what happens for most of us is that we wake up (or in my case, we defrost) and our lives get bigger and more meaningful as we take on relationships, jobs, careers, school, families. You get the point. So with these big new lives comes even more effort. Relationships take a lot of work. New career? You’re going to busy 40+ hours a week. And in the best of circumstances, we’re keeping our program and our fellowship right in the middle of it all.
Sometimes fear can drive us to make things harder than they have to be. But sobriety shouldn’t be all work. We have to find the balance between effort and ease in our programs. How often do we walk around judging ourselves? Wondering if we are doing enough for our sobriety? Doing enough for AA? Yes, we need enough effort to keep our side of the street clean, carry the message, and to always be the voice and face of the program when someone reaches out. Service is the foundation and the safeguard of our personal sobriety. But we also need to cultivate ease. We need enough ease to relax into God‘s will for us and to enjoy the blessings that sobriety. Ease is being able to snuggle up with our kid and watch a movie, or sit on our front porch for a little while and enjoy the first day of fall. Ease is about being able to be right here, right now. It’s knowing that if we just take enough next right steps, everything will be what it’s supposed to be.
Ease is about trusting the perfectness of God’s plan for us. Working hard without controlling outcomes. Meeting ourselves each day on the mat, or in the mirror, or at a meeting and realizing that in each moment we are capable of doing, being and feeling different things. We’re human! Effort and ease. Both are required for health and happiness.