I had a lovely surprise last week. I won two free tickets to a retreat in Findhorn, Scotland, the Eco-Spiritual Centre that inspired me to start teaching meditation eight years ago.
I had just spent the previous week snowed in and participating in the World Tapping Summit, during which I released masses of tension and tears around a core belief that: I cannot relax, it is not OK to relax, I will never be able to relax, and relaxation is just not for people like me...
It felt like winning the competition was a prize for all the hard work I had done. Life was saying to me, 'Well done, Aoife, now here is your reward for relaxing...'.
Of course I am a much more relaxed person than I was ten or twenty years ago, but for the past few years the calm, unshakeable feeling strong in my first years of meditation had been rapidly giving way to persistent stress.
I lost my ability to relax deeply because the people and institutions I looked to for guidance and support when I began teaching meditation were stuck in codependent dynamics. On the one hand I knew they were bad for me, and on the other I just felt so lonely and isolated in my new role...
Eventually I reached rock bottom and found a worldwide community committed to serenity and freedom from codependency. My relaxation is now supported and encouraged, as I do the work I want to do. There are elders in this community way ahead of me, and I so enjoy learning from them.
As relaxation grows and fear subsides I am observing how much of the modern world is run by people who are unable to relax, and how this hovering, unsettledness manifests in everything - even spiritual and healing practices.
Words are powerful. How we phrase things means so much. There is something about the word RELAX that is very threatening to modern conditioning. It brings up all the FEAR we have inside to meet it.
Relax = Fear. If I relax I will have to meet all that fear. If I don't ever fully relax then I can put it off.
This is where distraction, laziness and stress come in. If I keep myself numbed by under or over eating, eating processed foods, by under or over exercising, by regularly taking drugs and alcohol, by focusing on things that have nothing to do with me; if I never challenge things by following my inner guidance, or keep pumping up dramas in my personal and work life... Basically if I maintain a cloudy web of unresolved noise around and inside me, if I remain comfortably numb, I will never have to face the fact that life really is actually very simple...
Relax into fear and it will go away, and then - and this is the bit that people are avoiding at all costs - I will have to change.
When you relax, and fear falls away, you will be moved to change yourself, your habits, and most importantly of all - your relationships with all the people in your life. You will set boundaries, say no when you mean it, only say yes when you mean it, you will do things you want to do and stop doing things you don't want to do. You will potentially piss off a lot of people, especially if you've been maintaining a disempowering status quo for a long long time.
All of this is terrifying to codependent people. They would rather get sick, stay in hopeless relationships or work environments, and keep swirling around in distraction, laziness and stress, than stand up for themselves and risk the backlash.
Yet the truth is that the only thing to do is to go there... to relax, face fear, and become a whole adult person.
It is possible to set boundaries and still love people. It is possible to live a healthy lifestyle fuelled only by self-compassion.
It is not only possible that you will succeed if you go there, it is probable. There has never before been so much support available for this kind of personal freedom.
If you are stuck in the merry-go-round of stress, I urge you to meet it with relaxation. Meditate and Tap deeply into those very real feelings of fear. Let them rise up and release. Let yourself become who you are meant to be, and give up the crusty old conditioning that keeps you suffering.
Who knows what prizes await you...