Another chill, dull, not-going-anywhere Sunday.
Stuck and boring, nothing being achieved, nothing worth achieving.
And then, by mid-afternoon, snow. Silent, drifting, changing the landscape utterly, its brightness lifting the spirits. A miracle of snow. I didn’t make it come. It just came. I watched it though, and it made me smile.
Sometimes, the present is a time of doing, sometimes of feeling, or dreaming, or waiting. Sometimes it’s none of those things, it just is. Or maybe it’s letting go of those things.
Once, I went to California for three weeks, and on my return, people were more loving, nicer. It happened in my absence. That’s how it seemed.
Last summer, the little track outside our back fence was full of flowers, more than ever before. I didn’t seed them, they just arrived.
I don’t know that much about chess, but when I enjoyed The Queen’s Gambit recently, I noticed that the crucial chess move is sometimes a step backwards. Kind of counter-intuitive that.
We all know that the summer fly banging against the windowpane could turn around and fly free out of the open door, if it could just let go of its obsession: “Gotta keep right on going there! Forwards, onwards, come on! try harder!, progress, success, victory, Up school! Up school! Oggy, Oggy, Oggy! Oi, oi, oi!”
Letting go. A friend of mine started to practise mindfulness and wrote a song. There was no plan to write a song.
There’s a moment in yoga when you let go of everything, jaw, mouth, brow and eyes – the expression on your face melts away and you lose every characteristic of yourself so that nothing is left. Except of course that nothing isn’t nothing at all, but a whisper of the vastness of space, freedom, peace, harmony, eternal connection …
What am I saying? I’m saying that letting go is not merely a physical or mental health strategy; sometimes it IS the complete answer.
Whatever we bang on about, whatever we bash our heads against, whatever we despair about, whatever conclusions we force into being, there’s also the miracle of stuff that just happens: that unexpected gift from left field that lightens the spirit and kindles a precious spark within, causing everything to change. Like a miracle of snow.
Aikido and Communication
The Japanese martial art of Aikido (meaning: the way of harmonising energy) has much to say about communication, including the art of letting go. I have spent many hours on the mat, and I’m greatly looking forward to talking on communication with Quentin Cooke’s Aikido group on Zoom this Thursday. Quentin is an Aikido 7th Dan (proof of exceptional mastery), and in normal times runs a thriving Aikido Group in Cambridge.
There’s quite a lot about letting go in my latest book, The Art of Communication, as in all my books. Here’s one relevant short section from page 77:
We access high energy only when our minds and bodies are free and relaxed. Having energy is very different from expending effort. Deep in many of us there lurks a private conviction that nothing worthwhile is achieved without hard work. The conviction leads us to extraordinary contradictions. We work hard for peace; we beat ourselves up to relax more; we worry about our serenity of mind; and we thrash ourselves in the gym to acquire ease in our bodies. None of these efforts is energizing when approached as hard work.
The more we wrestle with ideas in our minds and the more we exert effort, the more physical tension we have in our bodies. I was interested to discover that most people move more rigidly on their dominant, ‘try hard’ side. When we frown, clench our teeth, or tighten our jaw we create resistance against ourselves that makes everything harder. It’s like pushing and pulling at the same time. We find ourselves unable to think clearly or make headway in whatever we are doing. Paradoxically, this triggers more effort to think, which causes the rational part of our brain to make ever greater conscious effort.
Communicating with others is certainly less productive if you try too hard. The only solution is to let go. But how can you do that when communication and relationships with others matter and you want things to go well? To most of us, the idea of letting go is associated with giving up and we fear that it would be a disaster. We have lots of baggage around keeping going, maintaining standards, fighting the good fight, continuing the struggle, and refusing to surrender. It takes a special type of courage to let go of your usual anchors and props.
And then there’s
The Art of Conversation – Change Your Life with Confident Communication
My most popular book currently. It’s a great handbook to help you communicate better in every situation. Full of practical hints and tips.
Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies
contains a wealth of resources for improving your voice and communication. Great to dip into for particular voice and speaking issues.
Butterflies and Sweaty Palms – 25 Sure Fire Ways to Speak and Present with Confidence.
This is the book for you if you ever suffer from performance anxiety. Get rid of your nerves now! The information is tried and tested, and highly practical.
Voice of Influence – How to Get People To Love to Listen to You.
Now published in 9 foreign language editions! Acquire the voice you would love to have, and transform your impact.
Voice of Influence
Did you know that you can gain similar benefits to my popular Voice of Influence Training (which I’m not running currently) through online one-to-one coaching – and at no extra cost, with the time spent entirely on what will benefit you most. Contact me if you want to know more. I have various packages that might suit you, a typical one being 3 separate sessions of coaching over a period of about a month, with space between sessions for you to practise in real life what you are learning.
A few sessions of one-to-one work with a coach might be the answer to your situation during the pandemic. Whether it’s about relationships, or feeling stuck, or wanting to give yourself a better chance of advancement, or wanting to find who you really are, coaching gives you a unique space to deal with issues in your life. Online or telephone coaching works brilliantly. Contact me if you want to have an informal chat about it – by email in the first instance: firstname.lastname@example.org
A Poem for Tricky Times
In Denise Levertov’s collection of poems, “Sands of the Well”, published posthumously, there’s a poem entitled For Those Whom the Gods Love Less, which speaks to those who struggle creatively (all of us in one way or another, I guess). Here are the final lines:
Each life in art
goes forth to meet dragons that rise from their bloody scales
in cyclic rhythm: Know and forget, know and forget.
It’s not only
the passion for getting it right (thought it’s that, too)
it’s the way
radiant epiphanies recur, recur,
consuming, pristine, unrecognized-
until remembrance dismays you. And then, look,
some inflection of light, some wing of shadow
is other, unvoiced. You can, you must
Here’s to happy serendipities this month,
Go well, friends,