“It’s so hard to forget pain, but it’s even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace.” ― Chuck Palahniuk
It is late afternoon and long shadows are slanting across the eastern wall in my little writing studio. I feel like I am in unknown territory. The scent of pine from a candle on my desk fills this little space in which I sputter and struggle to write. I normally write my blog posts first thing on Sunday mornings, when the neighborhood is quiet, Jay is still asleep and the sun lights up the other side of the room. But I am moving slow today, letting myself linger a bit and not rush to end this long holiday weekend.
I woke up late and wrote in my journal for over an hour. I read a couple of chapters in A Difference in the Family by Helen Featherstone (a wonderful book about living with a child with a disability. I have read this book over and over for many years. So insightful and helpful). I lingered on the couch with Jay, reading this week’s Post Secret. We went to the market for our weekly groceries (we normally try to get this done before Sunday but the holiday threw off our schedules). We had a late lunch together. More or less, I gave myself space to not be productive or scheduled. A bit of space to let up on my internal demands and to cultivate some sweetness and ease in my life.
I was reminded of sukha the other day in my Yin yoga class. Yin Yoga targets the connective tissues, such as the ligaments, bones, and even the joints of the body that normally are not exercised very much and each pose or asana is held 3 to 5 minutes. I was in a deep squat to open my hips when the teacher instructed us to drop our heads, place our hands on the floor, then move our hands forward, away from our body. This small movement of placing my hands away from my body caused many of my muscles, many that don’t get used a lot, to stretch deeply. The further out from my body I placed my hands, the deeper I felt the stretch, the more uncomfortable I felt.
Here is the thing about yin yoga, or really any yoga or body movement practice, my mind thinks I have to push myself to the absolute limit in order to be getting it right or advancing enough. I think I need to be uncomfortable for the practice or pose to count. I was moving my hands forward on my purple sticky mat away from my body to reach that place where I was uncomfortable when the teacher reminded us of sukha. Sukha is the Sanskrit or Pali word often translated as happiness, ease, pleasure or bliss.
“Remember, cultivating sukha, or sweetness is an important part of practice, on and off the mat. Too often we focus on creating suffering or dukkha. When we practice yoga we can create joy in the body and the mind. Find a place where your body feels good. Allow yourself to rest there. Trust in this space of ease you created,” she said.
What do you mean, let up and create a little bit of sweetness?
For me, trusting the space of ease even in the midst of sitting in a difficult pose is hard, even harder off the mat in my daily life. I am of the work hard, push hard, prove I am good enough mindset. I feel panic rise up from my belly when I consider letting go and not pushing or straining. In so many large and small ways, I think that if I let go and don’t push, something bad is going to happen. Could it be okay to stay in a sweet space, even seek it out? I struggle to accept that cultivating sukha is an important part of letting of go suffering.
Yet in the warm darkness of the yoga room, I stopped reaching my hands forward and allowed myself to find a space to rest into the pose where I felt stretching but not discomfort. I stopped straining. I allowed myself to rest in a space that felt like sweet joy.
Now as I sit at my desk looking out at evening light, I see that I filled my day with moments to cultivate sukha. I stopped straining and pushing. I gave myself space for ease and sweetness. I connected with my loved ones. I connected with my heart. This is all good and important work, maybe even more important than finishing this blog post on my own self imposed deadline.
How do you cultivate sukha in your life?