Be Light: Achieving What We Want Through Ease

by Jennifer Paros 

Keep your heart open, keep your mind clear
Have fun, make fun for others
Open heart kindness, truth and compassion
Find joy and follow your instincts
While you are here, be who you are
— Gary Shandling, The Zen Diaries

I came across a video of a singer from Kazakhstan, Dimash Kudaibergen, who has a five-octave range: an ability to sing baritone and soprano but also in the whistle register, the register beyond falsetto.  Later I listened to a vocal coach describing Kudaibergen as exceptionally good at keepingeverything light"– the key, he said, to accessing those remarkably high notes.  Listening to Kudaibergen, it did seem as though he had made his voice like a feather, carried and guided, rather than trying to make something happen.  It seemed his job was to make himself light enough to be moved. 

I started considering this idea in regard to achieving anything we might want (high notes of all kinds). Usually when I think of reaching goals, I think of hard work – a certain amount of seriousness and intensity.  Though I’ve known gravitas as an agent of oppression – making projects intimidating or even choking the life out of them – it still remains a sometimes habit of mine. But without enough lightness, our ability to find the good fades and we are slowed or even completely stymied in our pursuits.

In The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling, a documentary on the life of Shandling, the comedian coaches himself through his journal writing to “Be more Garry.” Shandling’s mind was active with the insecure thinking, self-criticism, and doubt all of us experience – the stuff that weighs us down.  He strove to lighten his mind by reminding himself that his only real goal was to be more him.  The expression Be yourself asks us to release ourselves from pressure to perform, to stop trying so hard, to be at ease and allow who we really are to carry us to what we want. It reminds us that we, in our most authentic state, are not just enough, but all we need and really want. 

Life coach Martha Beck has her own ways of using creative energy so her students no longer feel as though we must march ourselves through (sometimes desperate and effortful) to-do lists in order to achieve.  She speaks of  “Power without Effort” – a process for lightening up and creating what we want with and through ease. The first step is getting “Still and Soft”, stopping to direct our focus into a quieter state. The second is “Find the Force”, tuning internally to the dynamic, loving energy of creativity. The last is  “Let Yourself Be Moved”, allowing that “force“ to carry us.  When we drop out of circular thinking, our energy becomes unfettered – and that unbounded vitality is the stuff of inspiration and motivation, which means movement forward that is no longer labored.

The measure of mental health is the disposition to find good everywhere.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

I feel heavy when I’m judgmental, when I’m critical, when I’m worrying, when I’m over-thinking.  When I come down hard on anyone (including me) or anything (including the future or past), I feel weighted.  My own mental stance becomes the burden I am carrying more than any circumstance or condition I have lived or am living.  We can up our Lightness Quotient by diminishing our investment in weighted thinking – learning how to catch ourselves before we go too deep into it.  The more we practice, the better we’ll get.  If we were in a boat and realized that every time we sat in a particular way the boat started to sink, we’d get in the habit of positioning ourselves differently.  Mental orientation and attitude are also positions capable of taking us down or up. There are ways to stop making ourselves heavy, which in turn make us lighter.

Gary Shandling seems to understand that not only is there no greater joy than being and sharing more of who we are, but that this dedication to our true selves is what moves us more easily towards all that we want.  And there is no way to express ourselves genuinely without being light and holding a bigger picture perspective. Being able to hit the high notes in our lives doesn’t come solely from labor and effort. It comes from focusing, relaxing, and allowing ourselves be carried by the creative power and the love of creating. It comes from the desire and intention to express what is authentic. This, in turn, naturally provides us with an easier path and a more joyous ride.

Violet Bing

Jennifer Paros is a writer, illustrator, and author of Violet Bing and the Grand House (Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle. Please visit her website.