“Don’t watch the water in the cups.”
I remember being 10 years old and receiving this advice from a family friend.
I was given the task of grabbing everyone a glass of water. Thinking it would save time, I loaded up five glasses full of water on a tray and set out across the living room.
My dad, always the practical one, told me to make two trips. But I was a stubborn kid, so off I went with the tray. I took each step with extra care and precision, determined not to spill a drop and show my dad how balance-savvy I could be.
Bill, a friend of my dad’s, saw the look of concentrated effort on my face. “Don’t watch the water in the cups. You’ll overcompensate trying not to spill with every tremor and end up spilling more.” I took his advice and walked straight, keeping my eyes on my surroundings and letting the tray regulate itself.
He was right. He told me to remember that trick in case I was ever a waitress one day. I laughed at that, armed with the 10-year-old certainty that I would grow up to be a philanthropic veterinarian or highly-coveted, Harvard-graduated criminal defense lawyer. Little did I know I’d spend my 20s as a server (and no, I wouldn’t change a thing about that).
The wisdom I received that day (beyond how to handle a tray like a veteran Hooters girl) was the momentous power of fluidity over rigidity. Of permitting rather than demanding; flowing rather than exacting.
Effort is not negative; it is how we show up each day. The dilemma arises when our effort hardens to a place of rigidity and inelasticity.
It can even happen if we try too hard to relax. To sit up straight. To breathe. The tension does not go unnoticed.
To “sit still” is to tune in more closely to the subtle and unceasing movement of our bodies. It can be uncomfortable, especially when we’re so accustomed to constant stimulation from all directions. But relinquishing urgency allows us to encourage observance. In doing so, we can become a part of the larger pulsation.
Soften your jaw, your intention, your expectations.
Don’t watch the water in the cups.