What would it take to truly relax?

Do you ever truly relax? As in, let go of the need to control, the need for perfectionism, the need for approval, the need for certainty? Do you ever truly go with the flow, without knowing where it will take you and what you will find once you're there? 

A couple of years ago, I wrote the piece below for my old blog, Stop catching the cat, but I've now updated it with the fresh perspective that comes with time and ... cough ... age. It's about my growing understanding of how I might be able to truly relax.

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I was already five days into our holiday of doing absolutely nothing when I decided to float in the crystal blue water of the resort pool. Pushing off from the bottom, I floated up on to my back, stretched out my limbs, and turned my face to the steady sun.

And amazing things happened. I could hear my own heartbeat. I could feel myself starting to unwind. I could shut out the entire world, ebbed along to a gentle soundtrack of sloshing and breathing, sloshing and breathing ...

But some amazing things didn’t happen. I couldn’t quite unclench my tummy muscles from their familiar knot. I wondered on and off whether I’d bump into the concrete poolside. And I couldn’t quite get to a place of totally trusting that another swimmer or a boisterous kid wouldn’t collide with me, pushing me off balance and ruining my blissful meander.

In short, I couldn’t quite believe I would be safe in my serenity.

And then I realised that floating was a perfect metaphor for life. Can we ever feel completely free of our worries and concerns? Can we totally offload our niggling fear, however slight, that something might crash into our self and our serenity, ruining it forever? Can we float peacefully through the waters of our lives, bobbing and dipping with all the moments that make up each and every day, believing all will be well no matter how fast or choppy the flow?

And I thought: What would it take to completely let go?

In the months following our holiday, I explored this idea every single day: in my thoughts, my reading, and my day-to-day life. And I came to try this idea on for size: that surrendering to serenity, letting go and willingly relaxing into the flow of life is about pushing off from the edge fearlessly. Floating without fear. And we do that by finding fear’s opposite: love and lingering in its presence through faith.

Of course, there's a mountain of books dedicated to this topic, but I've recently found The One. The One that works for me, at least.

If you've heard of the massive (and massively popular) tome, A course in miracles, you're going to love this: it's a summary version by prolific Hay House author and contributor to the Chicken soup for the soul series, Alan Cohen, titled: A course in miracles made easy: mastering the journey from fear to love.

And it's this journey, from fear to love, which I think lies at the heart of our ability to truly relax; to let go of the need to control, the need for perfectionism, the need for approval, the need for certainty. To truly go with the flow, without knowing where it will take us and what we will find once we're there.

I'm just mentioning this book because you might find it as comforting and as helpfully explanatory as I do. It's full of what our friend Oprah would call 'a-ha' moments. It's my go-to book when I'm feeling overwhelmed and chaotic, but two others you might find helpful are also hugely popular and similarly based on A course in miracles:

Gabby Bernstein's new The universe has your back: transform fear to faith

Marianne Williamson's A return to love: reflections on the principles of 'A course in miracles'.

In a world that can seem hell-bent on push, hustle, fear and control, I find the concepts in these books really comforting. They make me feel like I could float.

Natalie Bartley