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Grandpa's Advice for Everything: Don't Force It

emotional wellbeing journaling mindfulness Jun 21, 2022
hands in the air

Don’t force it. This is the advice that my paternal grandfather seemed to apply to nearly every situation with equal weight and effect. 

The pickle jar. Don’t force it. A troubled relationship. Don’t force it. That cancer treatment. Don’t force it. The window blinds. Don’t force it.

My grandfather was an architectural engineer. He knew precision. In his spare time from designing local libraries and schools to provide for seven children, he also carved detailed, feathered birds from wood—small ones. He was skilled at precision. From what I remember and have been told about my grandmother, she was as laid back as they came in the 50s. The two of them created a flow for their busy lives—without force.

Don’t force it.

It’s an invitation—maybe even permission—to assess what it is that you’re trying to push up an endless hill. You can be curious about how you’re using your free will. To force or to allow.

Are you honoring a commitment to something that lifts you and others? Or are you trying to fix, manage, and control an outcome so that you can get what you want or avoid something you don’t?

When we get busy with busyness, we can lose sight of the fact that there is only so much we actually can control. I, for one, have been in that place where I forget what I was worrying about, so I stop and try to remember my worry. What?! It’s as if I stop worrying something bad is going to happen—like my worry is the glue keeping this whole life thing together. What?!

Then I hear my grandfather say, “Don’t force it.” It’s a breath. Even if the first truth to arise after that breath is “I don’t know what to do next,” it’s lighter than forcing something. It’s an admission that sheer force is not a sufficient or sustainable solution.

In this honest space, room opens up to grab your tools that activate internal guidance, inspiration and discernment. The first of which is often to dump out all that you have been carrying into a place where you can see it. Then you can sort through what to release, what to pick back up, and what might need additional resources. 

Here’s an exercise to help you release willful force and move into allowing:

    1. Create a Cluster (or Mind Map) for the phrase “My Plate.” Write the word in the phrase of your page and allow associations to branch off from one another. And then allow more associations to flow from those. It’s ok to repeat phrases, concepts, words, etc. in different parts of the Cluster. Move fast and keep going with a timer on for 5 minutes. Let your brain dump everything that’s on “your plate”. 
    2. When the timer goes off, take three conscious breaths deep into your belly.
    3. Then review what came up and onto your Cluster. Notice what you notice. Scan your body for strong reactions to any particular node on the Cluster. 
    4. Offer yourself two to three sentences of reflective feedback. What’s your body sense to any particular item on your plate? You might start your reflection with “As I review this I notice …”
    5.  Now, answer these three questions but only spend 3 minutes per question: 
      1. What have I been forcing that needs to be released?
      2. What most needs my attention?
      3. Where do I most need to ask for help?
    6. Take back in all that you wrote. Breathe. What’s your next best action step? 

And if this exercise doesn’t feel right to you, don’t force it. Don’t force anything today. Allow yourself to be guided one step at a time.

If you’re looking for more prompts and exercises, come join us in the Muse & Meander Journaling Community. We have daily journaling prompts and live monthly Community Workshops to explore with our inner guidance. Journal on, y’all!

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