Western Heart’s Ease, by Franco Folini

Some days, everything feels hard. We might not feel equal to the task of living life, let alone becoming the person we long to be. We might forget how much we’ve grown and matured in the past several years, feeling stuck in old patterns and habits that keep us miserable.

Ease is a state of adaptability to the changing conditions of life. It is not limited to the absence of struggle or pain, rather it is the ability to accept problems and pain and adapt. Ease arises from the ability to observe ourselves without judgment, accepting whatever arises and returning attention to what is most important to us. We can invite ease into our experience of daily life.

One of the hallmarks of a master of a craft is the appearance of effortlessness and ease that arises from hours upon hours of practice and study. We rarely are privy to those hours of failed attempts and frustration, and we might assume that this ease and confidence is intrinsic to the person and beyond our own capacity. In a movie, the transition from amateur to expert passes by in a video montage of five minutes at best. Practice, failure, and re-attempting is not dramatic enough to entertain us, so we do not see it represented with accuracy. All we see is our own daily frustrations, loss of patience, feelings of overwhelm or anxiety, the bad days, the down moods, the nightmares, the feelings of defeat and failure. Sometimes we think we’re alone in this.

Years ago, I had a job that required my cold-calling a few hundred people once per year. I dreaded this task as it approached, looked for ways to put it off. I felt anxiety when looking at the list, imagining all the ways the calls could go poorly. As long as those calls remained undone, they were a source of agony to me. I would tell myself that I could wait until I felt better about the calls before starting, but the anxiety never went away.

What I learned, however, is that once I began, things weren’t so bad. Even the calls that went poorly were over quickly and I could move on. I realized that I simply had to make myself begin, over and over again, accepting that anxiety would always be there and yet I could do the task. With practice and repetition, I got better at the calls and my anxiety felt more and more manageable. What’s more, finishing the calls left me feeling more energetic, now that I no longer wasted energy worrying about it. I felt more ease, even though the anxiety never went away.

Ease flourishes with discipline. Not self-punishment but the constant return to committing and following through. Telling myself that I will sit down and read the scary email, and then doing it. Accepting my feelings as they are, accepting even my resistance as it is, and moving forward allows tension to relax, energy to expand, and emotions to soothe. We might need to work harder at first, to struggle with new habits or sit with painful experiences, but over time this struggle unfolds into greater and greater ease.