“Relax your shoulders,” the nurse instructed me as she prepared to give me a flu shot. I breathed out and let my shoulders drop. But before she could stick the needle in, my shoulders tensed.
“Relax your shoulders,” she said again. I breathed out and let my shoulders drop, and she stuck me.
“I didn’t even feel it,” I said.
“That’s because your shoulders were relaxed,” she observed.
“Wouldn’t all life be less painful if I kept my shoulders relaxed?” I suggested.
She chuckled and agreed.
All that day, I kept coming back to the nurse’s instruction and my experience of a painless flu shot. I thought of images of the flow of life and meditations inviting me to be the tree or be the river.
How many times a day do I need to relax my shoulders? To let go of my resistance? To lean into the flow of life instead of trying to stand against it?
While reflecting on those three words, relax your shoulders, I recalled a conversation from a few days earlier about “reacting” versus “responding.” I want to respond to life events, from a place of peace—rather than reacting from fear or resistance. Staying relaxed seems key to responding.
A few hours after I got the flu shot, and after I had spent an hour and a half working on a spreadsheet, my computer crashed. I could feel my shoulders tense up, and then I recalled the nurse’s advice.
I stepped away, breathed out my frustration and let my shoulders drop. Yes, it was a wasted hour and a half, but in the bigger scheme of things, it was only an hour and a half and not worth getting too upset about.
I was grateful for the nurse’s patience with me, that she waited until I was relaxed before she gave me the shot, because her example was a reminder of how every event in daily life can hold a lesson, if I am open to it.
It seems odd that a simple flu shot could produce such a deep reflection, but isn’t that the point of mindfulness—to be present to what is happening right in front of me and to learn from everything, even those things that seem insignificant.
Mindfulness, to me, is paying attention to what catches my attention and letting deeper meanings surface. Three little words, relax your shoulders, offered a gift—the reminder that staying relaxed can make painful events less painful.
Who or what is offering you insight and wisdom today?