How to untangle

Lives are so complicated. Each day of your life you play so many roles, have so many competing priorities for your time, your attention, your energy.

All the basic life stuff — laundry, dishes, bills, obligations — and the career stuff — and the family stuff — and trying to have a social life — and move your body — and nourish your soul — and make things better in the world, make art or social change — and make things better for yourself, heal or grow — it can feel, to me at least, overwhelming at times.

Like a brambled forest.

Or the image that came to me this morning: a tangled-up mess. Like a necklace chain all knotted up in itself, or maybe more frequent, like your earbud headphone wires all knotted up like a bird’s nest.

When something’s tangled, if you try to do all of it at once, to grab and pull the whole mess apart in one fell swoop — it’ll just get more tangled.

You have to take a breath. Shore up your patience. Slow down. And do one thing at a time.

I’m imagining the way your fingers have to move gently, the way your eyes have to look closely, at those knotted-up headphone wires.

To see the next little knot, and unwind it.

And then the next.


I used a slightly different image with a private student the other day. We were working on some foot and ankle stuff and talking about fascia — the lines of connective tissue that weave our muscles into seams of pull throughout our bodies.

Because everything’s connected, I told him, it’s like if you had a laundry line, with a knot in it. Even if the knot is way down at one end, if you untie that knot, the whole laundry line gets a little longer.

Which is why sometimes releasing your foot will ease tension in your calf, your hamstrings, your low back.

Which is why slowing down and paying attention to one small part of your life can make everything else feel just a bit easier.

You don’t have to untangle everything all at once.

In fact, I don’t think that’s even possible.

You take a breath. See the next little knot. And patiently, gently, unwind it.

And everything else gets a little more space.

Is there one small thing you could unwind today?