“It is only when we truly relax, that we begin to deeply heal.”
I’ve been practicing yoga for over 25 years. I don’t know which teacher said that. But, actually, I know that, in their own ways, they all did. The moment at the end of practice, Shavasana, the quiet time to feel the work that was just done, to allow the body to process it, to allow the mind to enjoy the stillness, to feel your own heart beat for just a minute, is the most powerful part of a yoga practice to me.
When I went to school for Ayurveda, and learned more about the Vedic texts, I learned that Yoga is only one piece of the puzzle. And that yoga can be used to prepare me for deeper meditation. In fact, yoga was not originally intended as a meditation practice, but as a way to prepare the body for the stillness required to achieve deep meditation.
In school, I was required to build a meditation practice. My mentor suggested that I do no less than 90 minutes of meditation on days when I was seeing clients. She told me that it would help me see where I end and begin, where others end and begin, and where the connections needed repair, as that is often a cause of mental and physical illness. Ninety minutes, minimum. In addition to being a mom of a small child, a wife of a husband in early years of remission from a serious illness, a student discovering my own limitations and learning disabilities, and an intern seeing people in need, she asked me to put 90 minutes of silence as my number one priority.
It was possibly the hardest thing I have ever done. At first, I would make it two or three minutes before the fidgets, twitches, and anxiety threatened to consume me. My body screamed as if I was physically restrained and had been for days. My mind raced with fear, anger, hurt, and unresolved everything. Over time, and with many tools, I began to look forward to my meditation. I began to enjoy all of the magic that I felt in that space. But it was a long process, and I was well supported by experts who understood where I was, and where I wanted to go, and helped me get there.
With my own clients I do not recommend starting a meditation practice until many sessions, and sometimes even years, into our work together. It is too much. It requires baby steps. It requires work, patience, help, and time. It requires addressing inner thoughts and fears that still serve us in some way. And it requires support.
Our culture is filled with “to do”, “must have”, and other variations of sentiments that perpetuate the glorification of BUSY. Now, we are being asked to not do, and to not have. We are being asked to be the opposite of busy. It is a big change, and not an easy one. And we are all being asked to do it at the same time. As a culture, we do not have the supports and experts that I did when I was asked to find stillness and connection through isolation.
I am hearing from so many friends, family, and clients that they are struggling right now. Inundated with conflicting news, panic over the future, confusion over what choices they should make, and very real feelings of anxiety, isolation, and depression, I am hearing that they do not know how to “not do”.
I am also hearing about deep fatigue, changes in appetite, disruption to sleep, emotions that come out of nowhere and result in either hysterical laughter or sobbing. I am seeing my clients, family, and friends grapple with the realizations of what they have been avoiding by being busy. Closets are being cleaned, floors are being swept, and boxes of old “emotional landmines” are being opened.
What I’d like to tell everyone reading this is, IT’S OK! All of what you are telling me is normal for a process like this. In order to heal, we need to deeply relax. And to relax, we must let go of anxiety and fear. We must let go of “to dos” and “must haves”. We must simply be. And if that was easy, we would have all done it before now.
So, maybe it’s time to make some changes. Maybe it’s time to add some mindfulness. Maybe it’s time to be ok sharing emotions from a position of vulnerability instead of defensiveness. But, don’t think you have to figure it out all at once. Have a meltdown. Eat too many cookies. Watch too much tv. Sleep – A LOT. We are all in this together, and so many people are having variants of the same experience. If you are feeling anxious, angry, bored, or really just feeling aware of anything, reach out. I’m here. Your friends are here. Your family is here. AND YOU ARE HERE. Be here. Move through the emotions and together we can find what comes next.
Mindfulness tools to try
Breathe in. Breathe out. Identify objects around you. What do you hear? What do you see? What do you feel on your skin? Do you taste anything? What is your body touching?
Breathe in. Breathe out. Find your nose. Can you do it without touching it? Can you see the shadow of it with your eyes? Can you feel it if you move your lips or cheeks? Find your nose.
Breath in. Breathe out. Say your name as you breathe in. Say your name as you breathe out.
What to do if you can’t focus
Make something – food, decorations for your windows, graphics on your computer, a goofy meme… Creating is living. It doesn’t matter what you create!
Learn something – what should you plant in your yard? How do you crochet? How is glass made? It doesn’t matter what, just engage in growing your mind, passions, and comfort zone.
Take a nap. Fatigue is a real thing. When was the last time you were truly rested? We all run on reserves, and when we slow down, that fatigue creeps forward so we can’t ignore it.