So my mom is staying with me during this global pandemic …
It sounds like the beginning of a joke “a guy walks into a bar …”
But it’s not a joke. I have to find center quite often.
Many of my readers do not “officially” practicing meditation. I use the word “officially” because almost all of you do practice, you just don’t call it that. You don’t sit cross-legged on a mat and chant “Ommmm” but I promise you, most of you practice meditation.
Don’t let that scare you.
Meditation (the way I teach it) is mostly about centering ourselves.
So friends – how do we find center in such unsteady, unnerving, uncertain, unprecendented times?
We all know one thing for sure. We have no control over the external events around us. So we take a moment to accept that reality. There is a case to be made for the fact that we have no control over our feelings. We feel how we feel. Period.
Finding center (to me) means that I’m not sweeping the reality, or my feelings, under the rug. I am aware and I accept both. However once that is done, I have the capacity to…
Pause. Breathe. React.
In that order.
That pause, that breath, will enable me to react from a place of composure, versus a place of emotional imbalance.
It is a skill that can be learned. And it is a practice that needs to be re-learned over and over again.
I see the pause as critical. The moment you pause, you are in the present moment. You have the chance to re-frame the story you’re telling yourself. You have the opportunity to notice that you are catastrophizing a situation based on your fears or other emotions. That pause gives you a chance to press “play” again. Change the track.
The breath is critical. Each breath happens in the now. With proper breathing practices, each inhale enables us to bring energy into the body, an energy that can nourish our nervous system; and each exhale enables us to let go, release, lighten the load we carry on our shoulders, in our minds and in our hearts. If you can give yourself permission to settle, you will immediately feel the body and the mind surrender; come into the now.
If I pause, and I breathe, I find the reward is in the “react”.
To react from a place of center, is more productive in all cases. It is more comforting for me and for others. It is more effective. It has a softer energy. It is kinder and more patient. I will often say on the mat that the reasons we practice self-care and self-compassion is so that we can come off the mat, and serve others in a deeper more meaningful way.
Being of service to others gives us purpose. I feel this deeply when I am in my “happy place” sharing yoga with a group. I feel every pause, every breath, every moment of peace that we offer ourselves, I feel it magnified on behalf of the group. I feel everyone’s energy surrounding me. Yes, even when we are each in our own homes, this practice feeds that need to connect with others. Most of the people I know would associate their purpose with their job or with raising their families. Yoga teaches us that off the mat, your purpose can be found by asking how you’re helping others. This doesn’t have to be at a Mother Theresa level. Today, your purpose could look like a phone call to a friend who is alone, or shopping for an elderly person, or cooking for someone who can use the extra support. It may even be as “simple” as offering an extra smile to the cashier at your local store. An acknowledgement of their service in being there, to serve us.
Did I mention my mom is staying with me during this global pandemic …
This is not a joke. Our collective experience during these times is difficult for all of us, in different ways. We are all experiencing highs and lows, sometimes in the same day, sometimes within the same hour. Some people are experiencing a lot more lows than others. I say this to acknowledge the real suffering out there, not as a means to compare one persons pain to another.
There is no right way to get through this in tact, despite all the articles entitled “5 ways to survive a pandemic”. There are guidelines for our physical survival. There is no guide book for emotional survival during this unprecedented time. We can look to the past and see how others survived times of trauma, look for common characteristics. There are certainly tools to help us through our shared anxiety. Everyone’s symptoms are different, therefore, as I say on the yoga mat, find what feels good in your body, what soothes your mind.
Find the practices that make you feel strong (yet soft), resilient (yet accepting), comfortable (amid the discomfort), and hopeful (yet grounded in the present moment).
I find it easy to go from one extreme to another.
Finding center takes practice.