I don’t know about you, but I wish I could control things.
The amount of time I have spent obsessing about the future and worrying about the people I love can be embarrassing. I admit this because I am in the life-long process of becoming more gentle with myself and my experience.
No matter what our current circumstances are, we all share the existential dilemma of having to deal with the “great unknown” on a daily basis. We try to mold it, shape it, control it, wish it away, ignore it, etc, but we are usually left with the foggy notion that we missed something. How do we shift back into our bodies, fully experiencing the beauty of the present?
Because I have struggled with anxiety, insomnia, and perfectionism in my life, I believe I have been led to practice and share yoga and invite other women to come along for the journey out of the chitta vritti (fluctuations of the mind) and into the freshness of the present moment and the space of the heart. We aren’t really encouraged to do this in our culture. Sometimes this business of being mindful feels like an upstream swim. But, as we cultivate the habits (samskaras) of practicing yoga, meditation, self care, and connection with a truly nourishing community of friends, the grooves of these efforts get deeper in our consciousness and it does get easier. We are able to catch ourselves when the negative self-talk or spin of anxiety begins, and gently usher ourselves back to the now.
I know, it’s easier said than done. God knows I don’t want to be one of those people who says, “just relax.” There are techniques to this stuff and the mind is a tricky place! So, I thought I would share my little toolbox of poems and practices which help me move from heady restlessness to a more sensory experience of the now.
One of my favorite sanskrit words is sukah, which refers to the sweetness of the yoga practice, or more specifically,
“Sukha is the sweetness of life. Sukha is the state of deep, lasting happiness that allows us to see reality as it is, without distortion.” (Michelle Margaret Fajkus, Elephant Journal).
As we know, true sweetness and happiness is not an attachment to immediate pleasure or short-term relief from pain via a bag of potato chips or just one more drink, but waking up to what is happening right now. Again, the process can be difficult, so we must be kind to the little girl or little teenager inside who wants to run from it.
My grandfather made a little wooden “treasure box” for me when I was 12 and I still use it to hold words, images, and touchstones which inspire me to stay on the path of being fully present and alive in the here and now. I encourage you to choose your own little treasure box to house the talismans and totems which point you straight back to your heart. I encourage you to make a list of people, places, spiritual practices, words, and images that truly support and nourish you. Here are a few of mine:
- Poem: Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese
- Poem: Derek Walcott’s Love After Love (especially good for healing from a broken heart or the end of a relationship and learning to love yourself)
- Take a bath…let yourself slow down and soak
- Metta Meditation: the practice of loving-kindness
- Schedule an Artist’s Date: festive assigned play!
- Take 10 deep breaths, wherever you are.
- Practice Yoga (even five minutes)
- Sip coffee/tea and create an Inspiration Board online or a collage out of magazine images which feed your soul
- Write an old fashioned letter to a friend (or even to yourself with words of encouragement)
- Call a trusted girlfriend or take one step toward connecting with other like-minded women. Make reaching out a habit, even if you just leave a message on your best friend’s voicemail telling her about your day
- Take a walk in nature or just a 10 minute stroll around your neighborhood or office. See if you can really take in the color of the leaves on the trees, the way the light hits the road, or the rhythmic feeling of your feet hitting the ground.
- Make a list of things, people, places, and experiences you are grateful for. See if you can visualize the way each thing on the list affects your body’s senses and connect to the feeling of appreciation.
We are all different. As you begin to try various ways to care for yourself, you will get to know what you respond to and what you love. May you find the sweetness of life everyday and allow the unknown to unfold beautifully in front of you, one moment at a time. If you need a little inspiration, watch this puppy teaching another puppy to go down the stairs. We got this! Take a breath, slow down, give yourself the gift of remembering that all we have is the now.
In sisterhood, Brittany
Image credits: Banksy via DeviantArt; Joe Okwesa, portraits woman via Saatchi Art