Loving the yuck

No disrespect to the many who are suffering now, but it is time for me to stop spinning in fear and worry and take a minute to find my feet. I am so damned tired.

It is easy to dismiss the idea that ‘oh just be grateful for what you have’ as a silly panacea that does nothing to make the world better. Standing around 6 ft. apart, definitely not holding hands singing Kumbaya with our face masks in place right?

Gratitude is my superpower

Hang on a sec, give me just a minute. Google the ‘transformative power of gratitude’ and you will find that  when we pause and bring our overworked minds to sensation- like noticing the pressure of the feet on the floor, then noticing the breath travel through the body, maybe sighing out the exhale, we literally can’t be thinking about our fears and worries at the same time. Try it. Think about whatever is on your worry radar right now, just one, pick one, now bring your brain awareness— your inner eye —to the sensation of your feet on the floor. Really feel your feet, no judgement, stories or reactions, just let your mind rest on your feet fully; the toes, ball and heel. Try it, I will be right here when you get back.

If you were able to fully be with the sensation of pressure on the floor, your thinking mind was taking a rest. Maybe just a nano-second, but a rest, and that is exactly what our overworked minds need. A rest.

Even just doing that is terrific for the health of a nervous system, but I can kick it up a notch in the moment I am noticing my feet, by bringing to mind  something in the last day or two that I am really grateful for. Anything, can be as simple as remembering enjoying the coffee my sweet hubby brought me. Bringing the same curious, open, non-judgey, non- storytelling mind to that moment, really trying to remember the feelings around that moment, maybe even visualizing it, if I can. Seeing my husband’s smiling eyes, the warm cup in my hand, that first whiff of coffee, chocolate and cinnamon. (Yes, my morning latte is the bomb) Bringing my awareness back to the pressure of my feel on the floor, feeling gratitude for that moment, my nervous system is getting a double pump of serotonin and dopamine, not only resting, but feeling happy and healthy too. 

Dr. Randy Kamen writes, “Research shows that recording experiences for which one is grateful for only two consecutive weeks has lasting positive effects sustained for up to six months.” My brain will go back to doing what my brain does, but if I can find small moments throughout my day to feel, notice, remember with gratitude and breathe, I am building resilience and health, one moment at a time.

Maybe try this nervous system hack for yourself. You have the tools, no fancy app needed, just breathe, notice your feet, remember something you are grateful for, really feel it. Take a breath or two if you can, and notice how your nervous system is feeling. Maybe we can’t solve all the worlds problems, but we can get a clearer, maybe healthier brain, heart and body just by noticing our feet. Pointed in the right direction.

Emma ready for anything and then not so much.

May I?

Nowadays my games are called hiking in the North Cascades

Remember that kid’s game of Mother, May I?  A line of fidgeting kids stand across the field from ‘mother’, the game leader. ‘Mother’ calls out a direction, like ‘3 baby steps forward’, and if someone moves without asking , ‘mother may I?’  they are out and return to the line. The one who remembers to ask for permission with each direction and takes the longest steps to reach the line tags mother and gets to be the leader for the next game.

I spent a lot of my life at that line, sometimes waiting for permission to dash ahead, following rules, breaking rules, making my assumptions about what is required, needed, or wanted from others to get ahead, to win, to reach success. My head spun with anxiety as conflicting assumptions and stories about what others needed swirled in my tornado mind twirling with my own negative thoughts about myself. It’s exhausting being me.

I have tried for years to sit and meditate- which for me meant torturous silent mind moments. SO hard for me. My mind isn’t designed to just sit there, focused on the void. A few minutes maybe, but never the twenty or thirty minutes my counselor talks about. Sitting thinking about nothing for 30 minutes? Crazy impossible, and not gonna happen.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have repeated studies about the effects of mindful breathing, movement and meditation on PTSD, high blood pressure, dementia, depression and anxiety. The interesting thing is that regular mindfulness practice, in whatever form patients use makes a difference in the body and mind. The question researchers are asking now is how to use mindfulness or meditation as a prescribed therapy. How often? What types of mindful breath and/or movement are the most effective? Which have the longest lasting results?

One type of meditation or guided practice that they studied  had extraordinary results. It  has a long history in many cultures, and it begins with the words, “May I.” 

I was taught a version of this guided practice in my yoga teacher training, and I have seen it several times over the years in mindful practices. It is often called loving kindness meditation. I have a hard time with this one too, I tried to use it with the yoga classes I teach, but honestly it felt a little false and uncomfortable. I thought it was because it has Buddhist roots, and religion in any form is a bit uncomfortable for me. Then I realized that my discomfort comes from my own deeply imbedded belief that I am not loveable.  Oh, I am ok-ish. I have some good qualities, but seeing myself with all my bits as the beloved? 

Opening up honestly to genuinely loving myself as I am, as I was, and as I might be seems wrong, and felt just plain impossible. 

So, like I do with any practice, I try again, with a new focus. 

Can I truly ask myself permission to be loved?

I repeat the words of the guided practice and really focused on the words ‘may I’ which are repeated over and over, for myself and for others, ‘may I..”, ‘may you..”, ‘may we…” and I feel a softening with that word, ‘’may…”. May allows for..it makes gentle space..I feel my shoulders release a little.  Maybe I can give myself permission to open just a little more, find a little bit of judge-free mind. Maybe I am a little more lovable and loving  and loved than I have held in my head for so long. Maybe I can love this interesting, conflicting, confusing, creative person that I am, that I was, that I will be. And as I maybe add space for that, I open just a little more to love. Maybe. May I?

PS. There are so many versions out there of this guided practice, Tara Brach has a lovely one, Thich Nhat Hanh recorded and wrote about it nearly 50 years ago, and now in the Radical Self-Love Decade, loving kindness meditations can be found all over the internet. Here is my version.  May you open,  giving yourself the love you richly deserve. 

Resources for daily health and vitality

 Committing to our mental, physical and spiritual health as if our lives depended on it. Day by day, one loving action after another, we build flowing resilience to meet life as it comes 

Audio: Yoga Qi for Resilience practice 

FEATURED: Evening Flow to calm the nervous system and gently stretch

Search soundcloud.com: Yoga Me with TerraLea

Several tracks of morning, afternoon  and evening yoga flows and meditation

Spotify music playlists: https://spoti.fi/2Yq7IIQ

Here is some other stuff I love from respected practitioners…

Breathing Resources

James Nestor: How We Breathe podcast. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/james-nestor-on-how-we-breathe/id262033197?i=1000488075368

Insight Timer: Hundreds of breathing practices, many are free

Tapping, Emotional Freedom Technique

Nick Ortner, Tapping Solution   The Tapping Solution, free tapping meditations or subscription app.

Qi Gong Practices

Search YouTube: Qi Gong for Vitality for free qi gong practices, many designed for our present conditions. For grounding and calming the mind:  https://youtu.be/o-jrbymsyDM.  Dr. Jeff Chand’s website- with instruction, talks and videos: https://qigongforvitality.vhx.tv