Our body talks to us through sensations like temperature (warm, cool) or muscle sensations (trembling, fluttering). When we go through a stressful situation, our body has a stress response cycle (fight, flight, freeze, appease). If something blocks that cycle’s completion, stress and tension stay in the body. By listening to the body sensations around a particular situation, it can support the completion of the stress response cycle and reduce or relieve the stress and tension that it previously held. Give yourself a moment to try this.
Now shift your attention to your mind as you continue to listen to your body. Notice the quality of the thoughts that are connected to that sensation. You might see the tendency to judge it, analyze it, label it as “good” or “bad.” If it’s helpful, write it down so you can stay curious and observe what’s coming up.
This mindful awareness of body sensations and thoughts is a resource to you like anything else. It’s not meant to make what you’re feeling go away entirely, the intention is to lean into your body’s innate wisdom for healing.
I’m stuck again. The frustration is building in my body, the pressure is there, but no release just yet. Then I remember, the feeling of stuck happens more often than not. When I’m in a more open space in my mind and body, I think that I’ve hit the jackpot and that things will always be flowing. I know it doesn’t work that way, but I forget because it feels so good.
Given that it’s springtime, I reflect on the feeling of stuck in a different way. Maybe whatever will emerge from this sensation isn’t ready to bloom just yet and the tension and stuckness is a sign that things are getting ready. A sense of anticipation emerges in my body. Using my imagination at this point, because the sensation is still stuck, how would it move if it could? What are the qualities of it – shape, texture, color, size?
Springtime gives space to hopefulness, play and discovery. As we transition into this season, I invite you to use your imagination and explore what’s happening in your body in relation to those themes. Go outside and let your eyes wander for a bit. Maybe some gentle movement brings another experience. Perhaps it’s about bringing quiet into the space so you can listen to what your body is telling you (i.e. sensations!). Stay curious and be kind to yourself this season and always.
Over the past few days, I noticed my emotions come up like a slow moving current that was building in speed and intensity. Needless to say I was pulled in, tumbling around with the intense feelings moving through me.
I asked for help but that didn’t work out the way I thought it would so I got swept into the current again. Reaching out was important but it was as if holding on to the emotions was more comforting. I wasn’t ready to let that go of that familiarity just yet.
Speaking of letting go, Yung Pueblo describes it as “the moment when you are no longer reacting to things that used to make you feel tense…when you can release the energy attached to the thoughts.” After reading that, I noticed a spark of curiosity and hope. That was enough for me to take the smallest step back and notice all that was going on.
The same feelings will show up over and over again in different ways. Next time, I can remember to take some time and space to ground myself in the moment. With intention and practice, I can let go a bit more than the time before.
When we feel stress or overwhelmed in our bodies, sometimes we want to do anything but sit with it. But here we are, with this invitation to be with what arises in our bodies, not ignoring it or avoiding it any longer. I feel the stress and overwhelming feelings stronger on certain days when my mind is especially active. Today, I decided to sit with it. Here’s what I noticed:
The Active Mind
As I sat, my mind kept saying “I need to do…”, “Don’t forget…”, “What if…”. To me, these thoughts sound like fear, worry, and unease. As much as I want to explore all that, I gently reminded myself that the thoughts are just “thinking” and brought my attention back to my breathing, back to my body.
When I brought my attention back to my breathing, I noticed that my breath was short, that I was holding in my abdomen, and my chest muscles were tense. My breathing definitely reflected what was going on in my body. So I slowed down my breathing, steadied the inhales and exhales, and breathed deeper into my lungs. As I slowed down, I breathed into the spaces that felt tight and tense.
Let Go of the Outcome
After sitting with it, I felt more relaxed and calm in my body. My breathing was steadier and my thoughts didn’t feel as urgent. I sat with what was coming up and I was okay! Sometimes after a meditation, the outcome isn’t always so positive and that’s okay as well. I’ve had times where I left a meditation with tears in my eyes and maybe even more frustrated and tense than before.
This invitation to be with whatever arises is a brave choice. It’s brave because you are choosing to do something that you may tend to ignore or avoid. You are choosing to turn towards it without being attached to the outcome, to be open with what comes up, and to do your best- whatever that looks like for you that day.
I’ve been reading Pema Chodron’s book, Comfortable with Uncertainty, and one of the things I like about it, aside from the massive amounts of wisdom she shares, is that you could open the book to any page and have some connection to the teachings. One of those teachings was on compassion.
Chodron tells the story about cultivating compassion by way of a 19th century yogi, Patrul Rinpoche. First, I’d like to talk about what compassion is. Compassion is defined as sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. The question is, as we cut through the surface level of those words, how do we embody the practice? How do we really start to feel the physical sensations of compassion in our bodies?
Back to yogi, Patrul Rinpoche- he would suggest an image to focus on to tune in to compassion. The image is of a mother with no arms watching as a raging river sweeps away her child. To practice compassion is to connect with another’s pain. In this story, can you imagine yourself in the mother’s shoes? When you try to imagine that for yourself, what do you notice- fear, rage, numbness, or nothing at all? What do those feelings physically feel like in your body?
The practice of compassion is not an easy suggestion to #getoutsideyourcomfortzone. Turning towards compassion is challenging. It’s invitation to practice experiencing distress and moving towards it with ease. Listen to your body and be open and willing to move as slowly as you need to.
It’s been a while since I’ve connected. To catch you up, 2020 has been the start of an intentional journey of self-discovery via meditation. If the image that comes to mind is of me sitting quietly, that’s a good start, but that’s a fraction of what this experience has been thus far. At this point, I’m relearning how to 1) slow down 2) breathe 3) connect with my body 4) and greet everything (and I mean everything) with no attachment to a certain outcome. As things come to the surface of my awareness, I slow down and repeat the steps. I may have to keep repeating this process over and over, slowing down even more than before. It’s a humbling practice.
I’m incredibly grateful to my support system and my teachers for their generosity towards me on this journey. Their wisdom, guidance, and tenderness helps me when I’m feeling lost, uncertain and at this point, frustrated. I notice that I move through life pretty fast (ouch) and I have some high expectations (oops).
To the student and teacher in us all- may we move slowly through this journey, slow like honey.
Change has been on my mind lately. I’ve mostly been thinking about why others are so good at it while I suck. Yes, I know what you’re going to say, “but you’re a therapist, shouldn’t you know how to deal with it?” It’s true, I have some tricks up my sleeve, but sometimes change can be challenging for me too.
“Be mindful even if your mind is full” —James de la Vega
I caught myself a few weeks ago saying “I’m not good with change” more times than I would like to admit. In a moment of mindfulness, I decided to pause, notice my breath, and pay attention to what I was saying. I noticed my breath was different than when I was relaxed, my chest was tight and my breath was shorter. I noticed that critical self-talk, “I’m not good at this” got loud and instead of judging myself further, I said “this is what it’s like when I’m experiencing change in my life”. Not too big of a deal, right? Be in the present, notice the breath, all without judgement.