Serenity, Courage, Wisdom, and Faith

 

With just over a month of “shutdown” under our belts due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I am hearing of more day-to-day challenges from a mental health perspective. One day we’re okay, and the next we’re not. Difficulties being at home with others; difficulties being alone; gain and loss; darkness and light. Some folks are calling their homes “prisons”, and others are posting that they are “going crazy”. So many different experiences of hardship and challenge, from mild to medium to extreme, as well as those bright spots that keep us going – acts of kindness, creative outlets, overcoming sickness, lending a hand. The common thread seems to be the wanting of something other than what IS. Perhaps more than ever, our mantra needs to be the Serenity Prayer:

Grant me the SERENITY to accept the things I cannot change; the COURAGE to change the things that I can; and the WISDOM to know the difference.

What is helping me during these times (and ANY time I am having a hard time ACCEPTING WHAT IS…which, as for many of us, is more often than not) is first to sit quietly, take a few breaths, and ground my energy. Sometimes I even listen to my own GUIDED MEDITATIONS (yes that’s ME talking to MYSELF, like my higher Self guiding the small me with my own voice…very interesting). Then I can REFLECT. Reflection (not rumination, brooding, overthinking, or fixating) helps me to flip the perspective and look at the potential, the insights, the blessings, the learning, and the positives right in front of me. Not to pretend that the challenges do not exist, nor to dismiss the need to mourn, nor to deny the tough emotions…but to remember to also have faith in the goodness of people, trust in the balance of nature, practice patience during this process, and find hope in even the smallest steps that move us forward.

In the course of reflecting recently, I made some observations. My right-brain (creative side) said lean into the moment, breathe, relax, let it go, accept what I cannot change, and FEEL thankful (just embodying the warm sensations of gratitude made a difference). My left-brain (analytical linear side) said investigate and research, look at cause and effect, tap into available resources, make a plan, BE the change. Then I did some alternate-nostril breathing to balance right and left brain, leading to the final a-ha moment of my whole-brain collaboration – the message to cultivate RESILIENCY, in body, mind, and spirit. Bounce back, pick yourself up, rise above, be the light…

Looking to the yogic tradition, I recall the guidelines of the 8-limbed path, specifically the Niyamas, or the second limb of the yogic path known as “observances” (the DOs rather than the DO NOTs). Tapas, Svadhyaya, Ishwara Pranidhana (effort/self-discipline, self-study, and surrender to God or Higher Power). Here is a plan I can follow. And sure enough, it goes right back to the Serenity Prayer…keeping up my practices helps me cultivate serenity, helps me tap into the courage within, opens my heart and mind to wisdom from sources tiny to tall, and ensures I keep the faith. Read this article by Sally Kempton (Yogi, Meditation Teacher, Writer} for a deeper understanding of these concepts.

After I have left my yoga mat, and as my day unfolds, the practice continues. Practicing patience and letting go and moving on while keeping distance, washing hands, and staying at home. Facing the reality of bills, due dates, and debts. Finding ways to connect and disconnect. Remembering to stop and take those deep breaths. Bouncing back, moment after moment, with serenity, courage, wisdom, and faith.

**If you need extra support during these difficult times and are not sure where to turn, in addition to your local public health website, consider this initiative offered by the Canadian government and various partners: Wellness Together Canada. It is like a one-stop resource for mental health and emotional support. 

Musings, Mumblings, and Meditations

Oh what a busy mind I have! Lately it has been jumping around trying to multi-task and take care of so many things at once. Sound familiar? It wasn’t until I made a big mistake at work that I said to myself, “Whoa, take a breath and slow down!”. It’s amazing how caught-up we can get sometimes, without even realizing the trajectory of this runaway train of busy-ness. Caught up in doing, saying, thinking, planning, ruminating, mumbling…and the next thing you know, your plate is overflowing, or you make a mistake, or you say something you really didn’t mean and it comes out “wrong”. What’s an oh-so-busy modern person to do?

GET GROUNDED! Literally stand (in bare feet) or sit or lie on the ground…on your yoga mat…in the grass…on a carpet. Close your eyes and connect with your breath. Feel your body as it breathes. Relax your face and jaw. If you can’t sit on the ground, then sit tall in a chair with both feet firmly planted on the floor. Take ten full breaths…

No need to explain why grounding is so important. We’ve all been there with our heads in the clouds, thoughts scattered, and with feelings that the days are just going too fast. Are we inadvertently adding to this crazy momentum by our own musings and mumblings, racing minds and running feet, packed agendas and unrealistic expectations? I say YES…Until we get grounded. Until we catch ourselves and hunker down just before the tornado lifts us. Until we slow down and take stock of how we ARE. Until we rest in the present moment, rather than the past or the future. Until we MAKE THE TIME to re-connect with our own happiness. Until we are honest with ourselves. Every day.

A simple yet profound way of helping you ground yourself is with the Qi Gong exercise called “Bamboo In the Wind”. Stand with your feet together (or wider if you feel you need more stability), knees relaxed, and hands at the heart (I like to have my left hand at my heart centre, and the right hand at my lower abdomen). Feel your feet connected to the earth. Allow your body to sway gently and easily in all directions. Feel rooted, yet free to sway and bend softly. You can even close your eyes. Don’t forget to breathe! Like a meditation in gentle motion, simply be present as you move and sway. Try it for about 5 minutes and see how you feel…

At the end of a yoga class, we often chant the mantra “OM” or “AUM”. With a long exhalation, the sound of this vibration has the power to connect, to ground, to soothe, and to re-align energy. It is said to be a primordial sound or “the sound of the Universe”. Sound is another tool we can use to ground ourselves; even something as simple as humming can be therapeutic and soothing. Next time you have the chance to chant “OM”, find your voice, release the sound, sink into the silence following the vibration, and feel the inner resonance. As Richard Rosen from Yoga Journal writes,

“The silence is the crown of the mantra; it is described in the Maitri Upanishad as ‘tranquil, soundless, fearless, sorrowless, blissful, satisfied, steadfast, immovable, immortal, unshaken, enduring’.”

Now nothing can be more grounding than that. OM!

 

Join me on the mat at one of my classes this fall! Grounding awaits…