LEARNING TO JUGGLE
“Begin again” has become a phrase that I often repeat to myself. Yes, I am talking about beginning again in terms of getting to my yoga mat. And I am talking about beginning again when it comes to making time to source and cook nutritious food. And I’m certainly talking about beginning again when it comes to being a curious and patient mentor for my children. Everyday day is a good day to begin again with these things that I hold dear to my heart.
But lately the area I most need to check my thoughts and “begin again” is in the way that I perform a certain juggling act that keeps me on my toes.
The juggling act is, how do I do both of these things: live life in a way that makes a difference in the world as well as, honor the fact that I am a human being?”
I know I’m not alone on this one. Can you relate? In our modern, western living there are so many things that warrant our attention and care, so many places that we want to contribute our efforts and time. On top of that, there are the basic demands necessary to staying afloat within our culture, basic demands like: finances, caring for children and/or aging loved ones, managing a home and being prepared for the future. (In this case “basic” is a pretty tall order.)
How to tend to the basics, while also contributing work in the world that satisfies your sense of fulfillment, AND meets society’s needs, may be the big riddle of these modern times.
The riddle leaves me ready to proclaim that in actuality, it’s not possible.
I won’t ever be able to do enough.
I can accept that and when I do I can breathe a sigh of relief. My worth is not contingent on my production or my perfection. Even though I am imperfect and I fall short, I am enough, just as I am.
Might I add, I am in no way perfect at this mindset; I have to remind myself like, 50 times a day. “It’s okay dear one, you’re NOT doing it all; nevertheless, you are enough.”
NATURE AND HUMAN NATURE
So, what’s the point of this gentle approach to accepting what is? Well, it has a lot to do with your nervous system, your stress hormones and honoring the nature of your body instead of going against it.
Having an “I’m not enough” mindset creates an inner dialogue that is focused on lack and fear: I shouldn’t have said that, oh shit, I forgot to that, what was I thinking, I could have done better, I’ll be more satisfied with myself and able to relax when I accomplish x, y and z…
Inner dialogue such as the above examples create stress. Your body responds to stress by manufacturing stress-fighting hormones (cortisol and adrenaline), which are both degenerative and extremely acidic in nature. The waste products of these hormones are called free radicals, which are damaging and destabilizing particles that are also extremely acidic. We can release these free radicals from our body through the lymphatic system, however the lymphatic system can only drain in an alkaline environment. Chronic low grade stress creates a conundrum that impacts your health.
This brings us back to the importance of honoring that we are human beings that have biological needs. Being human means being an animal that has, over hundreds of thousands of years, adapted to living in relationship to it’s environment. Today we are largely disconnected from our innate dependence upon the the earth.
Nature has cycles: life and death, day and night, full moon to new moon, seed to harvest, dormancy and growth. Our bodies too, are part of nature and in very fundamental ways we live these cycles through our cells. The rhythms of nature can liven up our experience of life by helping us remember to not only bloom and shine bright but also to let go and to surrender.
The unfortunate truth about today’s western lifestyle is that it doesn’t account for us to honor these natural inclinations of our body. In our culture we are rewarded when we maintain a full throttle work ethic.
In terms of breathing, this would be like only inhaling and disregarding the need to exhale. It’s said that a large part of yoga is about learning to let go. So builds the case for studying pulsations; become skillful at noticing cycles of expansion and contraction, in your body and in the world around you. Notice dullness, dark days and tiredness; don’t ignore it.
In fact, if you purposefully make time to honor and care for renewal, you will be accentuating your ability to experience full tilt expansion. Fullness cannot happen without empty; if you don’t allow for pulsations from one extreme to the other what you get is a flat line of mediocrity. Production yes, but not ever feeling your full potential for vibrancy and impact.
Turning inward to rest and renew is not a sign of weakness; it is a natural behavior linked to natural cycles. Slowing down and coming inward can be likened to drawing back the arrow in the bow so that later you can engage with life more dynamically.
The cycles of nature provide guidance and harmony when we we learn to attune our dietary and lifestyle habits with them, and while both men and women benefit immensely from attunement with the natural cycles, it is said that women are especially prone to imbalance when that attunement is lost.
We can teach ourselves to attune to the rhythms of nature, when we do we will be adding to the health of our human animal body. One of the simplest ways to bring more renewal into your life is to learn how to pause. It doesn’t need to take very much time at all; your ability to pause can grow over the years.
We live in a fast paced world full of action. If you are a parent, consider what your children are watching you do. Inadvertently our culture teaches children to unlearn the pause; if you watch a young one you’ll see they have a presence about them, they’re okay with pausing. We need pulsations: let’s relearn.
GOOD TIMES FOR RITUALS THAT BRING YOU INWARD
In the morning – The hours before dawn have a quiet, expansive nature that you can tap into. This is the perfect time of day to meditate, to do some intentional breathing or yoga. The smallest amount of time, like 5 minutes, is enough to make a difference in your day and it will add up over time. Wake up, expand yourself first, then offer your service to others.
In the evening – Set like the sun. Many of you value family time at dinner, it’s that time of day when you can all come together. You can extend the ritual to include the time after dinner, share your gratitude from the day, take a walk, do some journaling or drawing. If your habit is to put in a 2nd shift on the to-do list, catch up on the housework or the undone work tasks, that’s called burning the candle at both ends and it can lead to health concerns. You can start small with this; you don’t have to change overnight just begin to take evening down time more seriously, set time limits with yourself. Evening time is about allowing yourself to feel what it’s like to settle down, be grounded and invite rest to come into your body.
Between Tasks – If you study your breath in yoga or even when you’re simply having a still moment, you’ll notice that at the bottom of the exhale there is a natural pause; during this pause the body is absorbing the previous inhale. It’s a beautiful analogy for life. You’ve heard the term “be present”, that’s what presence is about, absorbing your experience, each precious, fleeting moment. You can use transitions throughout your day to practice intentionally pausing, your nervous system will love it. Think: just getting into the car, just stepping out of the car, before you begin to eat, gazing in your loved one’s eyes before you part, when you step out into the fresh air or see a beautiful view. In the smallest moment you can make time to take a full breath; imagine you have roots that sink down into the earth, absorb your last experience before you inhale the next thing.
Before a Meal – Many traditions around the globe practice a pause before a meal as an offering of gratitude or a prayer to the creator. At the same time, much of our population is currently eating their meals on the go, in the car and working right through lunch; it’s likely not a coincidence that so many people struggle with digestive issues. Pausing for a moment before your meal, eating in a calm atmosphere and giving your body time to assimilate and digest the food is not only best for your digestive system but it’s also an opportune moment for another daily pause. It only takes a small moment to think about how far your food traveled to get to your plate, how many hands touched it and even, who gave their life to now feed you.
The New Moon or The Menstrual Cycle – The healing wisdom of Ayurveda offers extensive knowledge for women’s health, it takes a careful, respectful, and nourishing approach to a woman’s self-care. Women are guided to take note that their body’s rhythms are closely linked to the rhythms of nature.
Since the moon cycle regulates the tides, migrations, mating times, and, of course, the 28-day cycle of menstruation it’s also important that a woman increase her awareness to the lunar circadian clock and the subtle connection between the lunar cycle and her own body’s cycles.
Menses is a time when the female body is providing extra energy to ensure an effective and complete sloughing of waste products. The Ayurvedic recommendation for care is to act in accord with how one feels. Ignoring this is often at the root of menstrual, fertility and menopausal concerns. If there is a natural desire to rest during menstruation and rest is not provided, the body will be forced to strain to both deliver mental and physical energy as well as maintain a healthy menstrual flow.
If you are a woman who is no longer menstruating or you are a man, the new moon provides an opportunity for remembrance that coming inward for renewal is indeed an important part of your body’s needs. Many people can feel the pull of the full moon, can you feel the subtle qualities of the new moon?
EXTENDING YOUR IMPACT
When you do get good at taking a pause, not by numbing out or distracting yourself, but an intentional pause where you really love yourself up; please tell others about it. Together, perhaps we can normalize the intentional pause. Normalize the recognition of expansion and contraction. Normalize the honoring of darkness and renewal.
As a culture, we’re plenty good at setting our bar high and measuring our self-worth based on production. We’re failing at meaningful chillax.
Somehow worrying and fettering about all things that could be better seems a more noble use of time than taking a deep breath of gratitude for simply: getting the children fed, giving 5 hugs today and noting beauty in the unassuming chaos.
Taking actions of self-care won’t directly solve our cultural crisis of climate change and political discord. Nor will the cultivation of self-care directly pay off debt and create purpose and fulfillment for future generations.
But what it will do is create a little more space between your reactions to chaos and the actions you take. Instead of quickly reacting with a raised voice or a negative jab, you’ll have a small window of time, a pause, where the question arises, “how will my actions here ripple out, will I be adding in a positive way or will I be feeding fear and negativity”.
Then in an unnoticeable moment, you’ll choose to take actions you can feel proud of. Well, at least some of the time. And in the times when you aren’t proud of your actions you’ll note that too, with compassion and a deep breath; you’ll remember that, amidst your imperfections, still, you are enough.
I read your excellent article and this one right after…this from Thich Nhat Hanh. “Breath is the bridge that connects life to consciousness, the bridge that unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.” Thank you, both!
That is a beautiful quote. Over the years breath is becoming my most reliable, patient and kind friend. Thank you so much for reading and commenting Patricia; your encouragement helps me to be strong. Thank you!