As I'm coming out of my personal self-isolation this past Winter and step into the world-wide quarantine, I'm hopeful that the time we're forced to be with ourselves we'll treat as a rare gift.
This is a unique opportunity to break free from the habitual busyness, forcing, pushing, chasing, grasping and consuming; a chance to be still and get to really know ourselves; a chance to reexamine our values and priorities and to let go of what's no longer serving us.
This time is also a challenging one.
For many of us, it's the first time in years when the distractions are few and the feelings, emotions and thoughts are many.
Here are some of the ways I was able to feel my feelings, hear my thoughts and witness my emotions without drowning in any of them this past Winter:
(compulsive eating and obsessive cleaning didn't make it to the list as their effectiveness was proving short-lived and feeble)
Even though I'm a yoga teacher myself, at my most vulnerable I turned to YouTube for free classes, a sense of support and someone else holding the space. Some classes I didn't even move. Others I've cried and moaned. But all of them I came back to my breathing body and remembered that I'm still alive.
If yoga isn't your jam, any style of movement you can do on your own will do.
My favorite yogic and Ayurvedic breathing technique is Nadi Shodhana, an alternate nostril breathing. It requires no special skills or tools and can be done absolutely anywhere, including in your car. I turn to it when I feel anxious, nervous, when the thoughts of worry, fear and catastrophising running through my head.
Any other conscious breathing technique that forces you to slow down and pay attention to your breath will do too.
Whether you want to call it quiet time, sitting or meditation, the only thing that really matters is that I take time to be with my experience. The word meditation actually means - to become familiar with and that's the experience I'm after - to become familiar with myself, my own inner landscape, my thoughts, feelings and patterns.
I sit on a cushion every day after my yoga and breathing to simply to be with me. To feel into who I am, before the world will try to sway me one way or the other. It's a time of remembering.
When I could do none of the above, I remembered prayer. It became a moment of surrender to the unknown, of offering my life to what is, of releasing attachments, grasping and holding. Prayer is like finally opening a tight fist that's been holding a piece of sharp glass and, saying: Look, it hurts, I don't want it anymore.
No religion required or forbidden.
I remember I couldn't cry until I was about 25 years old because it wasn't allowed in my family. When I finally allowed it to myself, the world has never looked the same. The rivers of tears can wash away and leave you free of fears and worries, anger and resentments, hurts and pains.
I've cried daily these past a few months and found that even though our culture might insist otherwise, crying doesn't mean anything other than being an emotional release. It's our body's way of releasing stress. What a gift!
I don't mean journaling or diary, I don't mean blogging or a book, I don't even mean letters or poems.
I mean free writing - pen to the paper and letting the hand move as long as the mind has anything to say. Whether it makes sense or not, whether you spell it correctly or don't know where the commas go, whether you decide to keep it after or burn it - just writing lets long pent up energy of the mind and body find its way out. Hallelujah!
There is a lot of science behind benefits of walking for health and exercise, but the reason I turn to it daily, and extra in difficult times, is that it gives me a sense of moving forward - when my body is moving forward, my mind can't keep making up stories that I'm stuck! Also, I love to look around and focus on something other than my own struggles. And also still, I love listening to audio books and going for a walk gives me 1 to 3 hours of the most delicious reading!
Check out my IGTV for a tutorial.
Last Winter I turned to this tool several times a day and it still works every time! It's easy on the go, in the car, home alone or next to someone. No special tools necessary.
During the roughest moments of my Process, I would literally hold on to the furniture to keep myself from spinning from fear and confusion. Other times I would just sit on the floor. Anywhere. Just to feel a solid ground under my body. At home, I would often lay down on the floor to have a sense of outer stability and support that I couldn't find inside. Whatever solid ground you need to hold on to, do it. Even if it means to carry a rock in your pocket.
Funny thing about stressful times is that body naturally will want to stay in sweet slumber longer. My first cue to some internal distress is often needing to stay in bed longer than usual. In the dark days of December and January I stayed in bed for 10 hours, savoring every moment to restore the energy spent on stress and worry during the day.
Let yourself melt into the safety and restoration of sleep, and if you need support falling or staying asleep, now is the good time to try those botanicals, homeopatics and dietary changes.
When I was feeling most lost, sharing how I'm feeling with safe people in my life made my experience real, valid and therefore OK. We often get caught up in our struggles and think we're the only ones having them. Sharing with others, be it a professional or a trusted friend, can pull us out of sense of loneliness and isolation, reminding us of our humanity and connection to all.
Most importantly - Feel Your Feelings.
They are not out to get you.