Updated: Jun 24, 2020
Have you ever had a nightmare? One that was so real, so completely visceral, that perhaps it woke you from sleep? Our dreams are often the way that parts of ourselves which are unconscious or challenging and painful can find voice within our experience to be felt, and then released or transformed. Life is a continual process of change and transformation, and our inner life is no different. We have seasons of joy and fun and also of sorrow, anger or fear.
But what happens when events in the waking world feel terrible, but we don't have a way to avoid facing them?
As humans, we all are connected on to each other and we live within a shared experience. Those who may not personally fall ill during this pandemic may have loved ones who will. Even those who won't lose their jobs will lose freedom or convenience. There is nowhere anyone can go and not be touched by this virus. There is much confusion, suffering and discord in the world at this moment; and no matter which way your personal experience has been affected by this global pandemic, you are connected to us all, who are living through it at the same time. This reminds us that we are all in this together.
The principle of herd immunity shows us that even the health of our own bodies isn't simply up to us. Medical science has been gradually moving toward this unified theory of wholistic health, catching up to the broader principals in many ancient spiritual traditions that view humanity as a whole and illness as a manifestation of imbalance in that whole. We don't even digest our own food really, we actually rely on a teeming underworld of bacterium, viruses and fungi to assist in the assimilation of our nourishment for energy. Health, peace, balance...all of those things are an inside job. But just as the world is showing us now, we only thrive when we are in balance. Too much of the wrong foods and predatory species thrive in our guts, creating digestive distress, inflammation, and later, chronic disease. Viruses are a necessity of life. We are learning more about ourselves through these organisms that we share a home with. They help with our crops, our human placenta and have promise in cancer treatments. Why something falls into imbalance is not fully understood, but is probably affected by the context of its environment. Pollution, stress and poor nutritional choices certainly weaken our immune systems, and perhaps some choices of our species have an effect on why certain viruses or bacteria become so highly dangerous to us. Just like tropical storms have become more virulent in recent years due to climate change, and industrially-farmed chicken and other meats no longer have the same health benefits that they perhaps once did, when we alter the environment that things exist in, we unknowingly participate in initiating a chain of events now and later affects us. We are all in this together.
Being at home means many of us are having to face things that are challenging. Financial stress, sleepless nights due to overwork, having more bodies at home that we're used to and a lack of opportunity to see friends, exercise outside or enjoy nature are draining. For some, it may even mean feeling trapped in an abusive or toxic dynamic. "One out of three women in the world experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, according to the World Health Organization, making it “the most widespread but among the least reported human rights abuses.” If you are experiencing an abusive dynamic while being quarantined, there are resources for you here and here. For anyone in a situation like that here reading, many of my meditative sessions are prayerfully dedicated to you. Know that someone somewhere knows and cares. If you are not experiencing abuse, but do find there is additional conflict and stress at home, know you're also not alone. The events happening affect us all in different ways and with emotions running high it can make normal situations feel more volatile with roommates or couples. We are all in this together.
I too have been having nightmares. Big, whomping whales of dreams that I wake from around 4 am, drenched in sweat like I went for a swim. Here's what's keeping my head above water:
1) Talking to people whom I trust who can remind me who I am on my best days.
Experts/moms recommend having at least three of these kinds of people in your life. They can be friends, partners, parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, teachers, students, spiritual directors, clergy or laypeople, guides, doctors, counselors or neighbors. Having multiple people to sound off to can really help with stress and tension. If you don't have three, one good one will do just fine. Or you can do what one of my favorite teachers suggests in this fantastic video and schedule your time to go a little crazy so that natural inclination doesn't take over your life or your work.
2) Taking the time to do something decidedly unproductive that is super fun.
Good options for this can be quarabaking, reading a work of fiction that isn't the news, gardening, yoga or stretching, painting, playing with a pet if you have one, watching an old movie that makes you joyful, or taking a hot bath with magnesium salts. PSA: try not to lean on wine, intoxicating substances or foods that you already know aren't good for you. This will only multiply the negativity.
3) This centering meditation which will allow you to use the energy of the earth and the tool of your body to bring peace, healing and calm to whatever needs it.
Begin by sitting or lying down in a comfortable position. A yoga mat, bed or softish area is perfect for this. Try to find a place or time where you won't be disturbed for 10-15 minutes. Shut doors and put devices in airplane mode if you can. If you can't, then invite any little distractions in the form of people to join you. Close your eyes, and breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth.
Just breathe here like this for 3-5 breaths, until you can sense yourself tuning out external sensations or worries and you feel a connection to your body or your energy system. This may feel like a sinking, a heaviness or weighted-ness. More like a comforting weighted blanket than a burden.
Once you feel connected to yourself, take your hands and move them up and down along your body, stopping where you feel compelled to. This may feel like a magnetic pull, a thud where you stop, a buzzing, a hot or cold sensation, or something TV static. Your arms just may feel heavy and tired, and your hands want to stop over a certain place. Everyone's body and energy system are different, and so it's important to just trust what you feel naturally led to do, in the first instance. Don't think too much about this, just do it. When your hands are in place, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, feeling that area. Common places that can call for this treatment are the pelvic region, the solar plexus or the chest or throat.
With your hands are in place, as you breathe in and out, imagine energy flowing in a spiral or circle down from your hands. In your mind's eye, see and know that this energy is flowing beyond the area you are touching, deep into your body and out the other side onto the mat or surface underneath you. Do this for 3-5 breaths.
Once you feel comfortable with the flow of energy (and you may not "feel" anything, that's OK too), begin to imagine that on your in-breath, energy from the earth is flowing up through your body, through your spine, pelvis and head, and every part of you. Imagine it flowing into the area beneath your hands. As you breathe out, imagine any excess energy that you no longer need or that does not serve you is leaving your body. Do this for 15 breaths.
You may find you feel very relaxed like you could sleep or melt into the floor afterward. Both would be good options. You can utilize this to help with sleep, upon waking to start your day on a positive and peaceful note, or in the afternoon to recharge. You can also use it after a particularly stressful conversation or argument with someone in your home or online. See also meditation advice here and how to make working from home less stressful and more fun here. You cannot do the above exercise too much. In fact, I find that one can only under-do this exercise. There is no "too much" time devoted to healing yourself and finding balance; because when you, do you help others around you to handle this stressful time better. We are all in this together.
I leave you with this poem.
Let the chips fall where they may.
And the cereal and doggie kibble too, while you are on the phone and working,
pouring your heart, mind, wallet and energy into all of the little and large open mouths that demand for your constant attention.
Let everything burn. The barns, your old business cards and yard leaves, your dreams for next week or next month, your ideas of what your life could, should or would look like right now, if not for this.
Let the warmth of your body, whatever its size or shape, fill up your blankets. Let it make a nest for you, for those you love, both close and far.
Let your feelings be feel-ed, your head rest deservedly on its shoulders, heavy though it may be.
Let nature open it's clow. Let stream forth all that is already happening and coming to be what it will become. It is already on its way.
Do not disturb the small, fine seedlings twisting and twirling deep in your heart and your guts.
Be like your mother, quiet in her sleep as she carried you, and the earth before her, as it held the promise of your being.
We may not know what shape they will hold, but if not for this moment being as it is, they cannot be as they are becoming.
Let the grace of stillness envelop you, at least once a day.
We are all in this together.
How are you staying afloat? Did this meditation help you?
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