Reflection #12: Practice mindfully. Apply. Rediscover Self.

It is not news to us that we woke up to a new world, one day in March 2020. Shutdown. The offices, the streets, the schools were desertic. Supermarkets were empty, toilet paper was the new valued commodity. We learned to socialize through a mask and the internet. Our work life change from a daily commute to the office, to a commute to the computer at home. We do not travel as much. Some countries closed their borders. The world seemed to have become more lonely. 

It is difficult to learn to live with the reality of tens of thousands of people, family members, friends, acquaintances getting sick, dying. Some of us lived through this infection; some with long-term consequences. What am I left with? What is our ongoing lesson? 

Trauma is defined as an event(s) which overwhelm our coping mechanism. The compounding of these events, the severity of this events, the social, political, and financial repercussions of these events have in one way or another affected me, it is likely, others too. 

Tension and stress are a physical reaction too. The body prepares for fight/flight/freeze (FFF) response. The sympathetic nervous system prepares to fight, or to run away, or simply freezes without a response, when in a threatening situation. The breathing changes, the heart rate changes, the blood flow is redirected for body response. Uncertainty, fear, repeated stress may also cause overflow of our capacity to rationally respond. Then the body reacts, rather than acts with compassion or caring, which are our natural state. 

What is my lesson today? I value the importance of having the tools to help me through the difficult times. How do I cope? How do I take care of myself (selfcare)? What do I need to learn from this circumstance too? 

I am grateful to have the yoga group. It is to me a community of very special people, where we can practice together, without many words, though strong connection of thought and intention. I am grateful moving the body, reminding me to breathe consciously, practicing my body-mind connection.  

Tools found through the practice of yoga may support us in those difficult and overwhelming moments. These practices can become useful and accessible if we practice them and know how to retrieve them. I build my (emotional/spiritual) muscle memory. Animals, after a traumatic experience, shake off stress; in the same way humans can use therapeutic tremoring. The tissues store many of the hormonal responses which make them ready for the FFF response. Thus, consciously moving and breathing, concentrating in certain areas of the body, can provide feedback to the brain to move from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic (rest and digest) response. 

I find value in intentionally moving. Body sweating and bring the muscles and tissues to breath new air, letting old “juices” dislodge and flow away. Sometimes this is very challenging for me, many times physically and emotionally uncomfortable. Besides moving, gentle, relaxing, and sustained stretches also help the tissues detox physically and emotionally. I notice there is a marked benefit when I am intentional and mindful about my movements. 

Practicing awareness of breath starts by finding comfortable space, in my environment (sounds, interruptions, light), and internal (preparing my mind). Maybe taking patient inventory of the body methodically (bottom to top, or vice versa), and that I am feeling every part. Practice closing my lips softly, bringing the tongue to the palate, exhaling through the nose. Pause. Feel the extent of my exhalation. The exhalation may invite my body to release weight or contract its muscles and joints. Gradually and patiently, with every subsequent exhalation, I focus on a deeper part of the body. Breathe in through nostrils, and I feel it gradually entering the body. I may even follow the breath into my body, section by section – chest, abdomen, limbs, head. Hold and let it soak every part with oxygen, and a sensation of wellbeing. Finally, exhale… I may continue cycles of breath while walking, sitting still, or lying down. I may set an intention for your breath: health, or stability, humility, kindness, peacefulness, love? I set an alarm twice a day for a number of breaths (prefer to start small), and then practice. If this works, then I increase to 3 times a day, and eventually every hour. This will become a constant awareness, and an incredible way to “meditate” on an intention that heals body and mind. 

Less is more. I start gently and being kind and forgiving to myself. This is one tool for self-care. This might help me reach a clearer mind to understand my own lessons: listening in. This might soften my heart to become more loving towards self, and others. This is the beginning of purposely acting mindfully, inviting a spiritual intention in our lives. Maybe this helps me understand the things I can change and the things I need to surrender. This practice brings me closer to the spiritual being who I am, we all are.