I often refer to the practice of yoga and meditation as ‘doing our own work’. Totally different than doing my job, as a Yoga Therapist. This is consistent yoga and meditation practice that helps me stay balanced between classes, to contribute as a productive member of society. My intention for teaching is to share some of these tools, with my students, so together we create more balance beyond the yoga studio walls.
As I am writing this, a frenetic energy is buzzing around the terrorist attacks in Paris, current death toll at 132 people. Facebook profiles are filtering through Parisian shades of blue, white and red, media channels are preempted with ‘breaking news’ and small talk is filled with 6 degrees of separation connecting us all to this tragedy. Yes, we are all connected because we are human and share planet earth as our home. Did you know, 2 days before the Paris attacks, ISIS bombed Beirut killing 43 civilians; Syria's three-year civil war has already killed more than 170,000 people? In Mexico drug violence takes an average of 1 life every half hour, and in the US, drugs and alcohol claim the lives of an estimated 370 people every day. These are just some fun facts for us to meditate on as we rally around injustice and tragedy.
We can show our support by ‘doing our own work’, cultivating peace from within that builds merit and shines light, not only for ourselves but also for those around us. Tragedy happens every moment of the day. We live in a word of turmoil, chaos and injustice. We choose to be stirred up in it, or grow from it. We also live in a world of awesome beauty, each day the sun rises and sets offering a majestic landscape of opportunity for transformation.
Globally, we acknowledge that there is scary stuff going on. However, personally our lives have been, and will continue to be traumatized without warning. Recently, I was rocked to my core, hit with breathtaking waves of shock, rage and grief. I expressed when, where, and to whom it was appropriate, I asked for help, and was showered with support. I continued to show up professionally and authentically felt my way through the processes. Most of all I found healing in ‘doing my own work’ grounded and so grateful for the tools of yoga and meditation. Then it seemed like overnight the universe opened up an abundance of grace.
I tend to teach from what I know, often choosing a metaphorical theme that we all relate to, which somehow creates shifts and healing where we each student needs it most. I primarily teach in therapeutic settings, where trauma is still an open wound and the harsh realities of death are all too raw. This past week I focused classes on being ‘Grounded in Gratitude’. Not only because it helped me, but being thankful is just the American thing to do in November. And being ‘grounded’ is underutilized by everyone besides yogis who toss the term ‘grounding’ around as much as kale salad.
Today this trite theme expands its narrow reach from my personal pain, to international heartbreak. In class we practice creating a safe space, balance the breath, trust in gravity from above and feel the support of the earth below. Then fill up with a feeling of warmth for something we are grateful for and settle there. So in the big bad world, when shit hits the fan, we know how to bring ourselves back to ourselves.
We can always trust gravity. No matter how chaotic life gets, when we are spinning in the crazy, we can pause and simply notice what is touching the ground.
· Literally, focus on the connection between your feet, thighs, or reach down and feel floor. Settle down like roots in a tree, energetically draw up the nourishment we need, release and let go of anything you don’t.
· Take off your shoes and walk on the earth. Research has proven enormous benefits of connecting with the earth’s electrolytes and minerals.
· Talk to someone who really knows you- to help remind you, who you are.
· Take a bath, get a massage and schedule self care as part of your routine.
· Of course, practice yoga and meditation.
We can always find something to be grateful for. When we shift our focus from heavy, dark stories to reframe facts in gratitude the chemistry in our body changes, we feel lighter. This helps us not become the effect of, but rather be a powerful force of alchemy. Not to be confused with denial; all those unpleasant thoughts and feelings will always be available for us after the practice. Yet, choosing to be thankful sets us up for an equation of abundance, as gratitude itself grows exponentially.
· Set aside time to be grateful maybe the duration of a yoga class, while commuting, before bed, maybe just 5 minutes with a start and stop time..
· Shift away from the ‘to-do’ lists to imagine a ‘dream’ vacation, design a dream house, take yourself on a mini-adventure away from minutia.
· Every time a resentment pops up, think of all the lessons learned.
· Make a gratitude list- actually write down why you are thankful.
· Nothing is too small or too insignificant to be thankful for!
Unfortunately sometimes we need a breakdown, forcing us to rebuild and there doesn’t have to be a reason. There is no reason why this happened to innocent lives in Paris, Beirut, Mexico and down the street. Right now we are still breathing, and have the ability to harness the power of our breath to cultivate peace within. Notice what is touching the ground, feel that support of the earth below, be grateful for the gift of filling up with fresh perspective. Let’s continue ‘doing our own work’ and stay Grounded in Gratitude.
Simple 3 step meditation to practice anywhere, anytime for any reason
1. Ground- notice what is touching the earth- pause feeling support, from below trust gravity from above
2. Gratitude- fill up with gratitude from within, just think of something that makes us warm on the inside, stay focused there or continue to think of another and another
3. Balance- inhale for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4, continue 4 times, then inhale for a count of 3, pause- exhale for a count of 5, pause and repeat a few more times. As the mind begins to drift and wander, allow the thoughts, feelings to pass in and out with ease, just continue to guide ourselves back to being grounded, filling up with gratitude and balancing the breath- over and over.