I’d like to make a plea for gentleness in our time.
Life has changed. It’s completely normal to feel uncertain, stressed or anxious, and to feel this in both body and mind. And it can be hard to find hope.
I’d like to suggest that it’s perfectly ok if our hair’s a mess, we’re struggling with home-schooling or not being ‘productive’. There’s talk about the future, of hope. We like to look forward, don’t we?
Let’s be honest though, we have no idea about the future. Nor, I am guessing, do politicians, policy makers or research scientists.
Nevertheless, I’ve been hearing wonderful stories from friends, family and colleagues of rediscovering a deeper source of sustenance, ease, purpose and joy.
I’ve found this myself. I’m enjoying time at home, appreciating smiles from strangers on my evening walks around town, and finding that the quiet outside is giving space for creativity and a wholesome pace of life. Dropping what is unnecessary. Welcoming simplicity and what is most important in life. This is not to deny that things are incredibly tough for some, for many different reasons.
Could it be that amid the chaos there is a chance for us to rediscover our ability to be in the present – rather than ruminating on the past or grasping into the future – and with what is, however it is?
I’ve been practising and teaching yoga and meditation for decades. The teachings of this art, science or discipline, whatever you’d like to call it, highlight how our desire for things to be different only perpetuates our suffering. I’ve experienced this in my own life often. Now I catch myself.
Of course it can be challenging to be with circumstances as they are. We like the pleasant and dislike the unpleasant. We crave some things and avoid or push away others. Our likes and dislikes can be unbelievably strong, and can seem to give us an identity.
But life is bittersweet. To feel joy fully we also need to be able to feel sadness fully. Gradually the apparent force of these opposites loses its grip on us and we find a way to be with it all. As we stop feeding old habits we experience greater equanimity, ease and freedom.
Where do we start?
I’d like to suggest with softening. Not fighting. Our body holds all our thoughts and emotions. It becomes tense and tight. When we soften and release this physical tension, our mind calms, as do our thoughts and emotions.
I’ve found myself creating resources and courses at this time to anchor and ease, as well as to uplift and grow through continued learning.
I’d like to offer the guided relaxation below. It includes elements of what are called progressive muscle relaxation and autogenic relaxation.
While long an integrated part of yoga practices, these approaches to conscious, guided relaxation are often used and recommended by the NHS for patient recovery and wellbeing. They are also used by psychologists, counsellors and therapists.
They involve consciously tensing parts of the body and then letting go of the tension. This increases awareness and the felt-sense of release and relaxation. Affirming this action with an accompanying positive, internal statement reinforces its efficacy.
I hope this guided practice serves and supports you at this time. You can enjoy it either lying down or sitting comfortably.
If you have always found it hard to relax – another common experience with a fast pace of life and multiple commitments – I encourage you to allow yourself to try this practice a few times at least.
Relaxation is a learned skill, and we are all actually born with a natural ability to relax. It is part of our physiological make up.
Inherent in us are the ‘fight or flight’ and ‘rest and digest’ responses of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. It is often a case nowadays of remembering our ‘rest and digest’ response and resetting our ability to consciously switch into it.
Additional resources and support: