This Saturday I am sharing an offering that may be of local interest to the yoga and garden-enthusiasts in the Twin Cities. One of my excellent Soma Yoga teachers, Grant Foster, will be offering a workshop coming up in 2 weeks at Tula Yoga and Wellness in St. Paul designed for gardeners. Now’s the time in Minnesota!
If you are starting to get out gardening and realize you may need to work on some muscle tension, this is YOUR workshop! Click this LINK to register and save your spot!
This is an edited post originally written in April 2018. It is even more relevant as I learn to embody these concepts through soma yoga, and coach using somatic awareness as a tool for accessing inner wisdom.
One of my favorite meditations from Insight Timer is by Anna Guest-Jelly called “May I Know What I Know.” It involves a body scan in which we are moved through body starting with the feet, and moving through each region. After the exercise, we consider if there are any places we could not feel, that may have been “offline” from our awareness, so to speak.
The more I practice this body awareness and deliberately tune into places in the body that may be mysterious, the more I tune into my emotions. Sometimes I realize why there are “frozen” parts – those emotions may be difficult ones, like grief or anger.
I am still learning to feel those emotions all the way through, and sit with them without trying to escape. It is an exercise in compassion and patience to realize I have habitually escaped those feelings, or pushed them under with distraction, food, or other buffers (like busy-ness or overwork) rather than to be still with them.
Now that I realize these feelings are an important emotional compass, I have begun to “invite myself back” more often. I tune into that channel – my gut, my shoulders, my back, sometimes my lower spine, when they are trying to tell me something. Rather than get lost in thought, and spinning mental energy, I aim to come back to the body, invite my whole self back.
This tendency to abandon the body and thus abandon ourselves is promoted by our culture. Feeling our emotions and tuning into our intuition often dismissed. But as I do it more, I acknowledge the many times when I have buried my own desires in favor of pleasing other people.
Women are well-conditioned to attend to others’ needs. We take care of partners, children, bosses, teammates, even parents sometimes. But we do not always attend to our own bodies, our own yearnings. I inadvertently learned (from family and culture) that I should ignore my own needs in favor of taking care of others. This abandonment does not serve us long-term though.
Even the airlines tell us to put on our own mask before helping others. Inviting ourselves back can feel like a radical act of rebellion for women. Patriarchy demands we attend to the comfort of our family members, remain small and and of service, never demanding anything for ourselves. And yes, I think it is patriarchy that promotes this idea of the “good daughter” and it is one we must dismantle.
When we invite ourselves back, we ground ourselves in our truth. We allow ourselves to live in greater harmony with nature, and with our bodies. We begin to understand the connected nature of all people, of all parts of the universe. We feel compassion for ourselves and for others in their struggles. We make different choices that are more sustainable for ourselves. We serve others with a spirit of generosity rather than resentment.
Inviting ourselves back means we set appropriate boundaries. We say no to things that do not align with our purpose or intention. That can be very hard for those of us who were trained to say “yes” to everything we are asked to do. We can be perceived as “uppity” or trouble-makers, or not those nice girls we used to be.
It is a daily practice, inviting ourselves back. It does not simply happen one day, and then all things change. It is a conscious choice, a habit that grows easier with regular practice. If we want to make sustainable change in the world, I believe it is non-negotiable. The world needs our whole and integrated selves. Our souls call for this as well.
Consider inviting yourself back today. Center on what your body is telling you. See what emerges as you learn to pay attention in this way.
I have been learning a concept in yoga teacher training that is getting me to rethink how I approach the activities in my day. It is the notion of the “just right stimulus” when it comes to doing yoga poses, or deciding how to modify them for optimal benefit.
Since yoga aims mobilize, stabilize and strengthen our bodies, we must apply certain principles to achieve those goals. The idea is that when we receive that just right stimulus, we can increase the mobility of our joints, we can stabilize and align our spine and further, strength our body and optimize our health.
When we overdo a stretch or push our bodies too hard, injuries develop over time. In contrast, when we under-use our bodies, neglecting the mobility of our joints, or losing the strength in our muscles and bones by not moving enough, our body can atrophy. We then become less physically capable over time.
Our minds are like this too. When we are constantly “on” – doing, thinking, absorbing, seeking input and running around, we can become over-stimulated. As someone who is neuro-diverse with variable focus, this can be all too easy to do. In contrast, becoming too passive, such as vegging out in front of the t.v. for hours at a time, or allowing our minds become listless and dull, does not serve us. It then will required more energy to focus, think and be purposeful in our actions if we develop a habit of mental passivity.
Our bodies and souls need periods of activity and rest to stay in their optimal condition. These cycles vary from hour to hour, day to day and even month to month, seasonally and in the various phases of our lives. Indeed psychiatrist Dan Siegel coined the term “window of tolerance” to describe the optimal arousal of our nervous system.
In cultivating resilience in ourselves, it is important to develop some internal sensing of when we are not too hot, not too cold, but just right (remember Goldilocks and the three bears?) Stephen Porges, PhD called this “neuroception” in his exploration of Polyvagal Theory, which helps us understand how safe states are sensed, and how the social engagement system can help us self-regulate.
When we go about our daily life, we find that we move in and out of the optimal state and this is a normal part of living. What is important is that we find ways to get ourselves back to more balance so that we can bring our full presence and engagement into our relationships and our work.
There are many practices that can help us with this. I will be exploring some that I find particularly beneficial in the next couple of weeks as I prepare to deliver a workshop on the neuroscience of resilience for a local client. I hope they will be helpful to you as well!
Do you ever feel like you are playing a role when you show up for an interview?
You know, there is a “song and dance” routine and you are expected to go through certain motions. You know the answers you are expected to give. You have been on the other side of the interview table, perhaps, on a selection committee a few times. And yet, you are unable to play the game in the way that you did before.
I think being 2 months shy of 45 has given me certain perspective on what I value. It has change the way I choose to show up these days. I no longer have a need to put on a “front” when I talk with people, at least beyond some social graces.
There’s a comfort level in my body, within being in my own skin, showing up as me, unapologetic and real. It is freeing. I have gained experience in many challenging situations in the past couple decades. I’ve made lots of mistakes. And I’ve learned valuable lessons along the way. I’ve had success in a lot of areas, and I can own that success, and not be sheepish about claiming those victories.
I give tremendous credit to years of yoga and the past year of dance classes. Trying new things, and risking appearing foolish as a beginner has given me more confidence in trying other new things. I know that new moves (whether they are dance routines or yoga poses) can be learned and practiced, and that skills are built over time and with regular commitment.
I found out on Wednesday (after my Tuesday interview) that I will be asked for the third (and presumably final) interview for a position that excites me. I am getting better at showing up as me, rather than some image of who I think I am supposed to be. Perhaps that is ultimately the work of our lives, knowing ourselves and honoring those calls to grow.