Finding stillness in Santa Cruz

I’ve been on a woodsy, restful, vacation this week.  I took almost the whole week off from writing.  A week off from patient care.  I finished an oil pastel drawing I started weeks ago.  Yoga everyday!  I found a studio that offers a daily kundalini class.  I’ve been knitting granny dishcloths while binge watching Parks and Rec.  I’ve done two long hikes (blisters to prove it) and I rented a bike and rode the coastline yesterday.  

Maybe some day I’ll get around to writing up this week, but probably not.  I needed the break.  I needed the mental space to let some things cook that have been floating around up there. 

I rewatched this video this week (20 minutes worthy of your time, if you want some inspiration).  This is my friend, Clare.  After watching a Netflix documentary about a team of four women who rowed from San Francisco to Australia, she felt inspired to give herself a physical challenge.  She, an inexperienced backpacker, planned a solo backpacking trip across Catalina Island.  She is beautifully honest and vulnerable in her captures from the trail, the emotions that came up in the presence of physical and mental pain.  

Yesterday I did a meditation in kundalini yoga, the focus of which was to rebuild.  We sat elbows at chest level to either side, hands in the center, flat, with palms down for (I would guess) about 15 minutes as we inhaled through fish lips and exhaled through the nose.  At first it was totally fine (of course it was!) and then my shoulders started to burn.  I continued to breathe and to straighten up my posture, focusing on the mantra, “sat nam.” 

My brain started to be distressed, How long is this thing going to last? Just hold your arms up! What if I put them down for a second?  Is it better to listen to my screaming shoulders or endure the pain?  I don’t want to put them down!  [Read here about a time when it was the right thing to put my arms down—it’s not about the arms being up or down.]  

About that time my teacher prompted me, Allow the change.  Breathe through the change.  

That one word, change, created the shift for me.  I visualized my discomfort as something not to be endured, but ALLOWED, and also temporary.  I became curious, What will the change feel like?  What will I feel like after the change? I continued to breathe.  I let this curiosity work in me and tears began to drip down my cheeks as I considered the application to my life—all of the weeks/months/years I’ve spent holding my figurative arms up out of grit.  

Allow the change. Breathe through the change.  Not WORK through the change.  Not STRUGGLE through the change.  You will do this automatically.

But ALLOW, BREATHE–these words gave me a new perspective on enduring these moments of intensity.  I am witnessing a change.  Change is painful.  But the pain is reduced when I focus on allowing the change, breathing through it…surrender.  The pain comes from the fear that this moment of extremity will last forever—but forever is never the nature of change. 

Sat nam and namaste.  All the yoga words. 🙂

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