There is nothing wrong with you.
You don’t need to be fixed.
You just need to remember who you really are.
May the following Practices help you find some ease in the coming months of the phenomenal fever dream that is 2020.
Who are you when capitalism stands still? Who are you when separated from your social networks, the embodied presence of human beings who choose to spend time with you? Who are you when your Country erupts in protest against murder and generations of institutionalized racism? Who are you when your friends and family don’t all see the crisis the same way? What beasts of fear arise in the wall of first a pandemic slow down and now a national crisis with the value of Black lives at its heart?
Befriend Fear. Show it to a comfortable chair in your living room. It needs some attention. Lullaby your anxiety. Invite it in.
What I love about the language of Tantric Philosophy is its focus on remembrance. It frames the deepest transformation as the transformation of our perspectives and our experience, not of our Selves. We do not need to change anything essential about ourselves, rather to reconnect to our inherent dignity, to move more consistently from the space of the heart, to empower our empathy and compassion rather than our fear.
When we send curiosity and compassion in the direction of our anxiety we discover it’s true intention and underlying needs, even if misguided. Having been given a portion of time/space, anxiety is often lulled to rest, whereas when we push away and try to ignore it, it simply amplifies itself in an effort to be heard.
The following are PRACTICES to engage with anxiety in the name of our connected liberation. We can weave the work of reclaiming our best thinking individually with the work of collective liberation. That these are practices means that they have to be done. They must inhabit the full cauldron of time and space. You must choose minutes for these contemplations. Sit, set a timer, use a piece of paper and a pen, pick a question, or an exercise, DO, then BE, then DO again. Pulse your attention between states of being that help you feel into safety and practices that cultivate the sustaining power of these states of being.
And I’ll say again: May the following Practices help you find some ease in the coming months of the phenomenal fever dream that is 2020.
Discover your anxiety’s physical address:
Where Does it live?
- In my sweat
- Cold hands and feet.
- Shallow breath
- Tight Jaw
- Dry tight forehead
- Squeezey hurt belly
Just collecting this information alone will make you more adept, more expert in navigating the terrain of your physiological anxiety. You may notice a physical symptom first, track it to the emotional feeling and induce your best treatments having called awareness to your experience.
Address the somatic aspects of emotion through practice:
Ask, How can I affect the physiology of my emotional experience?
- Build your relationship with subtle, mysterious breath, your constant companion.
- Relax your belly - unbutton your jeans
- Focus attention on sensation, watch it change, evoke time and passage with this awareness
- Side-step fear by visiting an up-regulated cousin like excitement - you don’t always need to calm down. Dance or masturbate.
- Mindful movement with breath awareness - the magic all-systems salve (yes Yoga)
Question your catastrophizing and the assumptions of your daily story-teller.
Ask, True Or Not True :
- The Guise of the do’er - If I perpetually cook, clean, fold, return, respond, wrap-up and complete, everything will be ok.
- If I let the Specter of the unknown say her piece, I will collapse.
- Working is the only way I can conjure my worth.
- I am alone.
Some of these narratives may hold up to the light of scrutiny, and can be faced with equal measures grace and grief. Others will dissolve under your curious attention. “Tasking from dusk ‘til dawn doesn’t make everything ok, shit’s still f’d up….. So what do I need, what’s my balance?” OR “I’m still here after 8 weeks of not knowing whether I’m going to get my job back, how can I encourage my body to suffer less about not knowing?”
Become expert in sifting through your internal storyboard. Look for what is true, keep a sense of humor and be prepared to discover that some deeply held curations of “fact” are little more than old dust.
Insist on connection:
- Zoom your mom, yeah you heard me.
- Make eye contact at the grocery, practice eye-smiling, befriend your crows-feet as you do this.
- Commit your imperfect voice to action that you believe in
- Confront aversion to discomfort, express through your presence a willingness to be uncomfortable in the name of love and healing. Discomfort is utterly survivable though we have been taught otherwise.
- Send a letter
- Be in the woods
- Find yourself near water
To you for whom some of these points of connection are unavailable, I love you in your city apartment, in the loss of your mother, or as a resident of a desert.
Remember that difficult emotions have positive intentions:
As Tara Brach so artfully describes in her series “Sheltering in Love”
- Fear wants to protect you from being hurt or struggling.
- Shame wants to keep you from being separated from your society or your family.
- Anger wants to protect you from feeling hurt, guilty, sad or grieving and to motivate your own self protection.
Rather than push these tender monsters away, invite them in for tea. Thank them for having your back, albeit perhaps a bit too hard. If misplaced or outsized, request that they take a nap by the fire after having been duly acknowledged. If right-sized and resonant, trust in your heart’s capacity to hold them in concert with the great beauty and awe of your aliveness. Trust them to move and change. Know your mortality as a champion of your motivation and thrust to live vividly af.
When capitalism grinds to a molasses ooze, you are a compassionate loving human being. When a floodlight is cast upon racism in your backyard remember that liberation is everyone’s imperative. As hurricane season approaches and nature lives into her terrible beauty, remember your own nature, claim agency everywhere you are able and do not bow to visions of yourself as bad. Take another blessed deep breath, that is your absolute privilege, and practice remembering who you really are.
Godspeed and Sweet Dreams,