Wall Post November 2018
There is a lot of grief in the world right now – personally, communally, politically. We have all been touched by it in one way or another. And in a society that does not understand that grief is a natural part of being human, we are expected to keep going, be happy, and stay productive.
Chinese Medicine acknowledges the link between the emotions and the body – and the body and the seasons. If you look outside in the northern hemisphere right now, you will see signs of nature beginning to slow down and prepare for winter. Energetically, the shifts from season to season do not occur like a light switch on the Solstices and the Equinoxes. Instead, they are a gradual rise and fall to these high points.
So, we now find ourselves in this shift from Fall to Winter.
Fall is a season of great beauty and death. Hence, the emotions related to it are awe and grief. It is the season of maintaining our connection to what inspires us, keeping what’s valuable and letting the rest of the crap go.
Winter, on the other hand, is the darkest, quietest, most restorative of the seasons. Its emotions are fear and courage. It is all about tapping into our deep wisdom, using our resources wisely, and being able to remain steady in the face of the often scary unknown.
So, what does that mean for us right now during this transition?
It means that along with the rest of nature, we can best tend ourselves this time of year by bravely letting go into not-knowing, while also taking stock of what’s valuable and using it wisely.
In the case of the Wall of Flowers, this means stepping up with our best, most powerful beauty and giving it to the world without having any idea how it will be received in these reactionary times.
On a more physical level, it means preparing to be in this for the long haul. This includes not pushing ourselves to burnout, not succumbing to compassion fatigue, and knowing when to recharge.
Here are a few simple things that will help you align seasonally:
1) Keep hydrated. This does not just mean drink water. It means soups and other juicy things as well. Watch the coffee and black tea because they act as diuretics and work against you. Also, go for room temperature / warm / hot things – not cold.
2) Don’t over-exhaust your fight or flight. You can help yourself come down off of your own adrenaline with one or more of these deceptively simple exercises:
Relaxing your adrenal response:
Lying down with a hot water bottle (not electric) under your lower back until you notice your body deeply relaxing and letting go. This requires you’re paying attention from the inside – not going to sleep!
When we go into fight or flight, our body pulls our kidneys up into our bodies ever so slightly and squish our adrenal glands (which sit on top of our kidneys) up against our diaphragm muscles. They then start squirting our adrenaline which can result in symptoms of anxiety, fear, palpitations, quick tempers, etc. It can also mask itself as depression. This exercise helps to remind the kidneys to relax and take the pressure off our adrenals.
Calming your vagal response:
• Lying down or sitting up, fold your hands behind your head, thumbs to either side of your neck just under your skull.
• While keeping your head facing forward, look as far to the right as you can with just your eyes.
• Remain in that position until some relaxation sign kicks in (a burb, a fart, a sigh, a yawn, a tummy growl…).
• Then bring your eyes back to center.
• Repeat with eyes as far to left as they can go until relaxation sign(s) kick in.
• See what you notice. Track it in your body.
Reprogramming your breathing to how it was when you were small:
• Put your hands below your belly button and practice pushing your stomach out and back a few times. (Don’t worry, no one is watching.)
• Next take a full lung breath in as you poke your stomach out. This may feel upside down, just go with it. If it helps to think that you’re breathing into your stomach, so be it. Make sure that your chest doesn’t move until your stomach is completely out. Don’t strain too much.
• Then let your exhale go like a balloon losing air as your stomach muscles relax.
• Repeat this several times until you notice your body and mind relaxing.
Believe it or not, you can go through life getting things done while breathing like this. It doesn’t not mean that each breath has to be a full lung breath. It is more about the mechanics of how your body moves when you breathe: re-establishing the muscle habit. (Watch a baby or animal breathe. They get it.)
The more you practice this, the more it will become the natural way to breathe and the more chest breathing will become the more noticeable, weird-feeling breath. Then when you notice yourself chest breathing, you can make a choice about it. Sometimes we need that adrenaline hit to stop someone from getting hit by a bus… not so much in day-to-day activities.
3) Sleep. Paying attention to the amount and quality can help you stay healthy and handle stress better. Here are a few ways to support that process:
• do one of the exercises listed above right before going to sleep
• aiming to be in bed and asleep by 11pm at the latest will help recharge your qi (energy) that’s responsible for planning, follow-through, creativity and a smooth flow of emotions
• avoiding screens for at least an hour prior to bedtime will help your body create enough melatonin to support healthy sleep
• eating the majority of your daily intake prior to 7pm will allow your body to have restorative sleep rather than continuing to work to digest and assimilate throughout the night
4) Be quiet and still – inside and out. Life can be full, interesting, and responsibility inducing. Having a good balance of stillness and activity will allow all of you to remain in good working order for longer. Meditation, whether it’s seated, walking or in the form of qigong or tai chi can help restore this balance. For those of you who just can’t bring yourself to meditate. Try this: Do the breathing exercise listed above while waiting at stoplights, riding escalators, standing in line… it will help you slow down for a moment and just be. Like a mini-vacation. Of course, this also means that you have to let your thoughts drop away too. Trust me. It won’t change anything if you let your mind drift in the elevator or while looking out the window at clouds for a minute. Life and all its to-do lists will still be there when you get back. However, if you take a moment or two to yourself throughout the day, you’ll be amazed and how refreshed you’ll feel.
Bringing beauty and love into the world can be a lot of work. This wall/garden we’re building represents a world we want to live in – and one that needs ongoing tending to survive.
That can’t happen if we don’t tend ourselves first.
I wish you beauty and stillness and powerful reserves now and always.