Friday, September 26, 2014

Pinning down the wind

"And you? When will you begin that long journey to yourself?" ~ Rumi
Lately I have felt ungrounded. I have felt that the plans I was so sure about yesterday are the frayed ends of a rope today and will continue unraveling tomorrow. My mind is the leaves falling from the trees, swept up and carried off on the wind. I lack concentration and focus (where did I leave my keys?). As the days get shorter I feel increased pressure to gain control with less time and energy to do so. This leaves me feeling out of control, anxious, frustrated and stressed. Like the birds flying south, like the animals preparing to hibernate, I am in a time of great transition. My instinct is to hold on more tightly to what I want and to what I expect of my plans. To force these plans to come to fruition, even if it means trying to pin down the wind. Sometimes I vainly make more plans to gain a feeling of control! I call these efforts "spinning." Round and round I go. Where I'll stop, I don't even know! Life happens while we plan it. This can leave us feeling anxious, nervous and/or fearful. How do we ground ourselves while the winds of change blow? The more external we become, the more ungrounded we feel, filling our lives with distractions that remove us from the foundations of our existence: our Self.

Paying attention to our foundation is essential during times of change. A strong foundation offers a feeling of support, comfort and security - even during times of of great transition.

Think of a yoga flow session on your mat. More specifically, think of a sun salutation. During this sequence we flow through a variety of postures: standing, forward-folding, plank, back-bending, inverting (yes! downward facing dog is an inversion!). The beginning practitioner may experience insecurity, discomfort and even aversion to this flow. Mentally, there may be thoughts of doubt and confusion about what they are doing versus what they are "supposed" to be doing (don't worry - it is called "yoga practice"; not "yoga perfect!). But with practice, we learn to identify and utilize our foundations - our hands and our feet - building strength, confidence and security while shifting from pose to pose. Additionally, we practice focusing our mind on the breath - a constant source of stability - to increase our mental focus through each transition. We use this foundational strength to root down into our mat in order to shift and rise up from it. Now, take this practice off of your mat.

Our plans are our postures. They shift. They change. They transform. How will we step into this flow of our life? By establishing and strengthening the foundation that is our Self. You know, the part of you that is YOU, regardless of the external details - the plans, the thoughts, the decisions. Knowing the Self and truly listening to what is needed is an honoring process that strengthens the foundation.
Each time we connect to our Self we establish roots that reach into the foundation for stability and security. A strong foundation helps us recognize what is actually happening rather than chasing the stories that ride on the changing wind. And sometimes this means recognizing the chase!

From this foundation we can grow into the flow of our life without getting blown away. We can maintain our internal compass without becoming overwhelmed by external factors. The wind can blow as hard as it may without uprooting who we are. In this way we can be open to the many choices, experiences and opportunities - positive and negative - that may blow their way into our lives. We can see them all, watch them spin around us and let them be carried off on the wind without being carried with them.

How do we make this connection to the Self? Through the Breath.

Try this breathing practice:

1. Find a comfortable place to sit. If you choose to sit on the floor, feel the sits bones reaching down to create a firm foundation. If you are sitting in a chair, place the feet firmly on the floor. Your hands can rest comfortably in the lap.

2. Close your eyes. Bring the corners of your mind into the corners of the space around you. Take several breaths here to calm the mind and body, releasing the earlier moments of the day and placing your proverbial to-do list face down.

3. Now bring the corners of your mind onto your breath. Inhaling, say to yourself "I know that I am breathing in" and exhaling, say to yourself "I know that I am breathing out." Take several breaths here, aligning the mind and the body through the breath.

4. Concentrate on the exhales. Imagine each exhale creating a line of energy from the crown of the head, down the spine and deep into the belly - the seat of your Self. As you imagine this connection with the breath, feel your sits bones or feet become more securely anchored towards the earth. You are becoming grounded.

5. It is normal to have thoughts pass through your mind during meditation. Recognize any thoughts entering your mind's eye. Ask yourself if they serve your intentions for this breathing practice. If the answer is "no" let them go. Do not connect them to your breath - you do not need them fastened to your roots.

6. As you breath here, concentrating on the exhales, allow each breath to extend from the depths of the belly into the earth. Feel the anchoring of each exhale securely connecting you into the soil. Let each breath become a strong root securing you to your foundation and then securing your foundation into the depths of the earth. Breath here and connect to your Self.