The Here and Now
People ask us to be present all the time. Show up. Be here. It’s a hard thing to do, to be here, because when we are present with ourselves and with other people, there is so much to take in. It’s almost overwhelming to feel everything that you’re feeling and then be there for all the things the other person is feeling. On Sunday, I shared my tools for weathering the storm of big thoughts and feelings. Staying is one part of being present. If we run away, we can’t fully be inside the experience of our life. So, once we’ve managed to find feet on the ground, how do we keep ourselves in the here and now with our whole mind body and spirit?
Being present is easier when we live inside the range of comfortable feelings. If we are a little bit sad or kind of happy, it is much easier to sit inside of those experiences and be there. When we start to explore the edges of the spectrum of emotions, that’s when things get challenging. It is hard to sit inside of big feelings or big choices and be present. A part of us, the part that only wants to protect us, knows that dissociation will save us from too-big-feelings. Especially in people that have experienced trauma, the habit of dissociation can be strong with painful feelings. Running away instead of choosing to stay is second nature. So, to stay requires both courage and vulnerability.
The challenges of being present also happen with joy. Brene Brown talks about foreboding joy in Daring Greatly. It feels like an overwhelming happiness tainted by anxiety. It comes from the idea that this full happiness can’t last forever. There has to be a condition to the happiness. We live in fear of the other shoe to dropping. Foreboding joy robs us of the full experience of the present moment. While it is true that we don’t know what may happen in the future, the outcome doesn’t always have to be catastrophic to balance the amount of good happening now. Try as we might, we can’t prepare for the unknown future. The best we can do is fully experience the now and move through life with enough grace that we readily accept when it is time to change.
The body is incredibly smart. Sometimes if we translate these big concepts into a physical practice, they resonate in a more whole way. Here are some of my favorite asana to work on presence.
Standing Balances - choose your favorite one. There are many many many out there and all will provide you with. Similar need for focus, breath, and compassion. Because I love a good heart opener, I often choose a dancer’s pose (pictured). Feel free though to incorporate a single leg tadasana, an Uttita variation, tree pose, Eagle, figure four chair, standing half pigeon. The wonderful thing about standing balances is that they are so varied. If you are working on wringing out old energy or thought patterns, turn it into a twist. If you’re working on hip opening, take the figure four. What all the balances have in common is that they require your to root down to rise up above the earth. The physical balance asks the body and mind to constantly adjust to the shifts of weight and environment around. If we try to hold on to the balance as it was 3 breaths ago, probably we will fall. Be where you are, not where you were or where you are going.
Inversions - I love going upside down. It was when I started incorporating inversions into my practice that I found unparalleled calm, focus, and ease. Inversions can also contain variations to support other concepts you are working on. What I love the most about going upside down is that it can feel disorienting just like big feelings and big thoughts. We are the opposite of the way we live most of our lives. To stay, it requires an acknowledgement of the fear of falling, but a choosing that this moment/breath/heartbeat is more important than the possibility of falling (courage). Upside down is great physical practice for encountering discomfort and fear and choosing to stay anyway. Awake and alive is the only way to be in an inversion or you will fall.
Pigeon Pose & Supta Baddah Konasana - I truly believe that if we all spent five minutes a day in pigeon (on both sides) and supta baddah we would all be happier people. The hips store most of our trauma. All the things we wish we could have said, all of the stifled impulses of action, this is where they are. The hips have many different sides. There is the back side (glutes which are opened via pigeon), the front side (hip flexors opened via supta baddah or supported backbends), the outside (IT band area accessed by supine twist), and the inside ( inner thigh/groin accessed by frog pose). Different parts of the hips with trigger different response in each person. Particularly if you have strong patterns of dissociation, glutes and hip flexors will be the things to access in order to disrupt those patterns. The longer we stay in thee posture, usually the more uncomfortable we get because deep emotional and energetic release starts to happen. Courage, though. As your mind panics because the habitual defenses are releasing, can you find your heartbeat, find the here and now, and stay. You are not your past experiences. From personal experience, this one is very hard to doo for an extended period of time without the support of a trained teacher because the impulse to run will be so strong.
One of the scariest things in life is to stay, I have found. I spent most of my life running away from being here. Until I found the courage to stay, I used physical distance or self-imposed emotional boundaries to save me from delving into big feelings. I have been on a journey of healing and feeling for the last 8 years and there are still times when I revert back to running. The journey of presence is not linear, like almost everything else in life. Keep practicing ways to be present. Take back the living of your life.
Ps. Tell me how it goes with these postures!