One in Four – A Walk through Shadow and Flame

According to statistics, one in four children in the US have been sexually molested. I don’t know what the statistics are in other parts of the country, but that is a big number. It means that every fourth person you meet has been in some way or other, sexually taken advantage of. I don’t know what the statistics are in Malaysia or in the UK where it happened to me but it could be similar. And yes, it did happen to me.

This was 29 years ago, when parents thought that the world was a safe place and that you could allow children to play securely and innocently. He was an acquaintance of my mother’s, someone she was taking a course with in Manchester, UK. It was already a rough time, as my father had sent me to my mother along with a letter that he was leaving her for a younger woman. She was devastated and I was confused.

How does a six year old even begin to describe the situation? It was a public place, and there was no pain involved but something about the situation didn’t feel right. I couldn’t even find the words to say what had happened and my mother was already upset, so I kept it quiet. Keeping it quiet however, did not mean that nothing manifested of it.

I’ve lived my life panicking every time a man stands too close behind me, and when a man assists me in child’s pose, my initial reaction is to stop breathing and freeze up until the message gets to my brain that I know the person and that it is OK to relax. It took me years to get used to the assist in downward facing dog where someone grabs you from the hips and pulls you back. Even now, there are only a few men I can relax into the assist with and I am extremely sensitive to the intention behind the touch.

It was never spoken of, but it has always been somewhere in the shadows.

And it wasn’t until two years ago that I had a vivid memory of the experience. My abuser had come from behind and he wasn’t rough, but he did touch me in an inappropriate way. A child might not know it in their mind, but children are sensitive receptors of touch. It was a lucky thing that there were other people around on the other side of the room or it could have been worse. I wanted to look out the window and he carried me until I could see. It was subtle but I did feel violated.

The event has been playing in the back of my mind for all this time.

‘When the student is ready, the teacher appears,’ old Buddhist proverb.

And so I must have been ready as the right teacher appeared. She had been through a worse experience than I had, relived the memory and come out the other side. I remember being in her class over a year ago, and the feelings surrounding the situation for me came up. Even from the first class, she noticed that I had trouble connecting to my sacrum and was coaxing me to bring breath into the area. It has been a slow process and part of the thing that made is so was my fear to face the assault.

It takes a lot to face these things but last Wednesday, something clicked. Ana Forrest, my beautiful teacher coaxed us to go on a quest towards identifying the blockages that keep us from being whole. In case of a traumatic event, a part of you remains in that time until you go back and free them. Ana said the magic words, telling us that the worst was over. We had survived and we were alive.

That, I think was what did it for me. I decided at the beginning of class that I would chase this fucker down so he could have less power over me. That intention must have been potent because even from the beginning as I was bringing breath down to my sacrum and pelvic area, the tremors began. They continued through core work and most of the class. Finally, when we got into Shavasana, they took over, wrecking my entire body and causing me to panic to the point of not being able to breathe. Luckily Claire, Ana’s assistant, lovingly stayed with me, gently touching my head and cueing me to keep breathing. As soon as we were out of Shavasana, I was a sobbing wreck.

It did not finish there.

Through the day, when I got home, I would sit down, start breathing into my sacrum and the shaking would start followed by sobs. Emotionally, I had to revisit that time of being confused, scared and betrayed. That feeling of being left alone overtook me, and most of all were the very strong feelings that as this was happening to me, my father, the one who was meant to flex his muscles (he was an ex footie player) and protect me was busy starting a new romance. He had let me down, and that’s where my belief that men leave you when you’re weak started.

There were some positives to it though. I was finally able to speak to my mother about it and gave the six year old a voice. She has been a rock through these times. She continues to be amazing, caring, calling me and supportive in my determination to get through this. She’s stuck through me in my crazy quest and called every day since.

We women are so much stronger in our compassion than we give ourselves credit for.

On Thursday I went back. The tremors started early, and towards the end, we were in a compromising Frog pose with a big roll under our bellies. That’s when they fully took over my body. A big part of me wanted to leave the pose and run out of the room. Another part of me was absolutely adamant to chase this fucker out of my body. Ana stayed with me through almost all five minutes of the tormenting ordeal where there were moments when I truly believed that I might die.

But I didn’t and here I am.

I’ve been a gaping wound all week. The memories, and the feelings surrounding them rise and fall like waves. They take over me and I am a shaking mess all over again. Sleep has been sometimes easy but most of the time not. I’ve had nightmares and gone to some really dark places in my mind, but as much as it scares me, I don’t want to put a temporary salve on this.

This will be a tough ride but I want to live my life fully so I am choosing to go through this. The other option is to live my life behind a safe wall where ‘fine’ and ‘comfortable’ are good enough. They are really not so I am living the days occasionally getting thrown into my past knowing that only by facing the nightmares will I be able to shine light on them.

The first 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training I did, I was recovering from a breakup. This time, I will be so much more vulnerable as I head into another time of big change. Sometimes though, it is in times of darkness like these that you learn to find your own light. I could bury it and stick a positive affirmation on it, but that’s not where the work is done. There is greatness and magic in the world however, as what you need always gets provided to you. In my case, I have a strong and loving bond with my family even though they are far away, a generous and solid community that holds me in their arms, wonderful friends and a nuturing yoga practice.

I am also taking steps to protect myself now. Where I would spread my love without fear of backlash before, right now, I am a bit more cautious. Where I see threat of unnecessary hurt, I step back. Some friends will taper away. This is when you know the ones who are leeching on your life force, the ones who only want you when you are light and easy. If you have a partner, this is when you know a weak person from a strong one.

It is a process of riding the waves day by day, and a transformation through fire. At the other side awaits a stronger person with more compassion and so much more love for self and others.0c136b5c56fd13046766ee65c4826572-d6ha2cv

Life – A Series of Crazy Experiments

My life, as some of you know, is a series of experiments.

 

It used to be different. I used to just do what I did and go on doing that. Then, I hit a wall, or fell into a well. One or the other. Either way it was really quiet down there in that chasm, and in the silence a voice said, “well, you’ve drank and drugged yourself into this state, and it’s not really working out is it? So how bout you try something else?”

 

The first time I heard that voice was in 2009. I thought it was just my hangover speaking, so I ignored it and kept going as I was – smoking, drinking, running around the hamster wheel thinking I was getting somewhere but really I wasn’t.

 

Then 2011, the wall hit me again. Of course it was the wall’s fault. I was getting nowhere so how could I possibly hit it?

 

This time the voice rang even louder and went on for a long time. And it wasn’t that I had nothing to lose. I had everything to lose, but the voice was right, what was going on was just not working out. If I didn’t love my own life and my own heart, who else was going to?

 

Change.

 

This fucking process of change.

 

It is tough work. It hurts the head. It hurts the heart. It is time consuming and damn scary.

 

And after all that work, sometimes you end up at square one again. That’s where I’ve been this last month. Not physically. That bit is fine. It wasn’t that I had a ‘fuck it’ moment, drank a bottle of bourbon, smoked a pack of cigarettes and then inhaled a KFC bucket for good measure, but I did hit an emotional slump.

 

There was a moment of hopelessness when stuff that was happening the whole month then the alert for my late dad’s birthday came up and I was just sad, and angry. Just so angry at him for all the reasons I should have been angry at him with before but kept inside because he was my dad, and I shouldn’t have been angry at him. I was angry at the legacy he left me, the half truths and lies.

 

With that anger came all the fear that I thought I had worked through – the fear of falling down, of a broken heart, not letting anyone come too close, the fear of actually letting myself love someone I liked because that would be too much, wanting to cover up all of me with my some spray that would move focus to my sexuality because that would keep the deeper part of me safe. So much, too much and it all hit me.

 

Then five days came where I met my physical, mental and emotional edge every single morning in gruellingly beautiful yoga practices. Day four was when I hit rock bottom and had a cry. Day five my body bounced back but inside who knew what was going on, and it wasn’t until later in the day that I found out. Something had been unlocked somewhere and it was ready to come out.

 

Series of experiments right?

 

Well, sometimes, you’re taken back to an old experiment from years and years ago that you’d forgotten the result of.

 

I found myself in a dark club with about three drinks in me, which is just a good time on the dance-floor with good friends in my now emotional state, but as I was visiting an old emotional state, it was interesting. Some random started dancing with me in a suggestive fashion. It was an invitation, and for a while, I replied to that invitation. He didn’t know me so the attraction was just physical and you know what? It was damn nice that someone found me physically attractive.

 

Then what happened?

Well he danced too close and I was jolted back to now and the realisation that although easier and less scary, it was really not what I wanted. Random meetings can be a nice distraction but I want to take the road untraveled before. I want to be known, as terrifying as that is for me. I want to walk into something with my eyes open ready to give it everything that I’ve got. This disposable ‘hi, you’re hot so let’s go out for a drink or five,’ thing just won’t fly anymore.

 

This new road won’t be as quick.

 

It is one toe in followed by a deep breath, then a foot, another deep breath, sometimes running back in fear, but then moving forward again. It is working through challenges as they come one at a time, awkwardness, fear, hearts beating crazy fast that they feel like they’re leaving our chests sometimes, it will be spending time apart and then coming back again and again and again, and then one day, just finding yourself there in that place you wanted to be.

 

Perhaps being there, upside down with your feet in the air and someone else helping you stay up will be the scariest space yet. So what do you do? You can run of course, but you can stay, taking it one step at a time, knowing that every day is an experiment in trust, in love, in knowing that as scared as you are, so are they, and that in this, you are together.

 

Every experiment has the potential to blow up in your face, but I keep doing them with the hope that one day, one of my experiments works out and a garden will grow, and I wish the same for you.

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A Lesson from Your Tears

Last Friday was one of those days that hit me unexpectedly, and again, had me crying in public.  I don’t really know when this public display of emotion started.  A friend who has known me since I was 19 once said to me that in all the years we spent together (from university through to our mid-twenties) she had never seen me shed a tear, even during the most difficult of times.

You see, I was brought up in an environment where crying was seen as a very negative display of emotions.  As a child, if I cried for no (obvious) reason, I was given a reason to cry.  As a teenager, my being upset would prompt my mother to tell me how upset it made her, and of course, I didn’t want to upset her, so I learned to keep it all in.  In my previous relationships, I dealt with various degrees of reactions to my tears from emotional bullying (kick her while she’s down), to flippant, to having the men emotionally retreat.  One even started cheating on me when I was going through a tough time.  Then there is that ‘crazy’ label used for things they don’t understand.  Asking for a shoulder to cry on, in my experience only led me to feel worse.  When a friend of mine said that her partner could just be there and hand her chocolate as she completely broke down, I was totally amazed at his maturity.  It never crossed my mind that anyone could just do that.

The thing is tears can be prompted by a whole range of emotions including those that are yet unnamed and just need an outlet.  I had become used to crying alone, and so, I had built this shell around me.  I would wait until I was completely on my own to break down.  When my engagement ended, I waited to move to another country to do the bulk of my grieving, filling the time between that end and my move with a fling that left me feeling worse. When my grandmother passed on a couple of years ago, I was in a relationship and yet, I dealt with it by crying into my yoga mat and just texting my then partner.  I didn’t expect him to be there for me, and he didn’t call. Somehow I felt that emotionally, he was ill-equipped to deal with my grieving.

I very rarely shared my tears with females, and even more rarely would do it with the men in my life be they relatives, friends and especially partners.

And then I took that crazy vow of celibacy: https://azphoenix.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/act-of-celibacy/.  It was an interesting and amazing journey.  However, just as I was about to step out of it, my father passed away and I retreated again into myself.  I am so grateful for the friends who were there for me during this time.  Although I tried to shut the door, they waited right outside, ready for when I could allow myself to need them.  It was a lesson on how there were people out there who are at the same time both gentle and strong enough to support you through your grief.

That is the thing about grief and tears. Most of the time, you don’t want someone to make it better and you definitely don’t want someone to make it about them.  Sometimes, all you want is for someone to hold you and to let you cry, or to hand you a baby to hold for a little while.

When my father passed away I was sad, and I was angry – angry at him for being the kind of father he was and angry at him for not telling me how ill he really was. Most of all I was angry at him for not being around during my moments of vulnerability, these moments of vulnerability when he, as a father, should have been there.  The last thing I wanted was to let another man in or even have one near me.  I felt that people in general couldn’t be relied on in times of grief, and more so if they were men.

I was wrong.

As my yoga practice has grown and my mask has dropped, I’ve learned that people can be there for you if you let them.  They might not be in a position to do something about it, but a hug is free and tissues don’t cost that much.  There are friends who will not brush it off if you cry for your grandmother who passed away 15 years ago.  There are friends who will bring you gelato and let you hold their baby for the warmth and comfort.  There are friends who will sit with you, waiting patiently for the sobs to subside and for you to catch your breath so you can tell them why you are upset.  And there are men.  These men who are just there with their gentle strength, neither running nor reacting to your tears, offering their warm arms so you can melt, even if just for a moment.  These men just listen while you open up with your emotions and although they might have that manly desire to fix everything, they don’t try to.  They are just present.

Unspoken Words

There are people who understand that sometimes emotions flow out in bursts before laying dormant for a while.  Then something triggers them, and there they flow again, and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

And there are times you learn that strong emotions can awaken different parts of yourself that might have been asleep.

For the first time in a long time, last week I wished that I wasn’t spending the evening alone.  I wanted to curl up on someone’s lap and let him hold me.  When I awoke in the middle of the night, I wanted to hear another person breathing beside me, to feel his warmth and know that comfort.

Tears are amazing.  They remind you that you are alive.  They are the physical manifestation of your feelings, showing you that your body and your emotions are connected.  They are the gateway, allowing things that might remain stuck inside to flow.  And sometimes they come only to tell you that it is time to let your guard down and write the next chapter of the story.

The Cure to Life

The other day, someone asked me, “how come your hips are still tight even with all the yoga your practice?”  It is an interesting question that can be answered in many different ways. On a physical level, sitting down for long periods as well as activities like cycling and running can affect the hips that way.  On an energetic and emotional level, tight hips can sometimes signify a certain degree of resistance, or emotions being held, trust or any number of reasons, depending on where the individual is in life.  In my case, mine were feeling a bit tight because of a combination of physical and emotional reasons which I won’t go into.

What interested me about the question is the idea behind it that a chosen activity or spiritual path can be a cure to life.  Yoga, prayer, whatever path we choose, we sometimes think that it will protect us from life.

When I was a child, I believed so strongly in prayer. I still do.  But as a child I would pray for a specific thing, mostly for my father to come home, and when he didn’t I got angry. What I wanted, really, was to not feel the pain of it all, but of course, that never happened.  And then, I thought that God had a personal vendetta against me because of it.  As I got older, I learned of another way to deal with pain – disconnection.  Alcohol was a great tool for this method, along with a life of partying, and then sleeping it off.  It worked for a little while, and then it got old.

Then, in the great old age of 30, yoga made an appearance.  Not the gym yoga I had done before, but the kind of yoga that gave you space to be with yourself.  I looked at all the happy, healthy people and thought, that this might be it, the cure to all pain and suffering. Asana practice led to meditation and stillness, and prayer.  Slowly, I worked through my physical injuries, and then the emotional injuries, but guess what?  There are days when the hips are still tight, or the shoulder is out of whack.  Sometimes I still spend half of class crying into my mat.

Why?

Because life doesn’t end and as long as we live in the world, shit will happen.  When people claim to not feel pain or sadness anymore, I wonder if they have let the parts of themselves that can feel all that die. And yes, it is safe when you’ve learn to shut the world out, living a solitary existence, but is that really living?

The only cure to life is death.

All the yoga, prayer and meditation did not stop my father from passing away. It doesn’t stop my shoulders from being sore sometimes, and it sure as hell doesn’t stop sadness or anger from making an appearance in my life.  Instead it has taught me to stop and take some time exploring these injuries and emotions.

This is the path of surrender without giving up, knowing when to back away instead of walking away.  It is taking the labels of “good” and “bad” out of emotions and just feeling them.  Crying when you need to cry.  Being angry when you need to do that.  Taking time alone when you need that.  Or simply walking up to a friend and giving them a hug because that’s what you need.  Have you ever felt like crying but ended up laughing hysterically instead?  Well, that is the energy moving.

Sometimes the energy just needs an outlet.

A friend at work asked me how I could still breathe and hold my space even when I am angry. The answer is simple.  I have since stopped trying to push my anger down and sit on it.  If I need to, I will get up and go for a walk.  Sometimes I get into an inversion just so I can see the world in another light.  And of course, breathing techniques help.  The way I manage my anger though, might not be the same way you manage yours, and it is your journey to find your tools.

Yoga, prayer or meditation – shit will happen.

It is how you deal with it that will change.  Surrender and acceptance doesn’t stop sadness, but it allows you to feel with a certain degree of peace.  Self exploration in the silence allows you to find safe ways of letting emotions flow through you in a compassionate way.  And perhaps, you had these skills all along, but as you read more books of people telling you how it should be, you forgot your own intuition, the higher Self that guides you through the smooth and rough.  This Self which is made of equal parts shadow and light, and knows things that your brain might not.

So explore. Learn. Feel.

There is no cure to grief apart from grieving.

And there is no cure to life apart from living.

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Dancing at Your Edge

Life pushes us. Sometimes it feels like it doesn’t stop pushing us, one thing after another after another, and then more to come.  You break down, and just as you’re about to get yourself together again, something else happens, pushing you back down into the darkness. Just when you think that there are no more tears left inside you, there you are, in a heap of tears on the bedroom floor: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/06/why-being-broken-in-a-pile-on-your-bedroom-floor-is-a-good-idea-julie-jc-peters/.  Sometimes you want to scream at the cosmos, at God, at the fucker who broke your heart and the mother who brought him into the world, but you just don’t have the energy to even whisper.

From the bottom of your wine bottle all you see is the broken and ugly, and all you feel is that you are broken and ugly yourself.  Drinking keeps the pain away or rather it replaces it with a more physical pain, a pain that you can actually explain.  This, this pain in your heart, this you can’t explain.  There is nothing rational about this. It just doesn’t make sense to hate and love someone at the same time.  And how can you feel angry, sad and empty all at once?  It’s against everything that you think is true.

Then there are well meaning friends telling you that you should go out more, see people, when all you want to do is sit in the darkness and weep.  The thing is though, after so many heartbreaks that went un-mourned, it feels like you’re grieving for all of them now.  Maybe, just maybe it’s time to do something different. Maybe it’s time to tell the biological clock, and that timer that says you only have so and so months to mourn before you’re back out there to fuck off.  Maybe it’s time to honour this experience, and most of all, it’s time to honour yourself.

What the fuck is she talking about, you say?  Well, my story is that for 10 years, I was chasing an imagined clock.  Sometimes it seemed like even before the door completely closed after someone had stepped out, someone else was stepping in. So much so that I have spent entire relationships (especially the short ones, and I apologise greatly to the men involved) drunk to avoid facing the truth that my heart was not really in it.  To be honest, I have been in short relationships where I can hardly remember any of the conversations that we had.  It was too hard to mourn my relationships so I went out, got drunk, got into other relationships.  Avoided.

Then I got on the mat, and there was no escaping the edge.   In the silence, you can’t run, hide or reach for a drink, as a kindly voice brings you to a place where you are a shaking (sometimes sobbing) mess, and then says, “stay for the exhale,” or “play at your edge.”  Believe you me, sometimes playing at your edge is not like playing at all.  Things come up while you’re standing there at the edge, and you have nothing but your breath to help you through.  You can only run for so long.  There comes a time when you have no choice but to honour your pain.  But you know what? It’s at the edge that the world starts to change.  It’s at the edge that you start to change, and once you live in it, breathe in it, and sometimes cry in it, the edge becomes your friend.  At the edge, you start looking at your samskaras, the patterns that are etched so deep in your life that you think they are a part of you.  The truth is, they are not.  They are just patterns. Changeable patterns.

You see, we are conditioned to avoid the edge.  To hide and distract from the pain and the anger, but Life, beautiful and complicated doesn’t just give up.  She takes us there time and again, and just when you think you’re going to go over, she pushes you just a little bit more, and that’s when you start to unfold, to find that jewel within your lotus flower https://azphoenix.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/jewel-in-the-lotus-flower/. She takes your hand and dances with you, only to fuck you over, this lady called life, and just when you think she’s done, she does it again.  The thing is she knows better. She knows your edge, and where you think you can’t go, she knows you can. It is her way of opening you to become the person you were meant to become.  It is her way of opening a door for you to start looking at you instead fo at others.  But like I can only invite you to your yoga mat, Life can only invite you to your edge.  The choice to play at your edge, to swear (under your breath or loudly) and just when you think you can’t take it anymore, to take three more breaths between the tears is yours and yours alone.  But if at some point you do, always, always stay for the exhale.

From Light to Dark and Back Again – A Trip Through the Gunas

Over the weekend, I attended a talk by Swami Govindananda on the three Gunas. In Sanskrit, the word Guna can hold two meanings; the first being thread or string, and the second meaning quality.  Swami Ji, as he is known, was speaking to us on the second definition.  In the Hindu scriptures, these three qualities are satvic from the word satva (calm, peaceful, conscious, etc), rajasic from the word rajas (fiery, driven, selfish, etc) or tamasic from the word tamas (heavy, dark, angry, etc).  The thing is, all three of these qualities exist in every one of us. Within a matter of moments, one can go from being happily on that satvic cloud to being down in the dredges of tamas.

Most of us live in a state of rajas. Society in fact thinks very highly of the rajasic state. This is the state where one is driven, ballsy, a go getter, a doer, and this is the state where it’s all about the “I” – I am, I want, I will be.  It’s all well and good. You can sit in whichever Guna you want as long as you are aware of the consequences of being there. The only problem is that rajas is only a breath away from tamas. What is tamas? When you see people go crazy, getting into bar brawls, fighting, shouting, in acts of uncontrolled anger; that’s tamas.  People who live in satva, to put it simply include your Mother Theresas and Ghandhis of the world, and even then, it takes one incident to bring a person from a satvic state to a tamasic state, and of course, right after learning about it, the universe had to test me on it.

Participating in Yoga Aid on Sunday, coupled with all the big hugs, a lovely brunch with amazing people and a nice evening had left me feeling all mushy and gooey.  Then the tamas hit the fan. My credit card had been stolen, and used to an inch of its life on things like McDonalds, pizzas, art supplies and cigarettes (I know right?). To top it off, when I called the bank, although the customer service personnel were great, they did not have any information for me. Herein starts the descent into rajas.  Mind you, now my balance has gone into a negative number, and if I were to transfer funds to the account so that I could withdraw it, the bank would take it. In fact, I did, and it did. Side note: the Occupy movement is well justified to me at the moment.  This morning, I went to speak to a local bank manager, and again, not only was everything that I was told in the last couple of days repeated, the lady who was serving me proceeded to school me on checking my mailbox.  And there it was, Ms Rajas ripped out through her shackles and let loose.

Having this happen to me, I can see now how a person can change their mailbox number from the highlands of satva to the dredges of tamas in a matter of seconds. It only takes one instant of losing control, one action to change the story of your life. We would all like to think that we are “better than that,” but while we hold this mentality, we don’t hold ourself in check for the darkness that lurks somewhere in there.  The thing about knowing that the lightbulb can go out is that we can are prepared for when it happens. Everyday, there is something in the news about buildings being burnt, people murdered, fights and the like, and you wonder how they got that way. Sometimes, they themselves wonder how they got that way. All it takes is one moment of being unconscious, not present, unchecked. A friend once said to me in a pub where people were going crazy, “I understand why Muslims don’t allow drinking. You feel like you lose control of things.”  And although alcohol and drugs do limit your control over yourself, things can happen even without them. All it takes is one moment, one breath, one unchecked action or train of thought.

Yes, some situations upset you, and you have a right of speaking your mind, but today, I realized that I could easily have been one of the people who trashed the bank, threw out a laptop, or broke something.  It might not have been likely, but it was very possible.  When we see people in prison, in debt, homeless; sometimes we think “oh, that could never be me.”  The thing is, we don’t know their story.  Where the cycle of the world goes, we don’t know.  It takes a string of thoughts and actions, but if we don’t pay attention, we don’t know where in that string we are currently sitting.  So as Swami Ji said, always pay attention to your mind. Know where it is, feed it with your compassion, because where your string was yesterday is where you are today, and where your string is today determines where you will go tomorrow.

Swami Ji likened the three states to light. Satva is that state where you are in a room and everything is bright and clear, Rajas is that state where the light has dimmed and everything is red, and Tamas, well that my friends, is when the room is completely dark. And who controls this light? Well, you do.  It’s there, in the power centre of your mind.

The Bear at Your Desk

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Over the weekend, I was in school (organized school, not the random reading that I do all the time) and our awesome instructor, Rachel Stanley made a point about stress.  Oh yes, we all know stress, and most of us live in it.  Rachel mentioned that although all of our systems are wired with a fight or flight response, before the days of the office chair, and achievement, and becoming everything that someone else thinks we should be, this system was activated more rarely than it is now.  The fight or flight response was only made to kick in with your sympathetic nervous system, a shot of adrenaline even, sort of a response to, “f*** there’s a BEAR, RUN!!!!” that sort of thing.  Other times, we should be living in our parasympathetic nervous system, which aids digestion, relaxation and all that jazz.

Now I don’t know about you, but five years ago, I lived in my sympathetic nervous system. In fact, even now, at least 40% of my life is lived here.  Why? Where’s the bear?  The one that’s standing over the back of your office chair poised to take a bite when your deadline is in a week.  When your deadline is further away, it moves away standing at the corner of the office.  Sometimes it just growls a bit to remind you that you have five hundred billion things to do, and sometimes you’re running around because it’s right on your heels.  It’s the bear that makes your heart beat like a drum and makes you rush through lunch, or even keep running through your lunch break. It’s the one that’s making you breathe through your mouth, activating your sympathetic nervous systems. Sometimes it looks a bit like your boss, or the Finance Department, or any other department that wants something done yesterday. Yeah, that one.

So, what are you going to do about it? First and foremost, realise that it is there. It could be a T-Rex in your case, but it’s there.  Second of all, realise that it is imaginary.  It’s not going to eat you.  It might fire your @$$, but you’re not anybody’s dinner.  Third, and most importantly, realise what it’s doing to you.  Take note when your heart is pumping and your body feels like it’ tightening and clenching, ready to either run or pounce.  Dude, there is no enemy! What are you running from? Or what are you pouncing at? First and foremost, if you’re in a building like mine, there’s only so far you can run. Secondly, if you’re getting ready to pounce, hold it in. What is the point of pouncing? It’s really not going to get anything done. At most, it’s going to get someone to run, then you’ll BE the bear. The world really doesn’t need any more aggression, and people really have their own bears to deal with without your contribution.

It’s your body, you can stop, consider and surprise surprise, you can actually manage your breathing.  If you think you can’t breathe slowly, it’s only because you’ve gotten into the habit of breathing quickly. And train yourself to breathe through your nose, while you’re at it. Believe me, you can.  Try pranayama or any sort of breathing exercise. Give the bear a hug and let it go to sleep.  Your nervous system will thank you, and when you’re moving in your parasympathetic nervous system, and you can digest your dinner and sleep properly, your body will be much more ready to either flee or fly when there really is a bear growling at you.

P:S: Since blogging is not my full time job, obviously, I’m ignoring the bear at my desk, but believe me it’s work in a progress and more work than progress sometimes 😉