I don’t “suffer” from the optimism bias that most non-depressed people enjoy. This means I don’t tend to look the bright side or attend to the positives in tragedy. I spend a good deal of time on this blog making space for my efforts to find that for which I’m grateful; for me, it has to be an intentional and deliberate process or it won’t happen. I firmly believe, though, that finding reasons for joy and laughter need to exist alongside, not in replacement, of the ability to feel sadness as it happens.
My grief at this moment is a witnessed grief more than a personal one; I am not in mourning for the ways in which I’ve been personally impacted by the pandemic, but more for the global losses that have happened and the havoc it is beginning to cause in the lives of people for whom I care. What I lack in “be hopeful” I replace with “be prepared;” I tend to lean too heavily into the idea that, as long as all contingencies are measured and mitigated, true tragedy can be averted.
I’m living in a moment, however, where this can-do attitude is failing as my national leaders prioritize the wealthiest among us over the rest. Horrible, unfathomable and potentially preventable things are starting to happen to good people on a scale I didn’t know could occur, coupled with with no one in leadership providing comfort and guidance. This is both the oldest story of my life and also the one that feels freshly terrifying; I knew this could happen to me (childhood trauma), but I didn’t know it could happen to everyone (save the moneyed).
All I know to do when loss occurs is to make space for it, to honor what is being missed and to mourn with those from whom treasures of love are being pilfered. Grief, in my mind’s eye, is a well of cold water, into which that which we deem precious can sink but from which no reflection gleams. I know that, in due time, some will find renewal there as they reconstruct their lives. Maybe bearing witness to grief is nothing more than keeping a fire going by the depths, allowing for the awareness that rage and fear and all the strong feelings that make us want to flee that place of loss are allowed here and matter here. What are you grieving today? What is fanning the flames of your emotions? What is slipping into the bleakness?
I wrote yesterday about feeling dissociative and disconnected. As I composed my post, I thought to myself that physical exercise would probably be an effective method of grounding myself, even if the effect was only temporary. Today, as I engaged in my workout routine, I paid special attention to how my sense of my body was impacted by being physically active.
I love using Fitness Blender (not an affiliate link) for my daily workouts. The founders have made their videos are free and both of them have a positive outlook on health and exercise. My ability to lift weights has been diminished since becoming ill a few weeks ago, so today’s routine was particularly fulfilling as I was finally able to lift near my capacity instead of having to use half the weight I normally would.
After completing the workout, I feel more present in my arms, but cannot sense much in terms of my lower body. My legs aren’t physically numb, but I don’t feel connected to them or like I am inhabiting them fully if that makes any sense (if you haven’t struggled with dissociation, it might not). I still feel an eerie sense of calm, but having my heart rate up is counteracting it slightly.
Going for a run would seem to be the type of full-body exercise that might allow me to come more present, but the abundance of ice outside isn’t going to make that a safe experiment. I think I will add a series of stretches for each part of my body to see if that brings more depth and richness to my sense of being grounded. If you’ve dealt with trauma and feeling disconnected from your body, what effect does exercise have on your ability to become grounded? Are there types of physical activity that are more effective than others? Are there any kinds you’ve learned to avoid or that worsen your dissociation?
Today’s Daily Presence card centers on the lower back, a site easily filled with tension, pain and discomfort. When I bring my attention to this area of my body, it feels blocked, so locked in muscular tautness that I cannot sense any communication from it to the rest of my being. I believe that this is more the result of my posture than a holding in of emotions, but, if I’m being honest, it’s never relaxed enough for me to be able to tell the difference.
I chose to honor this area of my body by engaging in yogic stretches to try to loosen it. In doing so, I quickly realized that the lack of maneuverability my hamstrings afford probably contributes to the limited range of motion of which my lower back is capable. This article confirmed my suspicions. So, I added some hamstring stretches and felt at least the lowest part of my back release a bit.
Overall, since I’ve been on T, I have had a significant drop in my chronic pain and have become less consistent in stretching. Connecting the muscle groups as I did today has shown me how easy it is to adjust my comfort level with minimal effort and attention, so I hope I can be more cognizant of what my body needs going forward. How is your lower back today? Does any discomfort you feel there relate to your hamstring or other muscles?
I selected the Ground card from my In an Open Hand deck. This card invites one into a sitting meditation, focused on noticing one’s experience during stillness. A settled presence is, for me, an invitation to trust and connect.
My childhood relationships with key figures involved a complete lack of stillness. There was either distance or an unpredictable swinging between being overrun and being abandoned or shut out. There was no stable, kind, present adult.
I hold as an image of Divinity an image of a huge figure resting in meditation. Seated in gentle, loving presence, unhurried and unbothered by the wildness of my heart. Able to withstand my inability to connect and to love. I can come and go and still he,she,they remains, willing to simply be with me as I need them to be.
I believe each of us is able to offer this presence to ourselves and to others, if we make regular our engagement in meditation and in simply being rather than doing. One question my card asks is what stands up when I sit, and I would say what rises up in that moment of sacred presence is connection. How much I long for real experiences that mirror this inner world! Perhaps that is what “church” would look like for me, simply being with others in the flow of Divine Presence. How do you feel in the presence of stillness (your own or others)? What comes up for you when you spend time in silent meditation?
I’m not feeling well today (again!), so I decided to play soft music and move my body gently to the rhythm. I’ve found a lot of comfort in recent months with having meditation music playing in the background, especially when I am engaged in creative activity. My dog instantly settles himself as well!
I incorporated physical movement into my relaxation today and found that my physical pain diminished as a result. Simply focusing on my body itself instead of getting lost in the stressors in my mind has a healing effect. I notice my muscle tension often lessens as well. How have you connected with your body today? Which music, if any, appeals to you when you are stressed or feeling ill?
I’ve been taking full advantage of the Daily Presence card I created, each of which centers on a meditation connected to a different area of the body. My week has been one of the most stressful of 2019, so grounding myself in my physical experience is vital. For today’s practice, I focused on my digestive system.
I started by breathing deeply and listening to relaxing music. I imagined healing energy and warm light flowing through my digestive system, soothing any areas of discomfort and creating space for healthy consumption of nourishment. I imagined any toxins and negative energy flowing out of me, being pushed by each inhalation. Finally, I pictured myself soaking in a warm bath, satiated, calm and cleansed.
I rarely try guided imagery, but this one was effective in helping me feel more present in my body and connected to its processes. I am learning that, for me, I achieve much more internal stability by concentrating on a certain area of my body, rather than telling myself I have to be calm when my body is in an agitated state. It isn’t so much that I need relaxation, rather, I need a return to sensation when I’m stuck on focusing on my perceptions of the world. How is your digestive system today? What does it need from you?
Intimacy with nature need not involve a miles-long hike into the deep forest. Anything of the earth can provide a touchpoint that reconnects to our senses. With this in mind, for today’s simple pleasure, I took a walk to a local park to enjoy the start of the fall foliage.
I began my walk through my backyard which is filled with trees and bordered by a stream. I heard a rushing noise and thought it was odd that the stream was flowing with so much intensity on a bright, chill day. I finally perceived that the sound was instead being produced by the slightly-dry leaves rustling against each other in the birch trees. It is at once a gentle and a playful noise that I wish I listen to on repeat.
The scene then transitioned into viewing the stream which, as it enters the park, is filled with reeds. The grasses of the reeds are browning and mowed down, but a few solitary cattails stand proud. I was surprised to see insects and a bird hopping around as we had frost last night; the last breath of summer could still be heard.
After steering my dog past a distracting bunch of humans, I made my way to a park bench lodged underneath a tree. The shade the tree provided was cold, with an edge. I centered myself on my present awareness of my senses and my body’s response to those senses and felt soothed.
As I made my way home, the colors I saw seemed to radiate with a vibrancy I find only in fall. Green, red and blue seen in low humidity are crisp and energizing to me. I could make this walk a hundred times a year, but it is only when I direct my attention to my surroundings moment by moment that the inherent beauty of nature makes itself known. What was the most recent experience in nature you had? What impression did it leave on you?