Monday, August 02, 2010

avoiding discomfort

Last Thursday after I finished at the studio at 7:00 I went downtown to a student visitation. She was a student of the studio that suddenly passed away while I was in Mexico. It was important to me to go meet her husband and her children and pay tribute to her.

By the time I arrived over 2000 people had been in to see her. I got into the line and waited patiently. It was interesting to hear people around me talk about Lucy, her family, and her peace filled ways. At that moment I felt very lucky to get to know Lucy. I felt lucky that yoga brought her into the studio, therefore into my life.

Before reaching Lucy's husband I wondered what to say to him. "I'm your wife's yoga teacher." "I was your wife's yoga teacher." I simply wasn't sure of the best way to address it. In the end I'm not even sure what I said, but I do remember the look that washed over his face. Our hand shake evolved into an embrace. He told me how many times he saw her looking over our schedule, wondering when she could make it in. He said she loved yoga. She loved the studio. And she loved me. I moved over and met three of her four kids, all males. I was astounded by both their strength and the struggle of being there. It took all I had to keep the tears in.

I made it to my car and the tears flowed freely. I felt such sadness for her family. Such sadness that people that are needed so much get taken quickly, without reason. I went to reach for my phone, to check it....see if I missed a call, a text message, anything.

And then I got it, I was simply distracting myself to avoid the discomfort of dealing with my emotions. Checking my phone was a lot easier than staying with the feelings of sadness.

Rather than zoning out I checked in with myself, first my body. I felt a lot of sensation on the left side of my abdomen. There was lots of energy buzzing in this space. I noticed my breath. My breathing was shallow and I could feel my chest rising and falling with the inhale and exhale.

I began to work on evening and deepening my breath. And when I did so I felt the sensations in my abdomen subside. I relaxed my face, my shoulders, my belly, hips and thighs.

Then I allowed myself to check in with my emotions. I felt a wave of sadness wash over my whole body. I let myself experience the grief I felt for my student and her family. I didn't try to censor myself, or hold it in, or hide it. I allowed myself to be present with all of it.....anger, frustration, sadness, confusion.

Now I'm thinking about how often we do this in life....both on the yoga mat and off. On the yoga mat we might avoid discomfort by fidgeting, scanning around the room, coming out of a pose early, or completely drifting off to another place or time.

Off the yoga mat we might avoid discomfort by simply removing ourselves from a situation (this use to be my all time fave way and I still resort to it now and then), we say mean things, we shrink down, we eat, we drink, we shop, we give up.

So today I'm thinking of healthier ways of being with discomfort. For me, the most readily accessible ways are checking in with the body and the breath. So much to learn here. And some other things I do:

1. Write....get it out of my mind and onto paper.
2. Talk to someone....for me it's not about someone having an answer for me, but just listening, holding space the yogi's, life coaches, and new agers would say. :)
3. Get outside.....connecting with nature it always helpful for me.
4. Listen to a song that helps me to feel whatever emotion I'm feeling...ranging from a sad song, angry song, inspiring song, and a song to express joy by shaking my booty.
5. Take a bath.
6. Scream into a pillow. And perhaps hit it a time or two.

Do you ever find yourself reaching for the phone, the radio, the computer, chocolate, or a drink when you are feeling strong emotions?

As many times, the first step is awareness. We have to cultivate listening to the part of us that's usually quieter and stiller....but oh so wise. The one that whispers and says....hey wait a minute, let's just pay attention to this, we don't have to act right now.

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