I wish I could tell you how good spring time in England smells. I don't think I have ever, or at least not for a very long time, really appreciated the smells of this time of year; the scent of the morning mist while I sit in meditation; the subtle seduction of the spring flowers as the sun begins to heat them in the afternoon sunshine, and the birds.... I didn't know Britain had so many birds. Tapping into the 5 senses has been one of my main practices since we started lockdown. It's one of the practices that really helps me with Present Moment Awareness, it reminds me over and over again as I forget - when anxiety of 'WTF?' begins to rise - that this really is the only moment we have. Trying to predict what will happen in these coming weeks and months for all of us is not useful, particularly not if it triggers you. No one knows, so let's find a way to connect to the NOW. For those of you that have read Eckhart Tolle's 'The Power of Now', you will know that he repeats over and over about time being an illusion. He urges us to “Realise deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.”
Easy for me to say, I imagine some of you are thinking. I know many people's lockdown doesn't include access to outdoor space and for some it might be too hot or too wet or too cold to spend a huge amount of time outside.
So I thought it would be useful in this blog post to spend less time pondering the philosophies of life and all things yoga and share some other more practical related practices that help to connect us to the present moment. Many of you have written to me over the last few weeks and talked to me about your anxiety and some about your lethargy. As I mentioned in my latest newsletter some of us are 'do-ers' (one of my teachers calls us 'ON' people) - we respond to stress by needing to do something about it. We can't sit still. This behaviour can make us (and others around us) more anxious if we don't manage that 'doing' energy into something productive. Some of us are 'OFF' people - stress might shut you down, slow you down (binge-watching Netflix is all you can find the energy to do). You might suffer more with depression, a lack of motivation. Whatever kind of person you are - recognise that and see what you can learn from those who are not like you.
I have listed some simple techniques below some of which will be useful to help ON people self-regulate and some that will be useful for OFF people. Anything that helps you to feel safe and supported at this time can be used as a resource.
Present Moment Awareness (PMA) Techniques PMA is about focusing your attention on what you are doing and your surroundings so your mind is not in the past nor is it in the future. It is right here, right now. How to connect to the present moment? 1. Remind yourself of who you are now. Say your name. Say your age now. Say where you are now. Say what you have done today. Say what you will do next. 2. Feel the clothes on your body, whether your arms and legs are covered or not, and the sensation of your clothes as you move in them. 3. Listening - if you are in the company of another person, try listening to them completely with 100% of your attention, rather than letting your mind wander. 4. Observe objects and the textures, colours, size of them. You can name them out loud e.g. “I can see a blue ball” 5. Touch - take your time to touch objects in your current environment and describe to yourself how they feel.
If you are a super ON person and struggling with anxiety some of these Grounding, Centring and Orientation techniques will probably be useful for you.
Grounding Techniques Grounding is about helping people connect to the earth and by doing so this helps people connect to their bodies. Being grounded doesn’t necessarily mean feeling good. Instead it means we feel like we are able to be with what is difficult or uncomfortable. The goal is to stay out of overwhelm and immobility. Simply asking yourself, “can I be with this right now?” can help. When we are able to stay with the feeling, it can lower the volume of intensity. How to ground? 1. Feel your feet on the floor, or feel your legs. This can be done standing, sitting or lying. If sitting, feel your sit bones on the floor. If sitting you can have one hand on the floor and one hand on your body. If lying, feel the earth beneath the back of your body. 2. When standing soften knees and push your feet into the floor, this can make the leg muscles turn on so the legs feel strong. 3. Stand like a tree - using the imagery of a tree can often help to connect to the floor. Imagine you have roots that are reaching deep down into the soil. 4. Cover your crown - placing one or two hands over the top of your head can help have this sense of drawing the body