Happy new year everyone!
I wanted to share an article that came in my inbox on Saturday from the NY Times. "Words to the wise" has several great tips on living a happy fulfilled life. You can think of them as resolutions, or just receive them as the great life lessons they are meant to be. I followed the advice of the author in our New Year's Day class. (Thank you to all who attended. It was fantastic to have such a lively, large group the first day of the year!). Each of us wrote our intentions for the new year on a slip of paper (so we were clear), put them in a basket and then everyone took an intention as they left. This way each of usl had a partner to help support our intention and we are also supporting another. Often that is what makes us shine our best selves, when we can support someone. Don't you find that to be true? I didn't have a chance to poll everyone after they took their slip, but I am betting someone pulled out an intention that was the same or close to their own. This is another benefit from this practice, we see we are not alone in our desires to move forward.
I hope you enjoy the list below. I did! I am curious to know which ones you might already be doing, or the ones you intend to adopt.
By Melissa Kirsch, posted 12/21/22 New York Times
Words to the wiseOne of my favorite New Year’s traditions is writing resolutions for other people. Tonight, if you’re with a group of friends or loved ones or strangers who are down for one last New Year’s Eve reindeer game, hand out slips of paper and instruct the assembled to write a resolution for the year. Put the papers in a hat, pass the hat, everyone draws one.
One year I received the resolution to always put my clothes away at the end of the day, rather than letting them pile up on a chair. A friend was to rise from bed every morning, waggle their fingers and say, “It’s showtime!” The resolutions can be whimsical or reflective. They can be things the author would like to resolve themselves or things they think would be good for others to try. It turns the rather dreary exercise of making (often self-punishing) resolutions into something exciting: an exchange of gifts, a gesture of community.
A resolution for all of us: Take some of the good advice below. These words of wisdom came in response to my request for your nontraditional, highly specific bests of 2022. (Read Part 1 of readers’ faves here.)
Best advice you gotIn your closet and your life, subtract whenever you add. — Mary Shanklin, Winter Garden, Fla.
From the “Ten Percent Happier” podcast: Stop and recognize happy moments when you’re in the middle of them. Literally stop and say out loud, “This is a happy time.” It’s a way to ground yourself in the joyful parts of your life. We do this with moments of trauma and crisis all the time. Maybe we should flip that script. — Mary Guzzetta, Pittsburgh
You don’t have to identify with your feelings. — Rori Quinonez, Toledo, Ohio
The best advice I received this year was to stretch my calves regularly. It cured my mild knee pain. — Nicole Byer, Simsbury, Conn.
Parent the child you have. As a parent of a child with special needs, this is my mantra. But this is also true of any child. Stop trying to make your child quieter, louder, more outgoing, more interested in things their sibling likes and appreciate the unique and individual small person you’ve been given. — Sue Lanigan, East Aurora, N.Y.
Everyone is going through something. — Rose Fischietto, Macedonia, Ohio
Dance often, host parties. This advice occurred to me and my friend after a million hours of discussing our pandemic depressions and dating lives. We made lists of the best bars with non-pretentious dance scenes we wanted to try out and themed parties we wanted to host. — Emily Kennedy, Brooklyn
If there is an issue bothering me, I think to myself, “Will this still be an issue in one week or in one month?” If the answer is no, it’s a small problem so I let the stress go and move on. — LaNae Williams, East Lansing, Mich.
If you didn’t have to keep working, would you? — Tom Myers, Holden Beach, N.C.
After my son and his fiancée were involved in an automobile accident in Spain, a friend told me I would need to learn how to practice “powerless mothering.” Following several spinal cord surgeries and six months of challenging rehabilitation, my son’s sweetheart has slowly regained strength and mobility in her upper body, but she remains paralyzed from the waist down, and my grown son has become a loving caregiver. My friend’s advice has helped me see that I can still be a supportive mother without any power to change their new world. — Candice Dale, South Portland, Maine
The best marriage advice: Binge shows and movies in separate rooms. — Juli Leber, New York City
When the wrench is on the nut, tighten it. In other words, if you’re already touching a piece of mail, deal with it. If you see a thing you’ll need soon, buy it now. If an uncomfortable conversation comes up, have it rather than deflecting it. — Kasia Maroney, Trumansburg, N.Y.
The best way to make a decision: Does it light me up? — Robyn Pichler, Weaverville, N.C.
I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days is 100 percent, and that’s pretty good. — Hudson, San Diego
Put 10 pennies in your left pocket. Find something for which you are grateful. Move one penny to your right pocket. You should find all pennies have moved to the right pocket at the end of the day. Celebrate. — Mike Wilson, Sedona, Ariz.
Stop reaching for people who aren’t reaching back. — Katya Davidson, Portland, Ore.
Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you have to do it, or that it’s good for you. — Divya Rao Heffley, Pittsburgh
Be where your feet are. — Submitted by both Pattie Saunders, Portland, Ore., and Kelly Kammerer, New York City
We are just upon winter solstice (Wednesday the 21st) which is a time when we can give attention to the longest night of the year. and see how the outer is affecting the inner. There are many rituals that surround this cold dark time of the year. Rituals that are celebrated externally also have a deep inner significance. What we do on the outside is reflected inwardly. We know this if we pay attention to how we feel when we smile verses how we feel when we frown. When we engage in a ritual it gives us structure which grounds us. When we are soothed by being grounded we awaken to the space around us and in doing so we recognize that the outer environment is affecting us and is being affected by us.
What significance does the longest night of the year have for us? When we sleep, we are plunged into darkness, as when we practice meditation. Our eyes close out the light. When yoga practitioners begin savasana (final relaxation) we place a cover on our eyes to shut out the light. When we intentionally seek darkness, knowingly or unknowingly, we are seeking something significant in this darkness. Afterall, consider how earnestly we seek sleep. There are the metabolic reasons for sleep- for example our organs detox, and our body regenerates. This actually happens in meditation as well, which is why people who have a deep meditation practice don’t need as much sleep and have more energy during the day. But something else is happening when we shut out the light- we are encountering our inner light. Whether we remember it or not (most of us don’t) it is happening. With the seen world shut out, it doesn’t exist. Like in a game of peekaboo with a young child. When they cover their eyes, they believe that all of the players disappear. In a game of hide and seek, when that young child closes their eyes they believe they will not be found. We hold on to that belief in a way because it is true! When we enter the darkness, we as an individual disappear. What does that mean, that we disappear? The person that has to be someone, has to do something great, or the person that always does something terrible and wrong, the person that has to distinguish themselves from others to be important- all that disappears. And when all that disappears, you are not separate, apart, or alone. And so the mind can rest its machinations and your energy can now focus on what is hidden by all those exhausting beliefs — which is the inner light. When you shut out the seen world and the exterior light you are putting those exhausting mind movements to the side and giving time for the inner light to be dominant. What a relief! Or maybe not? Entering this darkness can also be very scary if we do not have the context for what happens to us when the mind-driven personality ceases. If we don’t recognize this as a chance to be in the inner light, we will dread the darkness, and the non-existence it seems to represent.
Now with the solstice coming we are entering this external darkness together. The earth and its orbit is putting us into darkness for the longest stretch of time. We can dread it, or we can celebrate the fact that for a relatively short amount of time we are collectively immersing ourselves in to the darkness and into the resting of the mind and the seen world. Of course, in this modern lifestyle we enjoy now, the darkness of the night can be easily eradicated by flipping a switch (or if you are in my house, you can just ask Alexa to turn everything on). But during olden days when we were at the mercy of the movement of the planets, stars and sun, rituals developed, and awareness of the external energies were sharper. Possibly the power of the collective pause was felt more strongly and honored more deeply. And guess what!? We can still do that by asking Alexa to keep the lights and TV off, and we can join others who still see this night as a sacred time to come together and seek the light in the darkness.
This time of the year is usually very busy with family, shopping and parties. The available light, weather and general mood tells us to stay indoors wrapped up in a blanket, but the social norms tells us to get out and party. We can't ignore that airborne illnesses are still a thing (for some people the flu this year has been worse than Covid) and so you might want to be judicious about how and when you are risking exposure. What to do when faced with such choices? Maybe discernment and compromise is best. Go to the events that hold deep meaning for you and feeds your energy rather than depletes it. Think of your available energy for socializing like a bank account. You have to make sure there are enough funds to cover your expenses. If not, you will have to replenish or forgo. By now you probably have an idea of what replenishes you, just like you already know what depletes you. Sharpen your pencil and do the math. See what you are willing to spend down your account on.
This month we have some workshops that will help replenish your account so you can do more, if you want. Better to have the option of fueling your holidays (you can always decide not to go even if you have plenty in your account!) than not having enough to get you through to 2023.
Check out the offerings to see what fits your schedule and budget. As always, getting outdoors is a good, inexpensive, easily accessible way to refuel, and so far we have had good enough weather to do that. If you would like to follow some short guided meditations, you can do that here.
Ah yes, I also wanted to point out that we will be focusing on Pratyahara (sense withdrawal) and Savasana this month in class. Both great ways to recharge your system! Bring your eyebags, scarves and maybe favorite blanket to class with you so you can get nice and cozy. You can also choose a pose you want to work on so start considering your requests!
A big part of my yoga practice has been self-study, the aspect of yoga that requires us to investigate our own habits, inclinations, and recurring behaviors.
One of my favorite teaching stories inspires self-study: There was once a man who blamed a neighbor for ruining his rose bushes, believing that the neighbor drove into them every morning when he set out for work. Over time, the man got so worked up about his neighbor, it became almost unbearable — until one day he suddenly realized it had been his car all along. The man’s own careless driving had ruined the roses.
We’ve all had the “aha” experience of recognizing in ourselves things that annoy us so much when others do them. That’s what makes self-study so valuable. It teaches us humility, patience, and acceptance — of ourselves as well as others.
The decision to open a refill store suggested a self-study challenge, which was to see how much single-use plastic I discard in a week. I started this last week. Instead of throwing the plastics away or tossing them into the recycling bin, I put them it in a (reusable) shopping bag. I couldn't collect everything (too messy or I was far from my shopping bag), and probably missed collecting about a third of what I used. Still, what I had saved was a revelation. Naturally, I tried not to veer from my usual usage during my challenge… but that is one of the things that happens when you begin to observe yourself — things do change. Of course, change is part of the plan.
On the eve of the Third Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, then-President George H. W. Bush is reported to have said, “The American way of life is not up for negotiations. Period.” Though it may have felt like the last word on the matter for Bush, time has shown that a significant number of American’s didn’t agree. And more and more disagree every day.
People are complex, aren’t we? We all feel there are things in our lives that are not up for negotiation, and many really aren’t. But often enough we come to learn we are able to change things we imagined were non-negotiable. That’s particularly true when self-observation allows us to recognize another way. I may never give up that spontaneous paper cup of chai when out with friends, but I can remember to take my travel mug when I deliberately head for the coffee shop. Or maybe I just say no thank you to the plastic lid which is something I don’t usually do when I don’t have my travel mug.
So how am I doing now? Well, it’s a work in progress. I am happy to share that I won't have to buy shampoo and conditioner in those plastic containers anymore. Ditto for laundry detergent. Still, there is still the occasional plastic bottle and sandwich bag. What I know for sure is that if I took this picture last year the bag would be much fuller.
So, back to the self-study challenge. Part One: If you want to join me, for one week collect the plastics you would otherwise have thrown away (or recycled). If it’s clean and you’re local, I’ll take it and put it to good use. Some will become part of a community installation we are going to create in front of Eco Loka at 23 Race Street. Snap a photo and send it to me, and we can arrange a drop-off of your salvaged plastic at the stordio (my combo word for store and studio). Part Two: At the end of six months, repeat the challenge then take another photo and compare the results. We’ll collect and display the pairs of photos at the stordio so we can see the impact of our collective efforts.
This isn't a contest, of course. It’s just an opportunity for self-study, a way of observing our habits to see whether we’re able to change ones we otherwise might imagine are not negotiable.
I hope you’ll join us.
Did your family ever just get in the car and just take a drive to take a drive? Just piling into the car with no particular destination in mind, just driving for the sheer enjoyment of the scenery and time together.
Nowadays we all drive fast to arrive at a destination and never seem to have enough time to even get where we are going, let alone enjoy the ride. Joy rides seem to be a thing of the past when people were grateful to have a car and grateful to have spare time to just drive and be with family.
From what I have observed on social media it seems as though the idea of a yoga practice has suffered from this same intensity. So-called influencers encourage a practice geared towards attaining a goal, whether it is a tricky flow series or handstand or perfect triangle. Having a goal certainly is fine and often necessary to keep us interested. But do we really want our yoga practice to be as fraught as our time on the road?
We did an experiment last week which was to internally express gratitude for each of the movements that we did during a flow class. Kind of like you might do when driving through a beautiful landscape. We were encouraged to not push our asana, and just flow through — as though we were watching the landscape pass — then express thanks for our ability to be in the asana without striving to have it different. Even if the tree pose you were in wobbled to the ground.
You may think, "Isn't that how you are supposed to practice yoga asana?" Well, yes. But consider the messages we tell ourselves during class that reflect and are augmented by the media portrayal of yoga and by our culture’s contemporary way of being.
Being grateful for what is present is one of the highest yoga practices. The ashtanga path of the Yoga Sutras is given to yoga students who desire higher consciousness: We are told to follow ahimsa, to act without violence; to move forward with aparigraha, non-grasping; and to look for santosha, contentment in all things. The ability to appreciate the wealth of what is here in the moment is an aspect of the Goddess Lakshmi that adds a richness to life that cannot be obtained by "getting there.”
This month, as we investigate gratitude, perhaps we can start to look for this contentment in aspects of our life rather than always wondering how fast we can get there. It's a sweet challenge don't you think? Let me know how it goes. I will be doing the same.
I hope that those who are coming to asana class are enjoying the quotes from Pema Chodron that have been shared these past 2 months. Her writing is always so spot on, people often feel like she is speaking directly to them and addressing their personal neurosis and suffering. We spoke at the book club this past Thursday about how she creates such a safe space for her students (and for those of us reading her words years later) because she speaks of her own struggles and she assures us that it is ok to be just who we are. In fact, she points out how us wanting to improve and to be "better" is really an aggression against ourselves. She challenges us to consider, and eventually believe, that we are fine the way we are already. She stressed that our practice is not so we can "be better", it is about being at peace with who we are, right now.
Consider how contrary that is to the western way of life, which is about doing better, being bigger and faster, and then being even better at it all once you got good. You might see that this ideal has leaked into yoga practice here as well- do better poses, become stronger, more flexible, do more, take more classes, get more certificates, become MORE PEACEFUL. The real teaching of "be here now" gets lost in all that "doing" and "becoming". Ahimsa (non-harm) is the first teaching of a yoga practice. If we are continuously striving to be a better ME, we are continuing that aggression that Pema pointed to. Aggression and ahimsa are just not able to share the same space. Santosah (contentment) is another important tenant of yoga. Can we be content with who we are right now, without constantly trying to be a better person? Anyway, how long have you tried to be a "better person" and how is that going? When will we become a good enough person? The teaching says never! Can we ever be a good enough, strong enough or rich enough person? Will you ever be popular or successful enough? Most likely just as you reach one goal someone moves the post further away from you. Gandhi said “The world has enough for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone's greed.” Greed of course can be directed at more than just money.
There is a thin line that is difficult to tread (my teacher calls it the razor's edge) between attending to things, like our body and mind, and not getting caught in the trap of doing these things so we can "be better". We still need to do asana so our body remains healthy. A meditation practice is here to help us find the path of contentment, peace, and ahimsa. A full yoga practice which incorporates movement, meditation, self study and surrender, is designed for the purpose of helping us reach contentment. It is not to give a great beach body- although it might do that. There are a lot of things yoga can do for us, but if we keep our sights at the pinnacle of the practice- peace and the inherent joy of being- it will work! And then we can be kind to ourselves and give up the aggression of trying to be better. We all can agree that this world needs more kindness, and like everything else, it starts at home, in this case in your own body. It is hard to not get distracted by all of the other trappings of yoga, and the being betterness of the world around us, this is true. But that is why we have practice, books to instruct us, and teachers to guide us. And we have our own hearts to remind us why we started in the first place.
Labor Day usually signals the end of summer fun. The lifeguards disappear, kids go back to school, commuter traffic gets heavier and college students merge back into their study halls.
The end of the summer season is a big shift for many of us. For me it means my schedule will get heavier and there will be new workshops to set up. It also means I lose my partner in television watching, thrift store shopping, silly dancing and pasta making as my daughter will leave very soon to go back to school.
I used to have a ritual with my kids when we would come back from summer traveling, or when I would pick them up from school. I would ask "What did you learn?" It didn't have to be a life lesson or anything groundbreaking. "I learned that I liked the blueberry muffins at the hotel breakfast better than the cinnamon rolls" was a valid response. I still ask this question when have a chance. Picking my son up from college became increasingly harder for me because when he told me what he learned I usually didn't understand what he was talking about. To show I was listening I would ask "What class did you learn that in?" and usually he would answer “I watched a YouTube video". I asked him the same question when he came back from a business trip and I got a combo answer which was about food (that I understood!) and techy stuff (which, no, I didn't understand), The ride to get my daughter is longer and I usually have a few months to catch up on. Her answers revolve around how she learned to throw a frisbee into the wind, that the vegetarian soup in the cafeteria sometimes has chunks of chicken in it, and what the etymology is for the word "stepfather". I also get caught up on the current use of pronouns and gender equality, which is a big part of my learning.
This summer was the most un-restricted one we have had since the pandemic lockdowns started in March 2020, and that is a pretty big deal.This has inspired me to ask everyone "What did you learn this summer?"
Here is my quick list:
Pandemic-wise I have learned I don't miss going to bars or crowded restaurants or music venues. I tried- I left.
I don't miss being with huge amounts of people and that my family is really good company!
I learned what it feels like to be stared at for the way you look and the choices you make at the times I am the only one in a store or restaurant wearing a mask.(Actually, that was something learned when I was young child walking just about anywhere with my disabled parents.What I really learned now as an adult is that it doesn't hurt anymore.)
Practice wise I learned more about what it is like doing yoga asana in an aging body. (This of course is ongoing).
I learned so much from the meditation intensive that we had this summer. One big thing I learned was how to witness (and not try to change) the many different ways the evolution of the practice can look. (A big thank you to everyone who participated! Thank you for teaching me all that you did.)
I learned the benefit of rest and doing nothing, whether it is during meditation or sitting and watching the beauty of the world unfold. And I learned how hard it is to do just that.
Business wise I learned that I am increasingly uncomfortable with the western marketing and branding of yoga practice. This summer I really saw what has been happening with yoga as a business model and this has made me much more careful and thoughtful about what messages I am putting out and why I am putting them out there.
In preparing for the opening of Eco Loka I learned what it was like working with a team which is a great experience and a great relief after having worked as a sole proprietor for the last 30 years. And I am also learning to let go of my old ways and habits of beginning something new.
I also learned how to sit on the beach and not get sunburned, hang out in the waves without getting pummeled and how to properly express when I am going to Asbury Park ("I am going down the shore" rather than "I am going to the shore". After more than 25 years of being a NJ resident, I think I finally got it!
On a more serious note I learned from a variety of experiences this summer that I have a lot more work to do in understanding humility, patience, and surrender. This too, I am sure, will be ongoing.
These are the first things that come to mind- how about you all? What did you learn this summer? Share what you can! Writing it out, or just thinking about it in your head will help to solidify the experience. And it will be fun to see how what you learned this summer will shepherd you into the fall and winter for many years to come.
I am so very happy and excited to announce that Yoga Loka has a sister! Eco Loka is a refill store that will be opening in the front boutique section at 23 Race Street. What is a refill store? Click here and here for some good articles about refill stores. Yoga will still be happening as it always has in the back room.
Why open a refill store? Whenever it came time to toss my shampoo or cleaning product bottles into the recycling bin I would say outoud, or to myself, " I wish there was a refill store around here". I said it a lot, and nothing happened, so I decided to step in to fill the void.
For many years I was would look at our garbage dumpster with satisfaction because it is a small container and was rarely full. I was proud of the fact that we were composting just about all of our food scraps and recycling like crazy. Then the little voice in my head began to ask this question much louder until I could no longer ignore it; "What really happens to all of this stuff I put in the recycling"?
While our garbage was mostly empty, our recycling was full to overflowing. I recently heard the term "Wish Cycling" and realized that is what I have been doing! (Wishful Recycling, or Wish Cycling is the act of tossing something in your recycling bin with the hope that it is recyclable). My yoga practice has taught me to look for truth in an action and to constantly observe if the action fulfills the truth of the intention. Wish Cycling, and even recycling does not fully satisfy my desire to be a steward for the environment and cause as little violence to the ecosystem as possible. Converting recycled materials into new products still consumes energy and impacts the environment in not so great ways. And no matter how hard we hope and wish that something can be reused or recycled, it wont always be so.
The phrase "reduce, reuse, recycle " can be traced back to the growing environmental movement in the 1970’s . I used to think the phrase was "recycle, reduce, reuse." Now I hear it correctly, and the message is getting harder to ignore, especially with the evidence of global warming all around us. I am no longer comfortable relying on the recycling industry and big corporations to reduce packaging and pollution, mostly because that plan doesn't seem to be working. It is time to take things into our own hands as individuals, and see what we can reuse and how we can reduce. This will also let large companies and corporations know we do care and we do have a choice how to spend our money and our future. One of my favorite phrases comes from a refridgerator magnet a friend sent me after I blogged about my frustration about something many years ago, and I have used it over and over again to balance apathy with overwork, and frustration with accomplishment- "No one can do everything, but everyone can do something".
Our annual clothing swap and occasional mending circles have been fun ways of reducing waste and repurposing things that would otherwise end up in landfills. Now with Eco Loka right in the studio you will have access to more ways of reducing the burden we place on the environment.
In addition to a refilling station we will be selling sustainable self-care and cleaning items, and offering fun things we think will delight you. Yoga will still be happening just as it has been for the past 19 years. Our schedule remains the same and your practice space also remains the same. There might be some shuffling around of where things are stored, but everything will be clear, convenient and comfortable. And now when you come to the studio you can also do a bit of shopping to help fulfill whatever personal promise you might make to the environment, whether it is to buy less single use plastic, give up large detergent bottles, or attempt to go zero waste. Remember, everyone can do something, and every little bit will help.
Eco Loka will open early in the fall. We will selling some products at Frenchtown's RiverFest on September 4th. Come on down to Sunbeam Park and see what we have! We will also be introducing some of the fall yoga workshops and selling off some current boutique items. Until then you can visit the website at Ecoloka.shop
I have been spending a lot of time on the beach lately, much more than I can ever remember doing as an adult. Probably like most people who went to the beach early in their lives, I have a host of childhood memories that make the idea of a day at the beach really exciting- flying the batman kite, the tar smell of the shampoo my grandfather would scrub our heads with to wash out the sand, the promise of fried calms, the smell and feel of noxema on sunburnt skin, even sandy gritty cantaloupe holds a special place in my heart.
I don't eat clams anymore, I have no idea what that tar shampoo was so that is gone forever, I am too lazy to run enough to launch a kite, and I use SPF 50 so no more sunburn (do they still make noxzema anyway?). The cantaloupe is still sandy, at least I have that!
There is a bit of sadness without those things that made a beach trip special when I was young. My adult body now recognizes the beach as hot, crowded, noisy, itchy, sticky and windy. However, I am still going, and I this weekend while walking on the boardwalk I began to understand my grown-up delight of the beach, and it gelled into some thoughts that I wanted to share.
I have been experiencing the beach as a great equalizer, and when something is equalized it becomes unified. Here is how I see the equalization- people are, for the most part, joyful when they come to the beach. Adults get to play like children and children get to play like crazy! People like to be with other people that are joyful! Beachgoers are hanging out with the birds, crabs, solps (look it up), fish, dolphins, mussels and the clams that have yet to be breaded and fried. We are all sharing this open space and can contact all of the elements (earth, water, fire, air, space). You can witness the way families walk alike, marvel at the people who are starting to look like their dogs, and the dogs excited to hanging out with the humans. We get to engage in many levels of vulnerability which helps cut through our seperateness. For example, when was the last time you fell asleep in a public place, or took most of your clothing off and walked around with other people looking? There are lovers loving each other for the variety of reasons that they do. In witnessingthese connections, we observe the force of attraction in action which does not follow logic and reason. You get to see so many different kinds of bodies, and how people are inhabiting their bodies with their extraordinarily uniqueness in a way that I don't think happens in regualar street clothes. Despite all the differences one can observe I feel we are sharing something that is the same in all of our bodies- our humaness is very present and our light shines out. Not inspite of the obvious differences, but because of them.
It is possible not everyone is experiencing this great equalization power of the beach, and that is ok. My experience makes me feel like I have been mashed into a unified soup and so I am a part of this moving pulsing organism of beachyness. Its nice to be in that kind of soup for a bit and not have to maintain my individuality and defend my positions and separateness. Wherever and whenever we can find that kind of soupy experience, even if it is fleeting, we should soak it up and try to find our way back to it whenever we are able. In the moment you are there, part of the organism, the world appears kinder- mostly because you will be kinder- and resting in that kindness is immensely healing. I have been on much visually nicer beaches in my life. The landscape in NJ is not as picturesque as some, but this unity can be found anywhere if we go looking for it. We don't need to travel far and pay a lot of money to experience the essence of beauty even in a less than perfect backdrop. Just like we can be in the most talked about, written about and most expensive locale and still feel our usual excluded and seperate self.
The beach may not be your place. Maybe you already know where your place is! Go visit it. It doenst' have to be the exact place of course. My childhood was spent on Rockaway and Jones beach. It wasn't until I was an adult that I visited the Jersey Shore. The fried clams and tar shampoo may no longer be a part of the experience so many years later, but you may just find that the kind of location that holds your sweet childhood memories can offer you an adult perspective that, combined with your wiser gaze will serve the place in you that longs for joy and healing.
What happens when you get startled? Does your breathing stop, does your body tense up, maybe your posture folds inward? It could be that your stomach gets tied up in knots, you stop being able to hear and understand what people are saying, or your feet and hands get cold and numb. We all respond differently to a fright, bad news or a negative trigger. Our nervous system responds in these different ways to keep your body safe. We should really be thankful that this mechanism works so well, and so quickly (it is trying to protect us), and it would benefit us to mark when this mechanism is doing its thing. For example thinking "Oh my stomach is tight, it could be from that near-miss I just had on the highway" or "Boy is my jaw clenched tight! I guess that person yelling at me really did upset me" validates your awareness of the shut-down. With practice and deep listening our inner dialogue can start to sound like "Uh oh, I feel my shoulders beginning to creep up to my ears, better turn this around" or "Wow, I haven't exhaled in three days, I wonder if the stress of my upcoming presentation is having a negative effect on my digestion. Time to do something to restart my breathing because I seem to remember that is kinda important!" In other words, we can start to recognize what the stress and triggers are doing to our bodies, how they are affecting our systems, and then acknowledge that we can
It is important to know that we really can undo it! You can change this! Think about it this way- since our nervous system can quickly take over and constrict our body, shouldn't it be able to just as quickly un-constrict it? Two important functions that we might look for in a car is how fast it accelerates and how fast it can stop. A car that accelerates quickly and brakes well is considered to be a good machine, you wouldn't buy one that couldn't do both. A body that accelerates into fight, flight, or freeze (sympathetic nervous system) and can also decelerate into rest and digest (parasympathetic nervous system) would be considered resilient, and you will be more comfortable inhabiting a body that can do both. Deceleration however is the thing that is difficult, and so it is what we need to intentionally practice.
Has anyone ever taught you how to decelerate? You might have been told to walk it off or sit in a corner and count to 10 or to "take it outside." These are valid techniques! Depending on how those actions were suggested they may have felt more punitive than curative, and so you might not have thought they could be used effectively when needed.
How else can we tone the nervous system so that it will let us go back to rest-digest? A big part of being able to do this is understanding the mechanism. Once a process is understood and recognized, it can more easily be reversed. Just acknowledging that the body is tense is a great beginning. Many of us don't know what it feels like to be really relaxed because we are so used to walking around in a tension-filled body. I have worked with hundreds of people and when they have been successfully coaxed into a drooling state of relaxation they are surprised that this is what being relaxed feels like, and that they could achieve it.
Yoga, meditation and self-study are all practices that can help with the deceleration. I have been doing these things for almost four decades. When I learned TRE in 2014 I understood that this technique was the fast track. For some, the tremor mechanism can lead to the deceleration within a matter of minutes. Consistent practice also helps you to observe the oncoming tension so that you can decelerate it before it swallows you up. Remember the old phrase, a stitch in time saves nine. It applies here. If we can observe the mounting tension, let it do its job, and then discard it, we will be healthier, more relaxed and more connected to practically everything around us.
If you have been curious about TRE, or you have done it before but not consistently, or you just like to tremor with a group (it is very different to shake with others!) join me for these evening group shakes in July and August (see below for details). On September 23rd I will be holding a 2-hour workshop in Philadelphia at the Philadelphia Rebirthing Center and a 2-day retreat the first weekend of November there as well. The location is stunning, and if it is close enough to home you can join as a commuter. Space is limited so let me know if you are interested.
Private sessions for TRE are always available as well.
Try it- your nervous system appreciate it.