I write to you from the box of the icky place. The walls of the icky place are constructed of out of whack hormones, sadness over my Aunt's death, healing crisis from a nutritional program (which allows NO chocolate, that alone should give you some idea of my mood), and overwhelm at the scope of creation I'm attempting. The overwhelming characteristic of the icky place is to want out--out of my skin, out of this mood, out of the moment.
"But you can't, dear girl." The voice of my Comfort Queen pipes up from my purple yoga mat, forgotten these last few days in the corner. "You know what they say, you can't go over it, you can't go around it, you can't go under it, you've got to go through it."
I glare at the mat and look for something to throw at it. But the Comfort Queen is the voice of my own inner nurturer, and so if I threw something at her, it would only hurt me. "CQ, I'm completely and utterly NOT in the mood for one of your lectures. Go away." (We do this to ourselves so often--reject our own attempts at self-kindness.)
"But that is precisely why I'm here, my dear." My yoga mat rises from the floor, sprouts eyes, a nose, a mouth, and a crown as it stands on end, undulating with her words. "Do you recall the story from Sharon's book about her asthma attack?"
I'd been reading Faith by Sharon Salzberg, a remarkable book. Sharon writes about her first asthma attack, sick and alone in a strange place, afraid she might die. "Whatever takes us to our edge, to our outer limits, leads us to the heart of life's mystery, and there we find faith...When my asthma attack began, my first impulse was to fight against it, to get through it with steely resolve...I was swept away up in the relentless momentum of panic...The more I tried to resist the fear the stronger it became until, exhausted, I gave up the struggle.
"Without the support of my tension and resistance, the fear immediately lessened, and I began to remember insights I'd gained through years of practice: 'I don't really know what's happening here.' 'Beware of that determined slide to the worst possible, barely imaginable scenario.' 'You don't have to go there. Let's just see what is happening now.'
"...If I was going to die, I didn't want to end my life scalded by my own acrimony at having failed to wrest control of the situation...Whatever was happening to me, I wanted to be fully there for it. In faith, I surrendered to the moment."
From Faith by Sharon Salzberg
"What does that have to do with me, I'm not dying, I'm just in a piss-poor mood."
CQ does a few Sun Salutations, gracefully flapping up and down. "But you are dying. We are all dying. Moment by moment we constrict our ability to be present to what is, to this moment. You've been saying, 'Let me out, let me hide, let me eat chocolate' anything so you don't have to be here--in and with your present state." She grins at me. "I know what you are thinking, how dare you be in a bad mood when you have so much to be grateful for? But then gratitude becomes a cheerful blanket to smother what is. You are in a bad mood. You are feeling poorly. You are grieving. And you are grateful." She grins that grin of hers that says, "I'm so right, aren't I?"
She flaps across the room and gives me a few gentle yoga mat pats. "You know what to do. Only be sure to do it with loving kindness. Always with loving kindness." CQ stretches herself out on the floor, and is gone, leaving me facing my yoga mat, a blank square inviting me to enter.
I stretch out, close my eyes, bring my attention to my breath. Yes, I know what to do but what about the wall of resistance and fear that rises up, what do I do with that? CQ whispers from under me, "Fear is only solid because you project your stories forward in time. Fear needs time. What is here, right now? What is here, right now, in your body, in your sensations?"
I ground my energy (always step one) growing roots deep into the earth. Support me, I whisper. I find my center in my body, feel that my energy is equal front and back, side to side (we often place our life's energy far in front of us or even off with someone else). I allow gravity to take over, my arms and legs and bottom to be heavy, let myself feel that I am, in fact, in a body.
Using what I call steady body listening method (the basis of YogaWriting(tm)), I enter into my mood, into the moment, give up the struggle against myself, give up the story about how I'll always feel this way or how can I be so worried about how I feel when war threatens our world. I listen to my body, let it spontaneously move through yoga poses it needs to express sensations and feelings as they arise. I follow my body, noticing when I lose energy or I'm off in my head, and coming back to breath and movement. When I find myself present, I ask, "What wants to come into being now? Right now, in this moment?" I listen in a state of not knowing, curious and trusting what will arise, without needing to know, without forcing anything. I write in my journal what I hear. While writing, I stay with my breath, with my body, the movement of the moment. Moving into the space between the feelings and the sensations, seeing the fluidity, seeing that my mood, my suffering, is not fixed or immobile, but always changing, just like life itself. Seeing, asking, listening through the body to a new perspective.
"Thank you CQ."
"You're welcome, sweetie pie."
Jennifer Louden is a best-selling author of The Woman's Comfort Book, The Comfort Queen's Guide to Life and three other titles. You can visit her popular website at ComfortQueen.com where over 600 articles about self-care, an interactive Inner Organizer, and a wonderful CQ store await you. Jennifer also works with a few clients at a time as a life coach.