Finding a sense of safety through all the uncertainty. By Lauren Bloxham
Finding balance in life is elusive at the best of times, but when life’s circumstances challenge us, either individually or collectively, we can find ourselves becoming ‘unstuck’, uncertain of our path, questioning our direction and wondering why or how we are where we are.
Just like the breath, tides, seasons and the cycle of life itself, our life circumstances change and move us through varying terrain…through joys and sorrows, through pleasure and pain and at times through what can feel like unrelenting pain and difficulty, the kind that brings us to our knees, that feels as though it’s breaking us.
Our minds have ways of navigating such times which hold the power to move us through with clear perspective or to lose perspective altogether. Challenging situations, whether they’re great joys or great sorrows, can sweep us off our feet. Being ungrounded leads us to feeling unsafe, uncertain, or afraid. Our natural responses may be anxiety or to retreat. We may come up against our inner voice which tells us, ‘We don’t deserve this’ in joyful situations, or that ‘We do deserve this’ in difficult situations.
When the expectations of our mind or inner dialogue and our reality do not match up, the dissonance created can be at best uncomfortable, and at worst unbearable. We may feel as though the experience is like an ‘emotional rollercoaster’. The feeling is real and requires our awareness and attention.
For example, loss may lead us to despair, job loss or the loss of health. The uncertainty of the situation has the potential to trigger a worst-case scenario thought pattern. Fear creeps in and can lead to anxiety. Acknowledging the loss is important; the moment of change leads us to a feeling of groundlessness, but with a broader perspective can awaken a sense of excitement through groundlessness. A perspective which can take in all possibility, not just the worst-case scenario. This is the place in which we find the courage to live through what we’re experiencing.
Like the breath, the tides, and the changes of season, we know change is necessary. The ending of one breath cleanses us and prepares us to draw in new life. The loss of autumn leaves covers, warms, and nourishes the ground through winter ready for new life to emerge in spring. Our life circumstances are no different. Every experience we have is part of a cycle: relationships, work situations, our homes, our education. We begin and end cycles every day of our lives. Clinging on tight to these things when we feel threatened can lead to a feeling of being stuck, a false sense of safety and grounding. Imagine trying to preserve the breath as it leaves, or to fight the turning tide. If we use these lessons within our life’s circumstances, we can ask ourselves what might happen if we let these things move us. What if we recognise the change and we say yes to it? What if we feel the gentle call towards something and find the courage to lean in?
Just as we soften and say yes to the breath because we want to be alive, what if we say yes to life’s ebbs and flows? Suddenly the unknown becomes the new ground we are treading. The experience of life is with every fresh step we take. This is embodied living and it’s courageous. It requires our attention and awareness; it requires us to acknowledge the fear and uncertainty and rather than let the fear drive us, it becomes just a part of the whole experience. When we stay awake and embodied through life’s challenges, through change and uncertainty we continue to have the choice to ask ‘what do I need’… to understand how to nurture ourselves well which in turn builds strength, resilience, and skill in handling the changing tides of life.
Our yoga practice, as always, offers us the tools to practice in small ways, which can help us build strength and awareness for life’s bigger challenges:
Just for a moment be present for your moving breath. Notice the ebb and flow of breath at the nostrils. Then begin to allow your awareness to follow the movements of the breath all the way to the last of the exhale, and all the way to the top of the inhale. Your awareness is like a loyal companion to the breath, just present, just aware, and focused. As we watch the breath, we start to notice that each breath is different, some wider, some shallow, some deep and long. Sometimes the exhale extends itself and sometimes we draw in a deep inhalation. The mind may wander. This is natural. But this is also the space in which we become disconnected from the experience. Guiding awareness over and over back to the breath is the practice. Staying present, staying alive and allowing what is natural and nourishing for us, rather than becoming distracted by the meandering mind. The embodied experience is here with the breath. And more widely the embodied experience is right here in the present moment. With the experience. All that is required of us is to say yes. To allow it to unfold and to be courageous enough to nurture ourselves through it, whatever it may be one fresh step at a time.