In the Absence of Practice
This past week has found me in a strange place. It was the culmination of many stress factors, poor time scheduling, and an exponential increase in obligations and responsibilities. My health has obviously been effected: from an almost-fainting spell to a days-long migraine. I found myself overwhelmed, grumpy, exhausted, on the verge of tears, and generally unhappy.
In the middle of all of it? I lost my practice. At one point during this week, I found myself staring at a picture of Neem Karoli Baba and thinking about how much I missed my sadhana. I have been absent from my much-loved early morning Mysore classes. I had allowed my meditation and chanting practice to take a hit too, squeezing in a few minutes here or there, but not truly committing time. The balance of our lives is all too easy to push off kilter.
I also found myself this week telling the story of how busy I am, how upset, how tired. Telling the story of it only makes it worse. Trying to compete with others in the “how busy are you” game means no one is winning. I was telling everyone that would listen about how stressful things were and how I didn’t feel like I was handling it well. By continuously repeating the stories, I amplified the stress and missed the ability to open up and make space for what was happening. I closed down instead. It’s all easy to do, especially in the world we’ve structured for ourselves.
But on the other side of it, I am grateful to have lost myself a bit this week. Losing footing in practice can help clarify the reasons why we do it to begin with. This week let me know that, yes, I am doing these things for a reason. Ashtanga yoga is an anchor in the sea of life and meditation is the piece that connects me to everything. With them, I can find the still point inside, that never-ending resource of equanimity. They help me cultivate compassion and patience, two things I think we all could use a little more of around here. I can slow down a little and not let outside forces push me into certain mindsets or ways of being. I can see the real things, not the stories. I needed that this week and every week.
So what do you do when you lose your footing a little? Don't assign any blame or judgment. Start where you left off. Begin again. I am pleased to have done so and to have found a little bit of rest and calm after feeding myself and my stress demons for a few days. No matter where you land, you can always come back to where you were. You can always come home again.
As a side, related note: I am offering the 30 Day Sit again this coming June. If you have fallen away from practice or just interested in discovering what benefits mindfulness can bring to you (and perhaps a week you may have had like mine), head over here and read about it.