Life right now is changing a-pace from moment to moment and most of us are being called to make rapid and sometimes radical adjustments. There is a palpable spectrum of collective feeling—from grief to gratitude, fear to relief, pressure to surrender, huge adrenaline hits to overwhelm-paralysis, and everything in between.
Perhaps at this moment in time, you have a number of things competing for your presence and fighting for your attention, while at the same time—shimmering deep in your being—there is also your own pain, your caring, your tenderness, your effort to hold all that you are feeling.
A Call to Care
It is exactly at times like these that we rediscover our tremendous desire for self-care. It is exactly at such times that we need to establish thriving inner practices that allow us to tune into our love of life again, to feel safe, to feel vibrant and connected to currents of healing, to be at home with ourselves and able to show up in our lives and all our relationships.
We benefit from meditation as a space that can embrace and reconcile the whole spectrum of experience and where we can greet again our original joy and wonder at being alive.
Use Meditation to Feel, Not Resist Feeling
Some traditional meditation techniques that are designed to block out or “detach” can become a victim of the kind of weariness we might be feeling now: a place to escape and be dispassionate about ourselves and life. While these methods might bring a temporary feeling of relief for some in a “not-feeling-much-at-all” kind of way, they can quickly cause a loss of vitality. If we use such practices without caution, we can end up training ourselves to become disengaged and devitalised. When we don’t spend time tending to what is going inside we can end up feeling activated and unstable and this negatively can impact how we treat others and our environment.
Let Life Be Your Meditation Guide
Right now, our mind-bodies are craving a healthy, practical, and appealing connection to ourselves and to all that is happening to support our nervous systems in their work of de-stressing and healing. We need a meditation space where we can cultivate such engagement with an embrace of positive qualities of attention that include welcome, love, compassion, and curiosity—rather than a sterile space of non-judgment and clinical self-witnessing.
In this article, I am going to offer you a range of accessible, practical practices designed to meet a specific need you may have right now. There is no requirement to find a special place or move away from what you are doing. You do not have to change anything about yourself or worry about how busy your brain is or how intense your feelings are. You can bring these practices into where you are, who you are, and what you have available right now.
I hope they give you moments where you can retreat into simplicity for a while, shift an icky feeling, or expand beyond a troubling thought or moment. Instead of asking you to sit still and ignore your pain, block your thoughts, or “transcend” your feelings, these practices allow you to cultivate the vastness and tenderness that heart of yours has in abundance and that can hold everything in harmony. Instead of taking you out of your own body, these practices will put you firmly back inside yourself and infuse you with qualities that allow you to return to your outer life relaxed, happy, alert, and who you are meant to be.
The Power of Micro-dosing
Most of these can be micro-practices that cherish your instincts and individuality, take little time, and that you can “micro-dose” throughout your day. By weaving them naturally into your life, enjoying variety and range—little Pomodoro breaks, if you like—they can tend to your heart and body and psyche in ways which feel good and welcome.
A precious advantage of micro-dosing meditation and other life-practices in this way is that we “catch up on” processing our stress and tension. This can result in deeper sleep, in which we are less likely to wake in the night with an activated nervous system and an anxious mind. Of course, these practices can also be extended for when your body is craving a long, luxurious bath in something that feels nourishing and healing.
What Do I Need Right Now?
There is a great question for unlocking exactly the meditation or micro-practice meant for you, and it is: “What Do I Need Right Now?”
There is magic in this question. It unlocks our instincts and intuition. It recognises that our needs are sacred messengers that point us to healing and thriving and that tending to them is a sacred practice.
Checking in with ourselves regularly and cultivating positive qualities of attention towards ourselves can prevent us from adding a whole lot more pain into the world. When we know how we are doing and are compassionate with ourselves, we are far less likely to be triggered and reactive.
Underneath everything that we are feeling and experiencing right now, there is a voice. Life is saying to us, “Beloved, look. I made all this for you. There is more freedom for you, more wonder, more delight. Come and sit for a while and feel and heal.”
We all have business to attend to in the world as well as people, projects, and animals to look after. Camille Maurine, author of “Meditation Secrets for Women” refers to meditation as self-tending. We can and need to take the time and space to tend to ourselves regularly. This inner tending is very important, it keeps us whole, it keeps us in the healing process. It allows our nervous system to do its work.
Asking “What do I need right now?” teaches us to tend to ourselves and our energies in skillful and sensitive ways that not only benefit us greatly but can transform the way we meet and offer ourselves to the world.
Self Care Is World Care
What we do for ourselves, we do for others.
For everything we might be feeling as individuals right now, we can be sure we are not alone. In fact, the call to connection which has come because of isolation has seen many reunions, get-togethers, and acts of unity that might not have happened in our previously busy lives. We seem to talk to each other more than ever and are sharing our feelings in more honest (and often raw) ways.
Though we are in different scenarios, there is a collective inner call that we are all hearing that unites us in togetherness: “I need care. The world needs care. I need a place to sort things out and find some healing and inspiration.”
Our instinct to care, our instinct to heal, our desire to make a difference must be directed inward as well as outward. By being there for ourselves, we can be there for each other.
Put your arms around yourself now and as you do, know that you are embracing the whole world.
Resisting The Call to Care
Although we instinctively know what’s good for us, we sometimes deny ourselves and refuse the call for healing.
We allow old rules, stories, and ingrained patterns to stop us from taking time and space to see what is going on inside us and what is needed to be heard and felt and reintegrated. These “old stories” might be ideas about not deserving rest and pleasure or having to delay or postpone our happiness because other people are suffering. It might be that we’ve gotten so used to being “on the go” and constantly giving our energies out into life, that we’ve forgotten how to stop and gather those energies back in.
We can forget ourselves when we don’t spend time paying inner attention.
Because our inner quality of life is so important, it is vital to be alert to feelings of resistance and the blocks we have. We need to be able to notice those times when we’re feeling as if everything is an emergency or we can’t stop for a minute or when we hear our inner heckler reprimanding us for being “selfish.” We need to be able to catch ourselves and change direction on behalf of ourselves and the planet.
When you feel resistance to taking a pause for some self-care, try putting one hand over your heart and the other on your belly and say to yourself “I am worth it. I am worth this time. And so is everyone else.”
Make the connection that in caring for yourself, you are caring for people who are vulnerable, for the health-workers and others supporting the vulnerable, for nature and animals. You are the universe and you are taking care of the earth.
Our Ancestors Meditated This Way
This instinctive and natural approach to meditation is one that our early ancestors used. They lived daily with rapidly changing landscapes—with terror and delight, destruction and regeneration, sickness and healing. In short, they were constantly being called to integrate the turbulence and wonder of being alive. Our ancestors knew instinctively how to stay healthy and productive. It is because of their intuitive skills that we are alive today. Those ways involved tuning into the abundant energies of life available to them to draw in the particular nourishment their bodies and minds needed to stay vibrant. We have the same wise instincts today, but after millions of years we may have lost touch with them. Meditation is a time to remember them.
Everywhere is your meditation hall.
– Lorin Roche
The ground under our feet, the sunlight kissing our skin, the moon beaming light into our spirits, and the breath in our bodies are all currents of giving. Through meditation, each of us can find a particular element of life to linger with. That way, we can receive the exact nourishment or “medicine” our body needs at any particular time.
My friend Katie has what she calls a “therapy star.” According to Katie, the moon and stars in the sky are like “a beacon of light from afar, letting me know that even in the darkest times, there is always light to be found.”
I too am a sky-child. Before I go to bed, I love to lie under the night sky and inhale the stars. When I was a child, the night sky and galaxy both terrified and thrilled me. I still get that feeling, but more recently I have also enjoyed the feeling of being nurtured by the stars and planets beaming their light from above.
There is also a large and stately tree just outside my house that I call “my tree” because my relationship with it seems so intimate. I commune with that tree when I am sitting outside and meditating informally. It knows my secrets and I feel its wisdom and protective spirit. Perhaps the tree is also sharing its ancient secrets with me in return.