honouring where we are
There are so many ways to make meaning in our lives and allow that meaning to support us on our journey. One such way is to play with the idea of the natural cycle of the breath as a micro-representation of the cycle of the seasons. When I drop into my body with this as an contemplation, I feel the pause before the inhale as being perfectly aligned with winter. And here we are in the depth of winter, YES! The DEPTH of winter. We have another two months here in the northern hemisphere, before the first showing of delicate flowers open our senses to the beauty and va-va-voom of life, thus inspiring a gloriously renewing inhale.
So how are you in the long pause we are currently in? Does lockdown and its accompanying restrictions make it especially dreary and uncomfortable, bordering on unbearable perhaps for some? Or does lockdown feel supportive, a permission to draw in, slow down and be more aligned with this season than you usually have opportunity for? And of course for some of you the external circumstances haven't created such a huge shift in how you are living and experiencing life. But whatever you are or are not experiencing, I wonder if leaning into your pause and this season without any resistance could open up more ease?
How might it be to give yourself full permission to receive winter's invitation to rest here?
Nature is so incredible at giving us clues as to what is needed in order to create harmonious living, and we humans are incredible in our capacity to ignore the clues and push through with mind-orientated agendas and goals. We enter the month of January and are immediately seduced by the manmade world to set our New Year resolutions AND to get on with them there and then. New health and diet regimes, purchasing of exercise equipment and, before lockdown became a thing, gym memberships are all a big part of this, as are work/career goals and big decisions within our overall life structure. So as the natural world becomes still we become crazy in our busy-making. UNTIL that is we have an experience of falling into step and feeling deeply the magic of this.
Two years ago I made a choice and responded to an invite to enter winters stillness to practice the art of none-doing. I was so fortunate to be supported in this by a beautiful friend who provided low cost rented accommodation, and a Christmas gift that made it within reach financially. I can honestly say it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I learnt so much about myself and discovered that none-doing is PAINFUL when so adjusted to doing. So many pressures from within myself arose, instructing me on my failings, and how I ought to be somehow productive in this time. It took me at least four or five weeks (plus a conversation my Dad who effectively gave me the permission I was searching for within but couldn't find), before I was able to feel the peace and healing available in the pause I had called in.
Back to the breath and this pressure was like holding my breath out yet feeling a desperate need to take the next breath in. I wasn't trusting that the inhale would occur in "good timing" or that it would be enough to make-up for what I had lost in the none-breathing/doing. But guess what! The inhale/spring and my return to productivity was made all the more fruitful and rich an experience because I was so deeply rested. I am laughing as I write this because another "guess what!" moment has dropped in - it takes practice and repeated experiences to truly build the trust in the body-mind so that a new pattern can replace an old one. I confess, I have been experiencing the same pressures lately, the deep need of my body to drop into restorative stillness and the tension this creates when my busy-making "doing" mind doesn't yet FULLY trust the process.
So how might you and I ease the conflict and create a bridge from inner conflict to peaceful surrender? The first answer is to honour your current situation, in an ideal world, all people would enter a relative hibernation in winter yet our lives are rarely set up this way. There are things that need tending to all of the way through the year. So the first step would be to take stock of how things are, then make decisions about what could be let go of in order to create more space for pauses within your daily life.
Secondly, put the New Year resolutions and any other goals that require radical change to one side (not to discard them, but to come back to them when there is more energy available). This is the dark time of the year and as such, it is perfect for allowing the nebulous quality of the dreaming state of offer us fantasy and imaginations of what might later come into being. In Human Design, Gene Keys and no doubt other astrological/wisdom traditions that I am not as familiar with, the true beginning of the year occurs when the sun enters the 41st hexagram/gate. In gene keys this gate is referred to as a "start codon"- the piece of genetic coding our DNA needs in order for gene expression to occur (it's like the retaining box and the first pins on a zipper... without it the rest of the zipper can't line up properly and fasten our garments together).
The sun enters this gate on the 21st of January this year, but that still doesn't mean the time of pause is over. A start codon, or the retainer of a zipper, isn't the active part, it's simply a point of origin. It enables what follows to follow in the most beautifully and perfectly aligned way as possible. If we try to rush this and push ahead to the next phase without securing the zip we get all out of line and risk busting the zip altogether, (I'm remembering times of trying to get my daughter's coat on in a rush and ending up with a stuck zipper!). So, might you reconsider attempting to action any resolutions and goals just now? Instead we can let them remain as dreams and fantasies of what will be, trusting that the ones that are meant to become manifest will do so in good timing.
How does it feel right now in your body to read these words and this invitation to enter the pause more deeply? Are you being met by resistance or relief? If you feel relief or a softening within your body that would be a great clue as to what you need right now. And if there is any resistance, is it truly coming from your body? You might feel it there, but might that be the reaction to your own conditioned and disbelieving mind?
NB Always always check in with yourself and discover your own truth and most appropriate ways of being for you!
If you would like to begin to invite less resistance and/or a nurturing relationship to winter, and to your own inward pause, please read on...
A CYCLICAL BREATH EXPERIENCE
Allow your mind and your awareness to enter the pause and rest there, simply hang out in this pause. When the body needs more breath it will literally "inspire" the next inhale. You might find that the inhale which follows this slightly extended pause comes in and fills you even more than before, finding the spaces that were a little tight and unyielding before this breath.
Allow your body to re-enter its natural flow for a few breaths, with simple awareness and no forced changes, but with the invitation for the breaths to fully open your body, and your body to open to allow more breath in (its a two-way dance). When you feel ready to and after an exhale, enter the pause again. Rest there with the breath held out (no pressure, no tightness in the body and no yogic locks). Just stillness and a surrender into trust. Your body will welcome the next inhale when it is ready to just as the first buds of spring show themselves when Earth & Sky are ready to welcome them. Be & Breathe here, in winter, surrender to nature's stillness and let the dream state show you it's beauty.
Repeat this pattern of natural yet full breathing with awareness for a few breaths; followed by attention on an extended pause at the end of the exhale for as long as feels great for you. I would recommend a minimum of seven minutes for the whole practice and you can extend it to 31 minutes over a few days if you really want to get the know the practice.
Once you know it well (when your body-mind can easily drop into the pattern and you feel soothed by it), you can really lean into it anytime, anywhere, for just a couple of cycles to quickly remind yourself to take a pause, relax, and trust in the seasons.
May this meet and nourish you well.