Bent, But Not Broken! “The strength of a tree lies in it’s ability to bend.” -Zen Proverb
If you are reading this, know that you are not broken. You have most likely endured much, but you are still here. You are not broken. With the compounding of disaster upon disaster that we are all currently making our way through here in South Louisiana, perhaps your roots are beginning to show, maybe you’re a bit splintered and shaken, maybe you have been forced to shed much of what you once created and held onto. But… you are still standing. You are not broken. If you have already weathered the storms of an ongoing pandemic, stood strong in the winds of change, and then hit by another natural disaster, then you have definitely developed the ability to Bend.
My recent return to our fair city after taking a forced Ida hurrication has been an interesting ride. After living here for over 20 years I’ve learned some tricks to make the best of an evacuation. Step 1: Leave early. Step 2: Go somewhere fun, pretend to be on vacation in between all the texting & phone calls to loved ones, and only look at the weather channels intermittently. The return and aftermath of a strong storm though, that’s tough. It doesn’t matter if this is your first storm, or if you’ve lived here all your life. It is not easy on the senses to smell putrid trash, to see blue tarps and debris all over the place, to undertake the task of cleaning up and repairing what was. It’s not easy to bear witness to downed majestic Oak and Cypress trees that have seen so very many storms before. And it is definitely not easy if you’ve already lived through a bad storm and then get to revisit and relive traumatic events from the past. Easy is not guaranteed in life though, and easy is truly not always even that healthy.
We humans have created so many wonderful tools and structures in order to give ourselves as much security and safety as we can harness. It’s never going to be enough though. Nature has its way of making us feel groundless. Good or bad, messy or organized, sweet or putrid, Nature has no preference. These are all just labels that we humans attach to the world we perceive around us. Nature could care less what our preferences are. It just is.
So what do we do? How do we continue to move forward and keep living with joy on this Earth while so much has happened around us and to us? How do we keep from becoming emotionally and physically rigid to the point where we do actually break? First….. STOP. Stop everything. Stopping is absolutely necessary. If there are too many thoughts, too many emotions, too many anxieties, if you’re stuck in a social media vortex, if too many whirlings of the mind are happening, please, I’m begging you, just Stop! It’s great medicine. You absolutely cannot Start, without first Stopping. They go hand in hand. The phoenix cannot rise from the ashes if you keep fanning the fires. You must eventually Stop. I am not talking about sleeping. Sleep is of course, healthy and necessary, but the idea here of Stopping is not that. Through all these practices of Yoga, meditation, massage, and breath work we are showing our mind how to be consciously awake and aware of our surroundings and yet at the same time able to be in a state of ease. It's a practice that I've been working on for a while now and yet every single time I do a practice, I'm amazed how effective it is and yet how much resistance there initially was to creating space to pause and Stop. Try it now.
Here's a practice for you: Lay down, sit down, get down, it doesn’t matter how you do it. Then choose one of the following. The Soft MethodSet a 5 minute or more timer. 1: Breathe in through the nose with a smile .(Even if smiling is the last thing you feel like doing and feels unnatural at this point. It’s a practice y’all.) 2: As you breathe out through the mouth, release all effort and relax all of the tension in your body. Keep breathing. Repeat. You are still here, you are flexible, you are strong. Stay here for a bit, smiling, relaxing, smiling, releasing effort and tension.
3. Lie down, continue breathing, and once again release all the effort and tension. OR The Aggressive Method 1: Breathe in through the nose and tense every single muscle in your body. Make fists. Squeeze the eyelids tight. 2: Hold the breath for a bit. Then, either out in the open or in a pillow if you think your neighbors will call 911, Scream as absolutely loud and as long as you can!! 3: Now go back and do the soft practice, you’ll find it much easier now :-)
Once we give ourselves a chance to Stop, to breathe, to become at peace with our environment, we allow ourselves the opportunity to reStart. We can now Start to see that there is something else in all of this destruction. Start to notice all of the lessons that nature is showing us. Start to notice how the resurrection ferns lining the Oaks, even on the fallen ones, have sprung back to life. Start to notice how after the recent rains the smell of the air is becoming clean and pure. Start to notice how most of the downed trees were standing by themselves without the support of neighboring tree friends’ roots to keep them grounded. Start to notice how the calm after the storm comes with a reestablished camaraderie with those around us. While on hurrication I foraged mushrooms that sprung to life from the decay of downed trees. The circle of life continues. Notice and allow the lessons of nature that are all around to awaken inside you. Start to see what you need. Are you okay? Really. Are You Okay?? This is alot. Can you handle this, or is it too much? It’s fine if it’s too much. Start asking for help if it is. There was a point during all of this that it was too much for me. It's actually a sign of strength to know you need help. Help is just waiting to be asked for. Are those around you okay? Ask them. Help them to Stop.
Most of what I do is to help people Stop and to develop a greater ability to Bend. It’s a magical thing. I see daily the total transformation of what 90 or 60 or even 5 minutes can do for someone when they bend and breathe into the release of rigid muscle and connective tissue. I witness the power of how Joy springs up after giving the mind a good chunk of time to just Stop. I know this from the inside out, because I also have to Stop and Bend. I’ve been doing it since the last big storm 16 years ago. It works. It feels great. It keeps working and feeling great. Work on this ability to be flexible and to bend. Yes, we definitely want to stay toned and have good muscle tissue, but if someone just builds muscle mass without flexibility, that muscle is actually quite weak due to it easily being able to tear and break. The same can be said for the mind. If we just keep making things tight, somethings going to snap. Some of the best tools you can have in your shed are the ability to Stop and to Bend. Develop them. Sharpen them. Make them good friends and hang out with them often. There are only positive side effects and perhaps while bending you’ll Start to see from a fresh angle how you can create a different approach to this new life that we are all living.
We may be Bent, but we are NOT Broken! Sending much gratitude and well wishes to you and yours. -Taylor
We've all got it on our minds, COVID-19, this new virus that is not stopping its spread. So let us just presume that it's here to stay, that we have a new bug to deal with. Maybe it will be seasonal like the flu, maybe not. Humanity will eventually come up with an answer. We're actually pretty good as a species at accomplishing anything we truly put our minds to. But what do we do in the meantime? Do we become paralyzed by fear, hide away from the world, and just watch Netflix all day? No thank you.
Yoga Sutra 2.33: Vitarkabadhane pratipaksha bhavanam. “When disturbed by disturbing thoughts, think of the opposite.”
How perfect that this has been the sutra we're focusing on this month at the yoga studio. These ancient texts written at least 1700 years ago were addressing the same problems then as we have today. Our human minds can easily get caught in an endless spiral of negative thought patterns. So what do we do? We cultivate the opposite. We first clear our minds by breathing deeply, going for a mindful walk, a run, a meditation practice, a yoga class, a workout, a massage, lying down with your feet up the wall, a bicycle ride, letting out your aggression on a punching bag, whatever it is that works for you. Use the tools you know that work. Keep developing and refining them. Put away the technology and break this whirlpool of thought pattern. Get into you, get into nature, get out of fear, find neutral. Oh look, the sun is shining! New leaves are pushing forth on the trees. The irises are starting to flower. The azaleas are showing their colors. New baby ducks are swimming on the water. A delicious breeze is blowing and the air is filled with the smell of citrus blossoms. It's spring. The natural world around us here in the South is awakening. Soak it up. Now from here, from neutral, you have choice. These choices lead to action. Let us develop the opposite together. A beautiful thought arose in my mind yesterday. What if we use this virus as impetus, as the driving force to become the best versions of ourselves? Our immune systems have not yet had a chance to develop a natural immunity to this new pathogen. So let us help ourselves, our families and those around us to bolster our immune systems to the best of our abilities. If you have someone that depends on you, that needs you to be healthy, that needs you to support them, then it is of the utmost importance. It's time to do some spring cleaning!
On the paths of yoga we observe what is called the yamas and the niyamas, restraints and observances. In this time of lent and of coronavirus it is a perfect time for us all to do quite a bit of both. Take some time and contemplate what it is that you can start removing from your daily life to increase your own vitality. Where do you need to restrain? Perhaps it is time to finally restrain yourself from junk foods and beverages, from smoking, from alcohol, from too much caffeine, or from overusing technology and taking in too much information. Take some time and contemplate what it is that you can start committing to in order to increase your own vitality. Make a plan to commit to a daily meditation or stillness practice, to a daily bicycle ride, to a good walk or a daily yoga practice, to only intaking healthy wholesome foods, to drinking plenty of pure clean water, to doing the things you know that would help you become the best version of you.
Use this energy that surrounds us right now and refuse to allow fear to paralyze you. Instead, choose the opposite. Yoke this energy, harness it from the beauty of spring, and from the pressure of this current need to plan and be vigilant. Then an amazing thing will happen, you will flourish because of it.
Tools to Increase Vitality: 1. Triphala: Say What? If I have not yet recommended triphala to you as of yet. I am now! It is Ayurveda's number 1 supplement recommendation. It has an amazing effect to help the body gently assimilate and eliminate food, strengthen the immune system, and helps detoxify the body. 2. Echinacea Tea: Studies have proven echinacea helps bolster the immune system and decrease the amount of recovery time in those with common cold. 3. Reduce your Stress. Use healthy ways such as yoga, walking, massage, & meditation to lower your stress and anxiety. Studies have show immune system improvement as stress levels decrease. 4. Create healthy Sleep patterns. Give yourself time to unwind before bedtime. Do a 5 minute guided breathing meditation, dim the lights, turn off the tv or computer and drink some warm water or calming tea. 5. Wash Your Hands! I was shocked to witness someone yesterday leaving the bathroom without regard to the soap and water. Let's all do our part and retrain our fellow brothers and sisters in good hygiene and get that water hot! 5. Play Hooky! If there is ever a time to call in sick, now is it! Do not come in for a massage, do not go to your favorite restaurant, do not pass go, do collect $200. I will honor the same. If you need to reschedule, let me know.