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