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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Surviving and Thriving During a Collective Crisis

Photo credit:  Etienne Roudaut
"When everything is moving and shifting, the only way to counteract chaos is stillness. When things feel extraordinary, strive for ordinary. When the surface is wavy, dive deeper for quieter waters." --Kristin Armstrong (most decorated women cyclist in US history)

These are extraordinary times we are living in:  calamitous, turbulent, and nerve-wracking.  We have been forced to engage like we never have before.  We witness the extraordinary power of democracy in action and the often terrifying forces challenging democracy.  It has our adrenals and central nervous system working on overdrive.  I am hearing and seeing the bouts of crippling exhaustion and despair from many.  How can we survive and thrive during this crisis, especially if it is long and drawn out, as it appears it will be.

In my experience, the single most important quality necessary is self discipline.  Without this, it is very easy to be pulled off our center of gravity, to lose focus, to become physically or emotionally disabled. These are the days when routine and purposeful activity is mandatory, healthy outer and inner habits leaned upon. 

What does this mean in relation to the 4 fundamentals of wellness: rest, nutrition, exercise and spirit work/play?

REST:  Make sure you get a lot of it.  Try to go bed nightly the same time and wake the same time.  If your sleep is broken, start employing self-care tactics to ensure a better night's rest.  

Sleep is the most obvious aspect of the rest fundamental.  But to give our sympathetic nervous system periodic breaks we should be having other relaxing actions as part of our day.  Needlecraft's like knitting, crocheting is a great relaxer, helping get repetitive deeper breathing patterns in play.  Playing an instrument, playing record/CD, radio music, watching funny or non-intense movies, reading novels.  Know where your threshold is with stress and anxiety and take a break.  Take a whole day off from social media or political activities and just have some guilt free fun. In a crisis, it's very important to have a lapse of engagement, where you are not thinking or acting on behalf of the crisis.  And in that lapse, to feel joyous in the activity and not guilty you are not "on it".  Pick your battles, you can't be part of every march and rally.  Know what is the right action and when for you. Become aware of fatigue, burn out, depression and readjust your approach.  Navigating this terrain for ourselves is very interesting as you begin to recognize signs and symptoms in yourself and the subsequent choices you make in caring for yourself. Self-discipline brings order and a healthy repetition.  Following are some previous posts that might help with this.  The Fine Art of Self SoothingModern ToiletryEnergy Field SurveillanceSleep TightA Right Rest Witnessing: Attention, Intention and Healing

"We adore chaos because we love to produce order."  M. C. Escher

Photo credit:  Lalu Danzker
NUTRITION:  Inevitably, we will capitulate to comfort foods; it's winter and there is a crisis. Add some broccoli to your mac and cheese, make some good bone broth for the base of your soups-- very healing, and worth the effort.  Cook.  Cooking and baking and engaging in that way is very important.  It slows us down, it put us in relationship with what we are about to receive, it's caring in action.  Sometimes you gotta get takeout.  Most of the time take the time to cook for yourselves and your loved ones.  Following are some previous posts on this that might help.  On Fire: the State of Chronic InflammationpH: It's all about balanceBone Deep.

"Chaos is a friend of mine."  "I accept chaos, I'm not sure whether it accepts me." -- Bob Dylan

EXERCISE: I bring this up a lot in my work.  Exercise is a major stress buster, helping to regulate our functions and systems.  Being mindful of all movement from washing dishes to just spending time in bed stretching legs and pelvis is bringing an attention to the body. It grounds us, creates a sense of the vertical in myself.  When crisis hits, most of us fly into our emotional and mental responses, leaving our body disconnected.  Our bodies are everything in a crisis; we depend on them for reality checks. Our bodies are constantly giving us cues as to the truth of the moment.  If we aren't attending to the body, we miss the cues of what is going on inside and outside.  Stay close to the body.  Moving the body, the breath in the body opens up our perception; we think more clear, our feelings become regulated. I just said it but I say it again:  the body is everything.  You lose your connection to your body, you lose your groundedness, your sense of reality, and become subject to the craziness your feeling and head gets into without a relationship to your person.  Without your body, you literally lose skin in the game.  The body is an equalizing factor. We discount it, disrespect it, bemoan its inconveniences. We have to love it and we have to move it.  Following are some prior posts centered on this fundamental wellness principle:  Designed to Move

"The battlefield is a scene of constant chaos. The winner will be the one who controls that chaos, both his own and the enemies."-- Napoleon Bonaparte

Spirit work are activities that center our being.  Obvious examples are meditation and prayer.  Less obvious examples are walking with an attention to the body ("Zen" walking puts a name on it), Buddhist breathing exercises that open one's heart, and/or dispel negativity. Qigong exercises of bringing in images of patience, magnanimity and letting go images of hate and fear, are among a few.  Spirit work grounds us in our internal truths and helps liberates us from the frantic, over kinetic external.  It is peace-making.  Play is wherever there is fun and humor, satisfaction and that which touches the essential in oneself.  All of these can be found in the "mundane", such as knitting or cooking or car mechanics, or guitar playing to name a few. This kind of work brings us closer to who we are and our purpose, not from the activity itself, but from the internal engagement rooted in love of peace.  When we get a frequent (self discipline!) taste of this, it becomes much harder to lose that vertical, to be pulled out of an inner, more real alignment. Prior posts that elucidate on this:  Humor and HealthProdigal Return: Community of SelfOneness: Ho'oponopono

Chaos is inherent in all compounded things. Strive on with diligence. --Buddha

As separate as these 4 fundamentals might seem, they are actually deeply connected.  They support each other and are often part and parcel of each other's expression.  When they're working together (for the most part), I experience an established discernment.  My mind quiets to the dramatic headline; it starts to look for plausibility, it becomes inqurious, the guile radar engages. My emotional intelligence kicks in without hysteria.  Everything starts to work together.  I'm grounded.  My more whole self is centered.  Thank you self discipline.

Become aware of energy: your own, others and the collective.  Pace yourself.  Step into the fray when your vertical is vibrating "yes".  Be respectful of yourselves and others, others who might not be as equally aligned in a moment.  Practice compassion as best as you can with yourself and others.  Remember:  Kindness.  Be kind, no exceptions (even when your mad as hell).  Kindness, like forgiveness, like love is a boomerang, it comes right back to you.  And hate, fear, ego righteousness-- it does the same thing, it comes back to you almost immediately, toxifying what could be otherwise.  So, for your well being's sake, be kind while you are being courageous.
Following are some essays that might be helpful:

The Collective: Group EnergyAnxiety: Inside the BoxMeditate? Do I Have ToViolence: A Cautionary Truth

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