A Moving Inspiration
The past few weeks of suspended routines, social isolation, and uncertainty have been tough on us and a challenge for our bodies. Regrouping at home and grappling with the full scope of health and financial considerations is a full-time job with lots of scary variables. Even such basics as shopping for food and pumping gas can feel complicated and threatening. My poet daughter-in-law calls this “the underlying thread of dread.” Moreover, the angst of it all ends up in the body. You feel it as an oppressive presence whenever you need to relax, focus, or find inspiration. So in order to negotiate the emotional upheaval of the COVID quarantine, it’s important to know how to let it go and let it flow.
From the body’s point of view, it’s natural to lock down and armor up in response to an unexpected, unprecedented threat. This shows up in varied and personal ways – a clenched jaw, knotted stomach, tight butt, scrunched eyes, and so forth. Knowing where you carry stress establishes a reference point for letting it go. Of course you want to be on guard. But you also want to be resilient, resourceful, and ready. Like weeds in your garden, when uncertainty and worry get a foothold, they need to be found and uprooted. Take a moment right now and feel your body: where are your stress hideouts? Once you locate the tension, you can implement basic body mechanics to loosen its hold and get moving again. Here’s how this works.
Find a tense place in your body and move the bones and tissues under and around this area to free up your local muscles and get circulation flowing. For instance, if your jaw is clenched, move it softly and slowly, open and closed, side to side, forward and back. No stretching or pushing; just intentional but easy. Glide your tongue around the surfaces of your teeth. Gently stretch, pout, and pucker your lips. Mobilizing your bones and tissues is a good way to undermine the message of being on guard, anywhere in your body. For your shoulders: lift, rotate, shrug, slide, and shake. For your legs and hips: roll, jiggle, sway, and swing. Remember that moving loosely and fluidly sends a positive message to your brain that all’s well and life is good.
Get Up and Boogie
The best way to counter emotional-mental lockdown is to get your body moving. Get off the couch, turn off the computer and phone and tune in to your body. Whether you dance, get on the treadmill, march around the house, or take a walk outside, the important thing is to get yourself moving. Instead of using your energy to talk, figure, plan, and rehash, use it to be physical. Instead of fretting and feeling stir crazy, shift your attention to the mechanical brilliance of your mobilized body. Develop an easy cadence, swinging your arms and legs to disengage both physical and emotional tension. Not only is this cross-crawl motion relaxing, it balances the brain and brings the body into harmony.
Getting Your Bearings Can Help You Bear It
Once you get the rhythm going, expand your sensory awareness to include the space around you. Hear the remarkable repertoire of a mockingbird, smell the blossoming citrus. Feel how your feet touch the ground. Allow hope to filter through as you observe the miracle of springtime and the greening of our mountains.
The truth is, any time events challenge equilibrium, your moving body will help you regain both composure and balance. Like a guided meditation, being centered in your body is a good way to be present in the moment and connect with a larger Truth. Tuning in can give you the comfort of perspective and even be inspiring. For instance, on a recent walk, I had the thought that we’re all witnessing a life-changing moment together. A moment that’s as transformative as seeing the “blue marble” photo of planet Earth in 1972. Like then, we see clearly the beauty and vulnerability of our precious earthly home. Perhaps, on the other side of this worldwide time-out, our global collective consciousness will be different. And as the philosophers presaged, we will know that all are ONE. Then, as one, we will seek and find ways to solve our existential problems.