When I began thinking about today’s piece, I found myself returning over and over to a small interaction from the week. The conversation lasted all of 5 minutes, but had been preceded by a few weeks of tension that arose from two previous encounters. If I described the preliminary incidents, anyone would be hard pressed to understand why they resulted in a slow-burn anxiety for me.
Essentially, the issue was a practical household matter about which my landlady, “J,” and I seemingly disagreed. “Seemingly” is the key word for how today’s Silent Sunday came to be. After too much stewing over something that should have been quickly and easily remedied, I took my emotions out of the equation: I decided to be clear and straightforward with my landlady about the primary reasons for my stance, none of which focused on me or my feelings.
When I found a moment to approach “J,” she listened as I began to address the situation. As I started to express my fundamental concerns, she accurately finished my sentence, and then added, “I understand.” Problem resolved, good vibes returned. How did that happen so easily and calmly?
The Calm that pervaded my awareness of the non-subjective issues at the root of our discord was how I realized the need to approach the situation with practically minded bullet points. And this was not the first time that Calm has signaled the arrival of Truth. On two other occasions last week, the notion of Calm-as-the-clue came to light.
Ironically, these other reflections upon Calm arose out of a discussion regarding Love, and then again out of a conversation about ending a relationship. Both talks were ones that I listened to on the radio, so neither was personal: Yet, their correlation to Calm was similar, and the experience of that correspondence is, in my opinion, universal.
In each scenario, the question was raised, “How did you know…?” In the first instance, the question ended with, “…that you loved him?” In the second discussion, the ending was, “…that it was really over?” In both cases, the interviewees noted Calm as the clue that they had landed upon their Truth. For them, other experiences of love had been met with butterflies, adrenalin, and/or lust; conversely, anger and fear powered the previous desires to break up. When Calm permeated the realizations, however, words and actions came clearly and with a suitably detached demeanor.
Thus, throughout the course of last week, I thought more about the moments when Calm has gone deep and ridden high in my life. Typically, I felt the “hand” of a greater force, one that guided me toward that wellspring of Calm. (Here I draw a distinction between Calm and calmness; in retrospect, what I often have referred to as “calm” would more accurately be described as “calmness.”)
Swimming and walking; basking underneath a tree-filtered sun; stillness and silence; a long, honest talk with my sister or a friend; a particularly “connected” yoga and meditation practice… All of these things tend to elicit “calmness” in me, for which I feel abundantly grateful. Calm, however, arrives on its own time; it seems unbidden, as if I had never prayed fervently for relief and guidance. I have come to think of Calm as the presence of God, at the exact moment that we need to act or speak. All of the lead-up to Calm is earthbound and ego-related; as one begins to wriggle out of and away from those confines, Calm senses the opening and arrives.
Today’s practice, then, asks that you focus on a person, situation, or concern that may have been infiltrating your psyche, even if you perceive it as a minimal nuisance. For when any thought hovers or distracts for too long, its effect eventually becomes more than “minimal.” Once you have identified an issue that has gone unresolved, rotate your mind 180 degrees: Agree to not address it, to not try to fix it. If thoughts of it creep in, let them; however, apply no energy to ruminate or solve.
With this intention of no-intention anchoring your mindset, do something physical. Ideally, an outdoor walk, hike, or meandering stroll would be viable; or perhaps a gym routine or fitness class is your preference. And if none of those are accessible, churn energy throughout your system with the following set:
1.) Arm circle variations: Right arm circles back at a warm-up, moderate pace; 8 times. Then, left arm back, 8 times. Then, both arms together, more quickly and vigorously, 10 times. Then, “swim” the arms fluidly back, alternating right and left, fluidly and seamlessly circling back, 30 seconds. Repeat the entire sequence and repetitions, this time circling forward.
2.) Torso circles, first to the right, then to the left. Legs are in a fairly wide, rooted stance; hands on hips as the body circles from the waist. Begin conservatively, allowing plenty of time for the low back to warm, and the muscles to understand the movement. Eventually, make the circle as large as possible, bending as far forward and back as your body allows; breathe deeply as you circle, inhaling through the back space, exhaling as the body circles forward and down. Give each side 2 minutes, so that there is plenty of time to build the depth and pace of the circles.
3) Supported running: Find a chair or rail—or anything—that allows you to place your hands on it, shoulder width apart. Walk your feet back, so that your body ends up in a long diagonal, much of your weight born through the arms, with the hands on the chosen support. Now, begin to alternate right and left knee coming in and up toward the belly or chest. Begin slowly, at a walking pace, striving to bring the knee as close to the chest as possible. Gradually begin to increase the momentum, moving from walking to “jogging;” eventually, increase the pace to a “run.” Again, give yourself 2 minutes, so that at least the final 60 seconds are at your optimal speed.
4) Slowly bring your body upright from the chair, and then make your way to the floor. Seated, draw your knees in close to the body, and make yourself into a tight ball. This movement is Roll Like a Ball in the Pilates world, and also appears in kundalini as a way to enliven the nervous system and enhance self-assuredness. Inhale as you roll back, exhale as you roll up. Continue back and forth, staying as tightly wrapped as possible, for 1 minute.
Now, take whatever time you need to shake out any remnants of dis-ease or stiffness; create as clear of a physical slate as possible. When you are ready, sit in your preferred posture for meditation. With the back of the right hand resting on the right knee, form Gyan Mudra (index and thumb tips touching; other fingers relaxed into natural position). Place the palm of the left hand on the Heart Center. Eyes are closed, gazing easily up to the Third Eye.
With this mudra to draw in the Truth of Calm, begin the pranayama: Inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth. Then, inhale through the mouth, exhale through the nose. Continue this alternating breath pattern for 5 minutes, eventually working your way up to 11 minutes.
Special note: I have found that my open-mouth breaths change throughout the practice. Sometimes, I breathe in through pursed lips, or out through wide mouth with tongue extended; other times, I breathe in through a wide “O” mouth, or out with a near-whistle. Allow yourself to respond to whatever feels right with each breath, trusting that the body and mind are asking for what they need at any given moment.
When you have finished the pranayama, ease your way into a lengthy Svasana of 11-20 minutes, clearing the pathways for the arrival of Calm.