In yesterday’s piece, I discussed how a visit to YouTube helped me to uncover some sorely needed perspective.
As the discussions of how best to care for our aging mother droned on and on, I realized that I was becoming less gentle, less open, and less empathetic. Instead, I began to swing back and forth between resentment and fear, between oversensitivity and dissociation. As the video from yesterday’s post articulated, these feelings are commonplace for most who are consumed by elder care.
While the term “compassion fatigue” forms the basis of the speaker’s exposition, what resonated with me was the sense of being pulled away from one’s equanimous set-point of thought and behavior. And the off-centeredness is not horizontal; rather, there seems to be a vertical plummet, a feeling of being buried beneath the burdens. Today’s practice unearths one from this emotional internment, and instead establishes a strong root system that allows for growth amidst harsh conditions.
To prepare, begin with a “rolling” Cat/Cow: This variation not only awakens and frees the spine and surrounding muscles, it opens the hips and side body while honing in on one’s inner rhythms. On all fours, begin the traditional spinal flex movement: Inhale to deeply arch the spine, lifting the chest and tail; exhale to round fully, dropping the head and tucking the pelvis. Complete 6-10 rounds of this.
Then, begin to circle the entire package, moving forward and then to the right, and then back toward the heels, and to the left; circle and shift forward and back as the spinal flexes continue. Continue moving clockwise for 1 minute, then reverse directions for another minute. Inhale as you circle forward on the hands and knees; exhale as you shift and circle around into the back space.
Now, come onto your belly, as if setting up for Sphinx Pose: upper body lifted, propped on the forearms; belly and legs on the ground. The following movement immerses you in the sensation of “dead weight”: As you tune in to the physical sense of burden and helplessness, your mind begins to elevate and expand, ever-searching for a solution to the feeling. In the Sphinx position, begin to drag yourself along the floor. (Ideally, the floor is bare, as carpet will require unusual effort.) Discover how your muscles adapt to the need to move in this new way; as they do so, the mind follows suit, freeing you from previous constraints of thought and action.
Slither along the ground for 3 minutes. Then, pull back into Baby Pose for a brief rest. When you are ready, come onto hands and knees, then straighten the legs as if to hang in Standing Forward Bend. Hold the ankles, and begin to Elephant Walk around your practice space. If you can not hold the ankles and move, place the hands on the floor; as the right foot moves, the left hand “walks forward,” and vice versa. Continue this walking for another 3 minutes.
Special note: I find a meditative quality in this movement when I walk in a Figure 8. If some pattern appeals to your kinesthetic intuition, feel free to do it in your own way.
Now, come into a seated pose on the floor. Ideally, you will sit on or between your heels (Rock or Celibate pose, respectively). If this is not comfortable for you, find the most supported position that allows your spine to soar in an aligned manner.
In this posture, bring the right hand about 6 inches above the crown of your head: The space between head and hand is “right” when you feel an energetic vibration—open and connected at the same time. The left palm lies on the Heart center, fingers together and pointing to the right. With your closed eyes gazing at the Third Eye, begin long, deep breaths, in and out through the nose. This mudra draws the blessing of the Universe into your Heart energy, helping to free you from negativity toward self and others. As you sit, tall and strong, the heightened sense from the mudra aligns with your rootedness: You are steady and ready for whatever comes your way.