When I was very young, someone told me that we can never “own” a person: no person is ever ours to have and to keep. At that tender age I was impressed, but understood it to be true: people move on, people change, age, die, … Yoga philosophy teaches us that we find inner freedom when we let go of attachments. Of course, understanding this does not make it any easier when the time comes to part with a beloved person. Loving without possessiveness, and thus freely letting go, is hard, very hard. My son is ‘leaving the nest’ and even though I considered myself prepared, and I have had to feel grief before, it hurts. Yoga practices have given me an array of tools to help me deal with grief. They can, as it were, hold me by the hand and bring me back to a sense of inner peace. Because I know we all have to deal with loss and grief sooner or later, I decided to share some of these practices with you today.
We cannot suppress emotions if we want to feel freer in mind and body. Neither do we want to revisit them over and over again and miss the other things life has to offer. How can we deal with grief without becoming stuck in sadness? How do we give our emotions the required attention while also continuing to live our life to the full? This blog suggests some practices that may help acknowledge grief without wallowing in it. The practices bring us back to ourselves, to a sense of inner peace and stability. There are sadnesses that never really leave us, that arise once in a while and need to be dealt with all over again. So it is good to have some simple exercises to do whenever the need arises.
If you have been following my blogs for a while, you are now probably rolling your eyes, because mindful walking is what I suggest for any mental or emotional stress. It is just such a magical practice: simple, always available, calming and grounding. The only thing you need to do is focus on the act of walking:
- Connect with the touch of the feet on the ground, the way they strike and roll off the ground.
- Tune in to how other parts of the body participate in the walking.
- Simply observe your surroundings. There is always something surprising, even when you have seen it many times before.
- Coordinate walking with your breath: count a certain number of steps for the inhalation and the same number for the exhalation.
Sit on a chair or on the floor in a comfortable position. Take a few moments to feel both sitting bones centred and heavy on the surface below. Place your hands on and just below the naval area and simply follow the movement and rhythm of your breath. When you inhale the abdomen moves out slightly. When you exhale, it returns to a relaxed position. The ribs are very passive; you may feel the lowest part of the ribs move slightly.
The rhythm of the breath is always with you, and when you pay attention to it, it nourishes and calms the mind. Don’t change it, just witness the rhythm, the way it moves the abdomen, the way it gradually slows down as you observe it. When thoughts or feelings arise, acknowledge them but allow them to pass so you can again simply observe the breath and feel centred.
Once you feel calmer with the previous breathing exercise, place one hand on your heart area. Breathing in, imagine the inhalation rises from your naval area to the heart. Breathing out, imagine the breath returns to the naval area. Feel how the heart is nourished and soothed from two sides: by the touch of your hand and by the breath. Breathe like this for a few minutes.