Cultivating Resilience & Orienting in the Place You Are
An offering from Irisanya Moon (she/her)
Irisanya is a priestess, teacher, ritualist, author, and initiate in the Reclaiming tradition. She is inspired by story, the words and the spaces between, and how we can cultivate resilience and wonder while balancing the presence of grief. As a devotee of Aphrodite, Hecate, the Norns, and Iris, Irisanya seeks to offer love and to inspire love through reminders that we are not alone.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”– Audre Lorde
This quote/challenge has fueled me and inspired me long before the sheltering in place and physical distancing started. Long before things became different, quiet, as though there were a great pause.
And while there might be moments that are similar, we are not in the same place.
Some are more settled.
Some are more stirred.
Some are grateful for our experience with trauma (or not).
Some are realizing the immensity of grief.
Some are moving back and forth between experience, sometimes seasick, sometimes surrendering.
Maybe your heart is feeling broken right now.
Maybe your mind is wandering.
No matter what you feel, perhaps this can be a moment of invitation,
Of welcoming what is,
Not as a desired guest,
But a wise visitor.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve said the word ‘resilience’ so many times right now that it has stopped feeling like a real word. But the idea of bending before breaking, of cultivating sweetness and capacity is the magick I’m working right now.
And the magick that is working me.
Where is your body right now?
Where is your breath right now?
Where is your heart right now?
Where is your mind right now?
Orienting Here and There
We’re getting a lot of information in our world right now and it can feel overwhelming. Our nervous systems are overwhelmed. Sometimes we can feel it and sometimes (well, for me anyway) we feel it later.
A practice to help the nervous system process what is going on is called orienting. This helps to settle your system and bring you back to your body as a common response is to get the heck out of your body when things are intense.
Our minds are seeking safety. We can come back to safety.
Wherever you are, find a quiet place where you will not be interrupted. Turn off phones and noises and get way from others. Find a way to sit and be supported in that sitting.
Keeping your eyes open, feel the support of the ground, your back on the chair or wall, and notice where the back of your body is. Notice the sensations and the feelings that arise in the present moment. This is not the time for storytelling about what is happening or if you’re doing it right, just be in the moment. Drop into the sensations that are and if there are places that are tense, you might breathe into them or tense and then release them as best you can.
From this place, and without moving your head, allow your eyes to scan the room around you. Move your eyes to the left and see what is there, as far to the left as you can go without shifting your neck. Notice what is in your current space, slowly and deliberately. Scan the left side, noticing all the things you typically don’t notice. Continue this process moving from left to right, allowing the items around you to come into your awareness.
Let this be a slow process, this coming into the present moment and the particular moment of now. This practice offers us the ability to practice what our animal bodies need to feel safe. Our bodies need to scan the space to see if there is anything to worry about and then the nervous system can settle.
Continue this until you feel calmer and more present.
As an addition, you can also try to feel the back of your body and those sensations of back to chair, butt to floor WHILE you look around your space. The more you can hold these two practices, the more easily your nervous system can settle.
You can also do this practice when you are out in the world by remembering the back of your body and scanning to receive information about your surroundings.
After all, the more you notice, the more you can attend to yourself.
While I have moments of worry (okay, more than moments), I also have a sweet moment in the morning where I leave it to the side.
You may have a practice that works for you. Continue.
You may want to try a new practice. Do that.
I have always been a supporter of daily practice, but not a very consistent practice-er. I am grateful that I began a consistent practice last year, long before I thought I needed it.
And as my meditation teachers keep reminding me, even when I fall off the practice, I can always begin again.
(Or for the first time)
There are three practices I have consistently followed, allowing me to come back to my body and back to the present moment where I can feel still. Where the world and the news and the reality of this time are not pushing me to the ground.
When I meditate, I use an app on my phone. It’s simple, it gives me a daily offering that’s only 10 minutes, and it is ready when I am. I sit with the practice of the day and there are some days when I’ve just cried through it. There are other days when I think I did it ‘well.’ And there are other days when my mind just races back and forth between worry and judgment. But there are always a few moments of peace. And that is the practice. Come back. Come back.
(I like Insight Timer, 10% Happier, and Waking Up, but there are many others. Or there are videos online that are free. I’d suggest a short meditation at first. It’s manageable and simple.)
Breathwork is something that can be adjusted for your needs. I have followed breathwork recordings because that helped me understand how to breathe and how to let go of the voices that often ask: ‘am I doing this right?’
I also offer that taking a deep breath into the lower belly for four counts, holding for four counts, and releasing for six counts is also something that works for me. You can choose another set. I’ve found that having a longer exhalation is helpful for reducing stress.
I’ve also done breathwork that looks like an inhale until comfortably full and then immediately going into the exhale, then immediately into the inhale again. This is a more active and releasing process, and one that can offer more intense experiences.
(Pushing Beauty has a video on YouTube that can help. Or I’ve done work with Neurodynamic Breathwork, a website that connects folks from around the world in Zoom sessions.)
Things get stuck in me (and maybe you too) so moving my body each day has become as essential as water. I have a goal of walking for at least 30 minutes a day, coming into contact not only with the outside world, but also my muscles and nature.
I’m also starting to incorporate dance and shaking to help loosen the grip of stress and trauma sensations. Move as long as it feels good. Move as much as feels right for you. Even the smallest movement is one that keeps things flowing.
(My current favorite playlist to move is the Warrior album by Anilah – https://open.spotify.com/album/1lGnDJI9s5Me5OLtx1REq5.)
May we continue to care for ourselves as best we can.
May we continue to return to the present moment.
May we find each other again, ever more resilient.
May we remember that we are a spell that transcends time and location.
And when we return to the dance of togetherness, may we return whole.