Some years are tidier, well-groomed and more user friendly than others. This past year has not been one of them for me. 2017 has been a year of dismantling--of my life falling apart. It's been a year marked most distinctly by "the ugly cry." Those who know me well can attest to this fact. This year has been one of the messiest years of my life.
While it hasn't been easy to embrace the mess, I am learning how to give it a space in my life. A similar thing happened when I began to learn to paint a couple of years ago. I found that if I really wanted to let myself have fun and enjoy the process fully, then I had to create an environment suitable to spills, drips and unfinished works of art that could be left lying around until I could circle back to them. So I created a small studio space in my home and dedicated it as my corner of creative chaos. This way my mess could be contained and didn't infringe on the rest of the household. While our emotional lives can't be quite so compartmentalized, there is wisdom in discovering how to contain our personal messes so that they don't hijack the joy from the rest of our lives.
I have a dear friend that tragically lost her husband in a car accident several years ago, leaving her a widow at 35 with two small children. I remember a conversation I had with her about how she was managing her grief and I was deeply moved by what she shared. She said that she was overcome by pain and sadness in the first few months and then one day she decided that she would allow herself a certain amount of time each day to cry, get angry and feel hopeless. After that allotted time each day, she would do what she could to care for herself and her family focusing on life rather than loss. Experimenting with this practice in my own life, I can attest to its power. When I give the mess some space and attend to it regularly, it doesn't seem as overwhelming or catastrophic.
Most of us haven't learned how to be with the unruly feelings of anger, sadness, despair, and loneliness directly, letting them move through our being without getting caught up the stories of meaning that we attach to them. The stories keep us at a safe distance from what our nervous system registers as a dangerous or uncontrollable threat. But the truth is that emotions are just different forms of energy needing a pathway for expression. The good news is that it takes far less time to fully process an emotion than you might think.
Here is an interesting fact that comes from brain research: It takes less than 90 seconds for an emotion to get triggered, surge through the blood stream then get flushed out. There is an automatic and chemical response in the body that lasts no longer than a minute and a half, yet by resisting and fighting our emotions, we choose to hang onto them indefinitely allowing them to coagulate in the body/mind matrix.
I know that each of our lives is proportionally blessed and a mess. Instead of trying to clean up the mess once and for all or pretend it doesn't exist, why not make a place for it in your life? I began this year declaring that it would be about personal mastery and then got the "messy" assignment! Indeed, I have been initiated into a new level of growth and the journey of following my soul's call continues. Just because this year is coming to a calendar close doesn’t mean I have to try to wrap it in a bow to impose a sense of orderly endings. However, I can focus on the fact that in the mess I am discovering some amazing opportunities to live with a much greater sense of freedom and joy.
Thank you 2017 for the mess, the mastery and the magic. . . .
Shakti Shake: a practice for transforming difficult emotions
In the Yogic tradition, Shakti is the creative life force that weaves through all of creation and moves the entire cosmos. This energetic principle expresses in an infinite number of ways and within each living thing. From this perspective, we can practice developing a sacred relationship with this creative impulse and discover how it wants to move through us on any given day. Utilizing the powerful yogic trifecta of breath, movement and sound to release the emotions creates a safe space for the messes of our minds and hearts to spill consciously. Try this practice next time you're triggered by a strong emotional reaction: Find a place where you can be alone and undisturbed. Stand with your feet a little wider than your hips and allow your knees to be soft. Tune into your body and notice where you feel the sensation of the emotion. Breathe a few deep breaths and begin to gently shake your body. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Follow your intuitive impulse to shake softly or with more vigor. You can use music to support your process. Explore different tempos and invite any sounds to be expressed. Keep going as long as you need to until the charge of the emotion dissipates. Then rest in stillness for a few minutes to feel the effects of the practice.
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