The Practices That Sustain Us, Part II

We’re now in the third week since a State of Emergency was declared in Michigan due to the Coronavirus. Our lives have changed drastically within a short amount of time. It’s okay to acknowledge that this is really hard.  

As a follow-up to last week’s blog post, we’d like to share more on how GRCFM team members have been meeting their difficult experiences snce the impact of the pandemic began sinking in, and what practices have been important to us in these challenging times.  

We hope our stories give you comfort in knowing you’re not alone in what you’re feeling (we all struggle!), and encourage you to discover practices that will support and sustain you, both in daily life while practicing physical distancing, and into the future.

April Kaiserlian, LMSW, Co-Founder and Instructor:

I was holding it together, feeling confident even, as the news began to make its way across the airwaves about a virus that was traveling over the ocean and how people were starting to get scared.

A familiar voice began to chatter in my mind:

“Oh, I’ll be fine.”
“I know how to deal with uncertainty.”
“I practice mindfulness for moments like this.”

I didn’t know it at the time, but my own fear and anxiety were starting to grow, and the voice in my head was doing its best to keep it at bay. A few nights later, I found myself sitting up in my bed at 2:00 am, my chest tight and my mind reeling.

And the voice in my head got a little mean:

“You should be able to handle this.”
“You should have been better prepared.”
“How embarrassing! You’re a mindfulness teacher, after all.”

My anxiety took me to task, humbled me, broke down my defenses, and broke my heartfor me, for my family, for my neighbors, and for the world.

I knew there was only one response, only one approach that made sense: I needed to approach my anxious and grieving heart, along with all of the hearts all around me, with compassionate acceptance.

I placed my hand on my heart, and I redirected the voice in my head as I offered myself these words: “Oh April! Of course, you are scared! You do not know what is going to happen. You were feeling comfortable and secure, and now you feel nervous and afraid. You had hopes and dreams and plans, and now some of those things may not happen.”

I drifted off to sleep to a gentle chorus of, “Of course. Of course. Of course.”

Long-time meditation teacher Jack Kornfield says, “The purpose of a spiritual discipline is to give us a way to stop the war”¦Ongoing spiritual practice can help us cultivate a new way of relating to life in which we let go of our battles.”

I have many tools I can use in these days of uncertainty. I can reach out to loved ones. I can go for a walk, take a nap, read poetry, and practice mindfulness. But the tool that has been the most helpful for me is to stop the war against myself and my anxiety again and again. To allow myself to be and to feel. To accept my experience and to approach myself with kindness, one moment at a time.

And so I will offer to you some words that will forever be my favorite words to stop the war against fear, anxiety, grief, and pain. These words are from psychotherapist and meditation teacher Sylvia Boorstein. Place your hand on your heart, wrap yourself in a soft blanket, hold a warm beverage, and say to yourself, “Sweetheart. You are struggling. Relax. Take a breath. And then we will figure out what to do.”

Katy Chapman, Instructor:

This interesting and different time has me using most of the practice tools in my tool belt! On top of regular stress, I’ve been dealing with the need for a large home repair and other household issues. I’m making sure to practice lots of self-care—making and sharing good food with my family is a very nourishing practice for me. I’m also making sure I get good rest and daily hikes, exploring new trails almost every day. This is helping me manage my parenting, work, and related schedules.

As far as formal practice, I have been doing a lot of focus practice, often on the breath or on the sound of birds (a love I share with my son). I have been using the “Sweetheart” practice to give myself compassion, and using body scans and lovingkindness phrases surrounding sleep. And I’ve been using the STOP Practice for sure, for times of difficulty with others.  

I’m so grateful to have my mindfulness tools and to be more present now, for myself and my family, both in times when the going is rough and in times of joy and delight.️

Lori Schermers, RD, Instructor:

“Mindfulness is another voice to listen to besides the one in our heads,” is a statement I often share when teaching. This has held especially true for me these past couple weeks as I navigate the fear, sadness, and many changes related to the pandemic.  

Listening to more guided meditations in my meditation practice has been supportive for me in many ways. Having a soothing voice to listen to allows me to focus my attention when I am feeling more distractible.  

I appreciate the sense of connection with others. While I would never have wished for this situation, I have never previously experienced the depth of common humanity I have felt over the past couple weeks. When overwhelmed by strong emotions, knowing everyone is in this together is soothing to me.

I love cooking, yoga, and being outdoors. Appreciating the opportunity to do things I enjoy in a more leisurely way has been settling for me. Savoring time with family and friends has also brought me much joy amidst the angst.  

May you care for yourself with JOY.  

Finding Your Own Way Through

While there are common threads in how each of us has met these circumstances, our practices look different, according to our individual values and needs. We’d like to share again: There is no right way to see your way through this time, and even what works for you personally might look different from one day to the next, or even moment to moment. Now more than ever, we will benefit from listening to our inner guidance to hear what our next step is. Taking even a moment to be still and present with your breath will unlock the path to your own ease during the storm.

Please let us know what is helping you get through this moment in time! Share your practice on our Facebook Pageyou never know who you might inspire or support. And if you aren’t quite sure what works for you yet, join mindfulness organizations from across Michigan for free online guided meditations throughout the month of April. Or head over to our new YouTube Channel for a few of our favorite, short meditations.

We are here for you!

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