Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Respite


How's your anxiety?

I was reflecting on the idea of 'being like water,' when Bruce Lee's quote came across my desk. 'You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot.'

This made it more tangible. I imagined that the borders of my body, the edges between me and the world, wherever they are, softened and I became like liquid. It triggered an automatic relax. Respite.

I used this often while walking around the trails this month. I would stop and stand for a second to let the image settle me. Granted the setting is spectacular: trees and hills and streams and lakes, and the birdsong fills the air at that time of day. But I've done the same practice in the local grocery store during senior's shopping hours when everyone seems to be on edge. I stopped and stood still for a second to let the image of 'being like water' settle me. 

As I settled, it became more clear where I was holding physical tension: That day while shopping it was neck/shoulder, lower back. But even more interesting (and sometimes more challenging), it also became clear where I was holding mental and emotional tension. And I could see how quickly my mind wanted to jump back into battle. And if I engaged, I could see how quickly my body lost that relaxed 'being like water' state.

It's a practice. 

Even better, it's a fun practice. Stuff like this works best when playful and undemanding, not attached to any idea of success or achievement. Just having fun. So when I forget what I was doing and remember a bit later, it's like, "Oh right. I was having fun. So I'll do that more."

What feels fun can work for a while or it can change day to day. A few days later when I found myself needing to relax and breathe, I tried the water thing and, meh, it was ok, but not really doing it. So, ok. I relaxed and tried something different. I took the resting, open stance I take when 'listening" to the trees - not looking for anything, just enjoying the presence of the trees. I felt immediately more relaxed. It felt fun. 

It's not just fun because it's playful. It's fun because it's a respite. 

I think we need respite. 

If like me, you have a toolbox full of ideas or things that have worked for you in the past, scan through and see which seem the most fun for today, or for the next few hours. When we live through times of high anxiety, anything that brings us back to our centre is useful. 

I have a few more ideas here on the How-To page and the Meditations page.

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