To me, these past few months have been the embodiment of the message of the changing seasons, especially Autumn. We have had the pause button pressed on our lives and most of us had to, quite suddenly, stop, adapt, and adopt a different direction. A different way of living than what we were used to. Many of us have found it a huge shock and quite challenging letting go of the life that we once knew as certain, the one we thought we were in control of, and shifting into a 'new' state of complete uncertainty.
While some of us were able to flow with the changes and even embrace the excitement of this, others have found the feeling of things being out of our control, overwhelming, and consequently, found this time stifling or stressful. Many of us have experienced loss - a job, a friend/family member, our social life, our old ways and ideas, our freedom. For these we may feel a sense of grief. Many of us are in fight or flight mode, wondering how we will survive.
But as we head into the last weeks of Autumn, one thing we can learn from her is that change is essential for life and really, the only constant in our lives. Much of this loss is ultimately essential for our wellbeing. Just like the seasons, the sky, the moon, the sea - all of nature itself, we are always growing, changing and evolving.
Let's look at the tree - when its leaves have had their time - they change their colours and then drop away. As the leaves are shed, the trees begin to look bare and fragile but underlying their exposed branches and apparent weakness is strength and regeneration. However, if the tree was to hold on too tightly to its leaves and refuse to let go there would be no space for it to renew, grow, and experience rebirth when the seasons change once more. The tree would become unwell, and possibly even die off as it's not allowing itself to flow with the natural rhythms of its life.
Nature continues to remind us that through change, there is always an opportunity for growth. For us to be able to flow and cope with change more easily, we must too learn to understand this process, and recognise it's an important part of our human existence. Letting go and releasing what no longer serves us is an imperative part of life. For, like the tree needs its time and space to regenerate and renew, we too need this and holding on to things too tightly, can ultimately lead to us being unwell, or at the least, being unable to grow and move forward in life.
So how can we become a bit more comfortable with change? Here are some ideas:
1. Tadasana - Mountain Pose
In our Chair Yoga practice, we almost always begin our practice in Tadasana - Sitting Mountain. Here we find the foundation for our practice. In this pose not only do we find good alignment and a safe place for our physical body to begin our practice, but we find our feet on the ground, our head held high and a sense of being like a mountain - strong, stable, solid and secure. When we practice this on the chair, we begin to realise that we can find this within, and no matter what happens around us, we will always be able to go with the flow of things, knowing that we can always come back to our foundation and find the sense of steadiness within... our inner mountain.
Here's how to practice Tadasana on the chair.
2. Remember to Breathe Out
When we become overwhelmed or stressed, we may find ourselves taking short, fast, shallow breaths or, even holding the breath. The flow and change of the breath inside are what keeps us alive. When we hold our breath, we are pausing life inside us - and if we didn't exhale then...well we know what would happen. When we exhale, we begin breathing again and this allows us to reconnect to life. In our Yoga practice, like in everyday life we will be challenged by certain situations, and restrictions (external or internal). One thing that is always with us, is our breath and it will always lead us back home, to the present moment. If we can find more length in our exhale and allow ourselves to breathe deeply and gently through these times, we can find an all-over softening that will help us to flow through the changes with more ease.
3. "Relax, Nothing is in Your Control" (Adi Da Samraj)
Let's be honest, it's not easy for humans to understand this. But it may be the biggest blessing when we realise that nothing outside of ourselves, is or ever was, in our control. When we fully comprehend this, we can start to shift our attention from the fear and apparent darkness of the external world to the love and light inside our hearts.
What we focus on, we feed, and what we feed, grows.
There is no such thing as 'what if', only 'what is'. Focusing solely on what we perceive should be or should have been, means having expectations or attachments. We are then living in the past or the future and not in the present moment.
Remember these tips when you feel yourself needing to be in control of things outside yourself or getting stuck in the future or past.
Find your inner mountain.
Find your way home through your breath.
Remember that although we may not have control over what happens around us, we do have control over our response. And we can always choose to respond with love.
It may not feel like it now, or when we are in the midst of something challenging, but this will pass because nothing is permanent - not even the bad stuff! And when it does what will we have learned from it? One thing we can be certain of is that we will grow and expand from this experience and when we move onto the next thing, perhaps we will find out it was all a blessing in disguise…