I went away this year for New Year's. I decided to get away from the urban experience of New Year's - the busyness, the parties, the expectations and let-downs I always experience at this time of year. I traveled down to the Himalayan Institute (http://www.himalayaninstitute.org/) for a weekend of yoga, meditation, learning, and rest. I wandered in the forests that surround the Institute, ate fabulous organic vegetarian food, did gentle yoga practices and heard wonderful teachings that reminded me of the teacher and healer inside me. It was the most wonderful way to spend a New Year's, and a perfect way to welcome 2012. I returned feeling nurtured, rested, inspired, whole.
One thing that stood out to me, and has stayed with me, was something one of the teachers, Rolf Sovik said. He said (and I paraphrase terribly, because he is a wonderful, wise, articulate teacher) that the way we hold our body determines our health. When we hold ourselves tightly in our body, we can develop poor health, disease, pain. Dis-ease. I began thinking of where I hold myself. Where I grasp. I immediately thought of my belly. Since the age of 12, I've been aware that my belly sticks out, and, taking my cue from the flat bellies of Hollywood and fashion magazines, I began holding it all in. I also experience anxiety quite often in my life, and I can tell when my anxiety is ramping up, when I feel the tightness in my belly. Deep inside. A grasping and holding of everything in there, in an attempt to hold it all together and keep myself from falling apart. I think it is much more than a coincidence that I have suffered with Irritable Bowel Syndrome since I was a teenager, and have all kinds of strange things happening in my reproductive organs. And when I hear the health complaints of women around me, young and old, they often are in the belly region. OF COURSE!! Cause we're grasping, holding on, keeping ourselves tight and held in! And when we hold onto something, in the physical body, there is tension, and an inability to release and let go of toxins. Physical, and emotional toxins.
There are various places in my body I hold tension - my jaw, neck, shoulders. I'm sure you can scan your body right now, and identify where you hold, where you grasp. And the grasping comes from places of stress, anxiety, the desire to hold ourselves together. To keep on keeping on.
I also hold on, tightly, in my mind. In the revelations that have come since my little yoga retreat, I realize I've become quite a control freak in the past few years - I hold on to my schedules, to my rules, to my need to impress and be affirmed, I hold on to the thoughts and feelings I have, playing them over and over again in my mind. I grasp onto worrying. Oh, I worry and worry and worry like I think it's going to help me solve anything. And to be honest, my mind is pretty tired these days! With all the holding and grasping, it's exhausted. It needs a rest. I can't imagine the dis-ease that is going on in my mind. Or, rather, I can. It's symptoms are confusion, forgetfulness, anxiety, depression, a desire to escape, unkind self-talk.
So, after my time away and a wonderful reminder that grasping is bad for my health, physically and mentally, I'm setting an intention for 2012, to be soft. To rest in softness. To notice when I'm holding my belly, and soften into deep, soothing breath. To notice when I'm holding onto a thought pattern that brings me sorrow or frustration, and to let it go. To choose to say no to things, events, people, if there is tension and grasping attached. To choose to NOT plan and scheme and schedule, but to soften into whatever happens throughout my day.
And I have to happily report, in the first 10 days of the new year, as I have responded to things with softness, amazing things have happened already, things being taken care of that I would normally have worried and stewed about, and analyzed to death. As I soften, let go, un-grasp, things unfold beautifully, perfectly, healthily. [and, incidentally, non-grasping is one of the yoga principles - aparigraha - non-grasping! to read more about this, please see this great article: http://www.healthy.net/Health/Article/The_Ten_Living_Principles_Yamas_and_Niyamas/2410/2]
To 2012, to softness!!!