Hello friends. How are you doing? No, really. How are you managing during this pandemic?

stormThis is a great question to ask ourselves right now. Being thrust into the unknown, forced to accommodate and make changes to almost every aspect of our lives, is the perfect storm to bring up our shadow selves – reacting impulsively to situations rather than responding consciously.

Words of wisdom – this is normal and you’re not alone!

Over the last 4 to 6 weeks since sheltering at home, I’ve given myself permission to complain, resist, push against, be frustrated, have a tantrum, be afraid, and be lonely. If you’re not allowing your emotions to arise, please immediately check your pulse!

Change is the catalyst that gives rise to uncertainty.

When uncertainty arises, fear usually follows in its wake. In a state of fear, the sympathetic nervous system takes over, and we do what we’ve done best our whole lives – survive.

But there’s a difference between survive and thrive. Yogis long to thrive – to live fully, to follow your heart, to not play small. But faced with the uncertainty of change, our survival instinct kicks into gear and there isn’t much we can do about it. Or is there?

I heard a very interesting podcast recently on the TED Radio Hour comparing loneliness to solitude. Loneliness results when we’re forced into being alone against our will, like for many of us during the pandemic. Solitude is a choice and has many benefits. In fact, we all need time alone every day to gather ourselves, to feel our feelings, to check in with ourselves and see what we need. Solitude is the choice to meditate and do other things that help us release stress and gain a wider perspective.

During the day, we are thrown again and again into survival mode from the media, from our living situation, and from real fears about money, health, and the unknown future. In addition, we are faced every day with losing a loved one or a friend or knowing someone who’s lost a loved one. As a society, we’re experiencing grief – not just from the loss of life, but from the loss of the familiar.

For me, the kicker is not knowing how long social distancing is going to last. Most of you know that I plan my schedule a year in advance. All of my spring and now summer workshops and trainings have been cancelled or soon will be cancelled. This has thrown me into a kind of creative panic. I’ve been innovating online courses and classes.

I’m looking into the future with really different eyes now.

Just today I asked myself, “What if this were it? What if the life I have lived and the work I’ve done my whole adult life of teaching in the live, physical presence of others, was over?” Gulp! I took a hard swallow and then let my creativity cruise into the future.

I am very happy to announce that, so far, barring all of the technical glitches, I’ve been very fulfilled offering online classes. Those who are in my Pillars of Peace, Ashaya Morning Practice 30-Day Challenge know the value of having this contact every day. This challenge organizes my day in a strange but efficient way. Not only does the challenge provide a connection to the wonderful students and friends I miss, but I feel just about the same as I do when I’m offering classes in person. When I allow myself to become absorbed in the moment, I’m not able to detect much of a difference between live presence and online presence.

sittingI think the key word here is “presence”. That has more to do with where I am inside myself, than what’s going on outside of me. I still prefer teaching in the physical presence of others. But what if this were it? How would I make it real? How would I release my resistance to it or my incessant pattern of making this wrong, making the pandemic wrong, making life wrong, and, well, living as the victim? In being present with what is, I’ve been able to accept and embrace the situation and make the best of it.

When I’m in the moment purely, without making the moment wrong or needing the moment to be any different than it is, my heart opens and I feel connected. My loneliness dissolves.

If you find yourself feeling lonely, here are some things that I’ve found to really help me shift to feeling more connected to myself and to others.

  1. Daily practice of meditation. Meditation helps develop your capacity to be present with what is and cut through the veil of trying to change the unchangeable. Meditation is a great way to cope with uncertainty such that you no longer fear uncertainty, rather you embrace it. As much as we need certainty to feel safe and be able to let go and trust we’ll be okay, we need uncertainty. Why? Because “….uncertainty is the only true certainty,” Douglas Brooks. Life moves forward with or without your consent. We cannot hold on to certainty for very long because it turns to uncertainty. The value of uncertainty is that it places us on the forward edge of the moment. Instead of causing anxiety, if we know that uncertainty is a “vitamin” we need to expand our consciousness, we can use it to our advantage. The head needs certainty. We need to know what’s going to happen before it happens. This dissolves fear. But it’s unrealistic. The heart thrives on uncertainty. Uncertainty brings a sense of adventure, a sense of something new, unknown, unexpected. It contains within it the potential for wonder and awe, for discovery and creativity. Uncertainty brings back our passion for living. It opens us to grace and puts us in touch with the grand adventure and mystery of life. It’s so easy to forget about grace when we’re in survival mode. Uncertainty is worth keeping around. But it needs to be balanced with enough certainty so that you can feel safe and calm. Meditation helps with this.
  2. Daily practice of asanas. This helps to maintain your health and offers a basic physical maintenance practice every day whether you exercise or not. Yoga builds strength, flexibility, and balance and increases circulation. The steady focused breathing improves your immune system and strengthens your lungs.
  3. Exercise Outside. I try to get outside once a day to either do an aerobic workout like biking, hiking, jogging, or walking, or doing yardwork. I did some raking, trimming of shrubs, and picking up sticks today in my yard and I got really hot even though the temperature was only 45º F. This satisfied my need for fresh air and sunlight. I biked hard yesterday (37 miles) so I needed to rest today. I try to manage my exercise every week. Getting outside and breathing fresh air is vital to overcoming loneliness.
  4. Connections with people. Pick up the phone and call a loved one, text, or do a zoom call. I’m participating in several online groups and I really enjoy seeing everyone and interacting with them. It’s not the same as being in each other’s physical presence. But there’s an exchange of energy and through listening and the practice of empathy, the human exchange of love is achieved.
  5. Meaningful work or a hobby you love. If you’re able to work, pour your heart into it. Get innovative and creative to shift your platform to online as needed. Or get absorbed in your favorite hobby, make music, make art, or do some service work to benefit others. I’m taking this time to memorize a very long mantra I’ve been learning through Neelakantha Meditation. The mantra is several pages long and I’m amazed at how the brain works to remember the lines. I used to memorize complete Mozart Sonatas when I practiced classical piano in high school and college. Memorizing mantras reminds me of the same skill. This really works the brain!
  6. Good entertainment. This is the perfect time to catch up on your reading or watch your favorite show on Netflix. Don’t shame yourself for vegging out. It’s okay. I watched an episode of “A Late Show” with Stephen Colbert last night and laughed hysterically out loud all by myself. Sometimes his zaniness just rips me up inside. Belly laughing is very healing. Give yourself the gift of watching something funny and have yourself a belly laugh. We need things that we look forward to and a good book or some other entertainment that you enjoy is necessary.
  7. Gratitude. Every day, no matter how small or insignificant you think it is, find five things you’re grateful for. For me today I’m grateful for:
  • getting yardwork done before the rain
  • having a wonderful morning practice
  • feeding the bluebirds
  • having a conversation with family
  • gazing at the five newly hatched featherless bluebird babies in the nest in my backyard

bluebirdsMay you connect even more deeply with those you love (even if it is only online right now). May you shift out of the space of loneliness and choose solitude. May you be in your heart evermore content to accept uncertainty as an invitation to creativity and adventure.

I invite you to connect with me and the Ashaya Community online through one of my online offerings or by listening to one of my recent podcast appearances.

I offer you blessings of connection, solitude, and love. Hang in there!

Namaste,

Todd

 

ONLINE OFFERINGS

COURSE TITLE DATE(S) INVESTMENT
Blankets of Grace: Practices for Sound Sleep and Deep Rest May 13, 15, 18, 20, 22, 2020, 5:00-5:45pm ET $45.00 Includes Five Live Classes with Todd, One Bonus Q&A Class, and Access to all Five Recordings
Pillars of Peace 30 Day Meditation Challenge April 13-May 12, 8:00am ET for daily meditation, 8:45-9am M/W/F for asana

More dates coming soon!

$155 with optional Asana sessions, $120 for meditation only includes all live classes, bonus sessions and access to all recordings
Facebook Live Classes: Practices for Inner Peace in Turbulent Times Tuesdays at 5pm, Thursdays at 9am FREE Community Offering

 

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