As I write this practice, we are entering a week in the United States where we are being asked to practice a high degree of “social distancing”. For many of us, that means doing our work on-line. For some of us, it means staying home and not interacting with other people for now. The purpose of this need for many of us to not be in contact with people any more than we absolutely have to is to slow down the transmission of the current coronavirus outbreak so that our health-care system isn’t overwhelmed.
Without question, these are activating and stressful times, and I wanted to share a couple of practices that I’m using to steady myself. Our collective field of human consciousness is intensely activated and that affects us all. Whenever any one of us can orient to steadiness and ease our own levels of activation, we immediately and automatically contribute that shift to everyone else.
One of the practices I use daily, which I’ve shared before and which comes from the work of Peter Levine, the founder of Somatic Experiencing®, is to make the sound “voo” each morning before I begin the day. In the way I use this process, I take an easy breath and, as I exhale without effort, I make the sound “voo”. When you do this, allow yourself to make the sound in whatever tone allows you to feel it vibrate throughout your abdomen, all the way down to the bottom. Then, when the breath is complete, I take in the next gentle inhalation and make the sound again. I recommend that you do this three times and notice how you feel. Be sure to track your physical sensations and orient to wherever you may feel more settled.
The sound “voo” stimulates the vagus nerve and there is a lot of research now indicating that this nerve has a powerful and positive effect on the immune system when it is “toned”. Sounding the “voo” is one way to do this toning.
Another practice I have is to track how I might be “adding logs to the fire”, how I may leave the present moment and begin to think about scary future scenarios. While planning and generating options is a positive thing, thinking about terrible things that might happen isn’t. For me, it’s a powerful practice to continue to come back to this moment, right here, right now, and notice that I’m okay enough in this present moment. If you choose to experiment with this practice, an important aspect of it is to be gentle with yourself, to never criticize yourself for getting caught up in a negative train of thought. Instead, it’s important to metaphorically put an arm around yourself and gently invite yourself back into the present moment, back into the next breath, back into the here and now.
Another practice I like is to settle into my body and become aware of my spine and pelvic floor, to feel how my spine supports my body and how my pelvic floor is a solid and steady place to land. A favorite similar kind of practice I used to share with people all the time had to do with following the out-breath all the way down to a wide bowl resting on the pelvic floor and, then, to pour my consciousness into that bowl and rest there. If you choose to explore this one, begin by noticing your spine and pelvic floor (your skeleton creates your body’s internal infrastructure) and then follow your out-breath down into the bowl resting on your pelvic floor. Notice what works for you to imagine that you are pouring your consciousness into that bowl, that your consciousness follows the out-breath all the way down to the bottom.
It’s helpful to remember that we are all in this together, in this country and around the world. Our entire human family is part of this pandemic and if we can remember to orient to kindness and compassion—for ourselves and for everyone else—we serve our collective consciousness in a powerful and constructive way.
Also, please remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion as you explore what practices work best for you. And, especially, remember to pat gently on the head any judgments that may arise, allowing them to move on through without your having to do anything about them.