With the impact of the Delta variant of the Covid 19 pandemic, with suffering from effects of climate change all around the globe, and the intensity of the political polarization that affects much of our global population, it seems more important than ever to have available a practice that allows us to return to the steadiness that is always present in the core of our being, in our internal home base. Many times a day, I bring myself back to this awareness, when I find myself drifting into lines of thinking that either fuel activation or intensify feelings of helplessness in the face of all that is happening.
We know from work with trauma that cultivating the “noticing brain”—which is our present-day observer awareness—calms activation and helps the body and psyche to settle. “Noticing” is a lot different from “thinking”. It represents simply becoming aware of what is happening—what’s arising in this moment in our physical experience, our emotions, and our thoughts. Once we are aware, we have more choice. We can consciously choose to seek out sensations of settling, of steadiness—of whatever the qualities are that help us to center and ground ourselves.
For this week’s practice, I offer a brief approach that supports a return to steadiness and ease when you feel overwhelmed or captured by what’s going on in the world around you. As with all practices, play with this one so that it suits your sensibilities and style of settling. What follows are suggestions for how the process might unfold for you. You can do this standing, sitting, or lying down.
- Begin by bringing your awareness to your internal “home base”, the place where you naturally settle when you follow your next out-breath down into your body.
- At the bottom of the breath, chances are that you will automatically arrive at your internal center of gravity, your place of core presence.
- Notice that there is an ever-present steadiness in this core aspect of your being, a steadiness that is never disturbed.
- Take a few moments to sense or feel into the steadiness and notice what you experience in your body and psyche.
- Then, shift your attention to your “noticing brain”, to the benevolent present-day observer in you that you are using in this practice, that aspect of awareness that simply notices your body’s sensations, the tone of your emotions, the quality of your thoughts. This isn’t a part of your awareness that judges or criticizes in any way. It simply notices.
- Something you might add in here is an awareness of the presence of a pervasive silence that exists “behind” every thought, every feeling, every physical sensation, every urge, every action. It is a field of silence that I often lean into in order to touch into the gentle support that the silence offers.
- Notice what happens now if you invite a sense of ease into your experience in whatever ways that make sense to you. The key here is to offer yourself a bit of a respite from all that may be going on around you or in your own experience.
- You might also explore what kinds of thoughts support a deepening ease. Sometimes a mantra, something like Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Breathing in, I arrive; breathing out, I am home” can offer a deeper sense of ease, a more fully-engaged experience of dropping into the present moment.
- When you feel settled, give yourself a bit of time—maybe you only have a few moments, and that’s fine—to soak in and enjoy the experience. Imagine that your body and your whole psyche resonate with the tone and quality of being settled and steady, and notice the sensations that accompany this experience.
- It’s useful to become quite familiar with your sensations of being settled, of feeling steady, as this will make it easier to return to this state when you want or need it.
- When you are ready to end this practice, take a few moments to orient back to your internal home base, your core presence, if you’ve ventured away from that focus, and again touch into or imagine the steadiness that’s always there. If you have trouble feeling the steadiness, ask yourself: “If I could experience the steadiness in my core, what would I feel?”
- To bring yourself all the way back, take a moment now to slowly allow your eyes to open, slowly look around you, and wiggle fingers and toes or move in some other way that gently invites you back into the embodied here and now of your current environment.
As with all these practices, please remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion and 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.