We are all feeling so much right now, processing a lot of news, figuring out how to prepare and how to adapt- at home and at work. What we may not realize is that we are grieving as well. Grieving for what is unfolding, for what will not be, and also for the unknowns of the future.
While this situation is enormously complex, and the effects of it all will affect us each differently, there is also something surprisingly unifying. We are all in this together, it is not just one country or state or city or family.
Here are some tips and tools from my yoga, mindfulness, and grief practices to support your mind/mind/spirit in this trans-formative time. I hope they can help, and I know personally they do.
- Elisabeth Kubler-Ross laid out the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, sadness, bargaining, acceptance. They were not her last words about the process and often are taken too literally, yet they are good signposts. Notice what you are thinking and feeling- which one might apply to your current state of being with all this?
- This is a chaotic time, whether your life has come to a full stop, or you are actively engaged in an essential function. What can you do that helps you personally calm down, slow down, tune in, pause, and be present. Ask yourself, “what am I aware of right now?…How am I relating to myself and the moment right now?…What is needed, if anything?..
- One of the most powerful self-compassion tools is to bring your awareness to your heart center, or to breathe into your heart center, or to put your hand or hands upon your sternum. Sometimes, this is enough. Feel the sensations. No words needed. Just the feeling of connecting to your heart center can be soothing. Think of this as stocking up on compassion, kindness, and patience too.
- Find safe ways to express your feelings and ideally to feel them through for a few minutes at a time. The more we deny, distract, project, suppress our feelings- the more problems they create in our body and in our relationships. In lieu of a safe person, there is always pen and paper- write them down, let it rip, and rip it up or burn it if you are worried about it being read. The point is to get it out, externalize it. Sometimes it is pure catharsis (it is a good sign if you cry while you are writing), sometimes it leads to insight (it doesn’t have to), let go of analyzing why or problem solving (you can talk back to the voice that goes there quickly).
- We all have different ways of processing our feelings: exercise, dance, art, music, nature, talking, meditating, praying, playing. You don’t have to put words to them, but you do need to feel them, honor them, let them flow rather than simply sit. Emotion implies motion. Give yourself permission to feel what you feel and see where it takes you. There is a short poem by Mary Oliver that expresses this perfectly:
We shake with joy, we shake with grief.
What a time they have, these two
housed as they are in the same body.
- One practice I have been doing spontaneously lately is simple breath awareness, or conscious breathing. Just being more aware of my breath coming and going throughout the day, as I am doing what I am doing. Letting it be and appreciating what it is. I am thinking of this as breath affiliation. We all need to breathe to be alive. Breath is the symbol of our birth and death. For now I am indeed alive and well. I can breathe well for all those that may be struggling. Jon Kabat Zinn often said “practice as if your life depends on it, because it does.” I always marveled that he made the mindfulness practice truly seem so critical. Today it truly is.
Natasha Korshak is a long-time teacher and trainer of yoga, meditation, mindfulness and MBSR, and has been working in the field of integrative health and wellness her entire professional career. She is a graduate of the Interfaith Theological Seminary and an ordained Interfaith Minister specializing in contemplative practice, grief processing, and spiritual direction. Her study and training of mind/body/spirit methods is extensive and she has learned from many of the pioneers in their discipline. As the founder and director of the Sol Center she is well regarded for her depth, warmth, authenticity, and the smile in her voice.