6.5
September 25, 2021

3 Everyday Practices to Help us Learn & Unlearn our Identity.

 

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Patience. Learning to sit. Waiting. 

As one of the gazillion people who jumped on the pandemic puppy rescue wagon, I am still trying to figure out how not to be my dog’s dog. Thank God I lost my job due to COVID-19 because who has the time to manage this child wrapped in oreo-colored fur and never mind her endless energy.

Like my double-espresso-charged fur baby, I have been relearning all those basic skills above and applying the pause button as opposed to the push button. I haven’t yet received treats for this practice, but my resilience and coping skills are gaining strength, and who couldn’t use a little more of that!?

As someone who has always been a push-through kinda person, I am finding the need to be slower, softer, gentler with myself.

I think that’s what the Tao Te Ching might be implying with verse number 43: “The gentlest thing in the world overcomes the hardest thing in the world.”

Consider the power of water. It is fluid, soft, flows, and breaks down the hardest of the elements. Kinda like how love beats hostility. And don’t we need some more of this in the world right now?

Love, hate, light, dark, easy, hard, happy, sad. You get the drift. Why is it often difficult for us to understand that if we really want to experience joy, well then, the only way to know it is to be able to experience the other side of it, too?

What happens if we are able to apply this kind of awareness to our mental state when things aren’t going quite as planned? A better question might be, what happens when we don’t?

Pretty much everything is temporary. As someone who has struggled with the ins and outs of depression, the depth of the yoga practice helps me to realize the consciousness that separates thought from awareness. I still have meltdowns, but they happen less and are more like small storms as opposed to torrential hurricanes. Perhaps there’s a little thunder, but no more flooding.

How much of our identity is wrapped up in this temporary status? Our job, money, social media followers, relationships, kids, no kids, education, weight, age, and beauty? Go ahead. Try on one or more of your own “identities.”

Have they shifted? Changed? Disappeared? More importantly, have they stayed the same?

Hang in there with me. Any of the above things are important parts of our being. But do they define all of us? Or do they limit us?

What I continue to learn and unlearn is that it’s immensely beneficial to see what we identify with. For instance, many of you have lost your jobs during the pandemic, and I also recently found out that my teaching job is not coming back for reasons unknown. Cue a bit of thunder with an array of feelings: hurt, sadness, worthlessness, empowered, inspired, curious, strong.

I wouldn’t be a human if I did not admit feeling the sucky ones. But I also know that I get to choose which ones I want to identify with.

My thoughts? Feel the feels, especially the ones we might not like so much. Who thought it was a good idea to deny our feelings? Sorry, people. In case we weren’t sure, we are human—not tree bark. What do we think happens when we stuff our stress and upsets down our throats?

Yes, that’s right. When something catastrophic happens and we think we are stronger because we say the dreaded phrase, “I’m fine,” we deny ourselves the ability to process strain and, therefore, this heavy anxiety-producing luggage is stored in our backs, bellies, and hearts. 

Move that body.

This does not have to be like prepping for Iron Man. My game-changer on the darkest of days? Good-ole jumping jacks for two minutes. Sure, you can do 10 if you need, but any movement done solidly for even a couple of minutes is going to shift the brain drain. No equipment is needed. 

Write it out.

It does not have to be legible and can contain as many wash-your-mouth-out-with-soap words as needed! Literally, let anything that shows up in your mind out on the page. It’s a great way to prepare for what’s next.

Meditate.

Yes, you can. Put that pup practice into play: sit. Be patient. Wait. Listen.

Okay, we humans probably are going to need a little help with this one. Practice observing where the monkey mind travels. Do this without trying to change or fix it. Watch out for judgments and distracting thoughts and remind yourself that we get to choose how to respond. 

The key is to sit with our stuff—not run, not wallow—but to sit and see past the knee-jerk reactions so that transformation can be allowed to brew. Take a deep breath and keep listening to what the heart says. Trust it and identify with that. 

 

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