We have never stayed home long enough to experience the truth about ourselves.
Erich Schiffman. Yoga. The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness. New York. Pocket Books: 1996.
This was my meditation on March 27, from Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison’s book Meditations from the Mat. By then, I’d been homebound for more than 3 weeks. Although the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order wasn’t announced until March 23 in Washington state, members of my household have underlying medical conditions, and so we began social distancing (or, more accurately, as Esther Perel notes, physical distancing) in early March, when many people were still unsure about the risk of coronavirus.
If you’re a homebody, like me, perhaps the idea of being home, and not being required to be out in the public world, was your idea of heaven. But I didn’t think that we’d still be homebound in the middle of April.
I’m not sure any of us did.
Investing in Busyness
Maybe there is a tendency to use this enforced home time to be productive, to put effort into doing, and to invest in busyness. At the beginning of March, social media posts were filled with photos and descriptions of people actively making (bread! cakes! crafts!) and doing (hiking! biking!).
By early April, the social media tone has tempered, and we are waking up to the fact that we are going to be staying at home for much longer than anticipated. For many, the doing and busyness is turning into despair, a sense of loss, and, as mental health professionals have noted, sorrow about the uncertain path ahead. Friends and colleagues are talking more frequently about how tired they feel, how debilitating it is to live with ambiguity, and how exhausting a virtual social life can be (and for more on this topic, read Mary Elizabeth Williams’ story on salon.com).
I’m feeling pretty fatigued myself.
Coming Home to Ourselves
But I’m also waking up to a different response that we can cultivate to this new reality. A response that welcomes the shift from doing to being and embraces the potential of moving from activity to stillness. A response that recognizes the opportunity to let go of the expectations we put on ourselves to be constantly doing, and, instead, to “practice slowness and turn inward” and experience the truth about ourselves.
Mountain pose—Tadasana—is one of my favorite standing poses. Why? Because it is the embodiment of home. This foundational pose is a place that we come back to repeatedly in yoga practice but often we experience this pose as though we are passing through, just visiting. Functionally, presents us with a sense of grounding and stability and if we take time to experience the pose, Tadasana offers us the opportunity to experience a sense of being at home in our skin, connected to our embodied selves.
Wherever you are, stand still. Feet parallel, hip-width distance. Raise your toes and spread them wide, feel the arches in your feet lift, relax your toes down to the ground. Tailbone presses down to the earth. Trust the ground beneath your feet and your body’s desire for stillness. Arms by your side, spread your fingers wide. Shrug shoulders to ears and allow shoulder blades to melt down your back. Slightly lift sternum, lengthen spine. Close your eyes. Rest in unrushed steadiness for as long as you need.
Click here for a free restorative practice that focuses on stillness.