Monday, October 16, 2017


T H E   G U I D E  |  O N  S L O W I N G   D O W N
A  guide to recovering from trying times & helping those facing it worldwide . . .

s I type this, I take breaks to massage my inner eyebrows. I take long gulps of what is now room temperature nettle leaf tea, because my erratic mind forgot I even brewed it. I make a concerted effort to drop my shoulders. I take a grand interest in staring off into my desktop keyboard . . .

Last week swept the rug beneath my feet with difficult-to-digest news regarding my health. It stopped me right in the tracks that I have sped my train on ceaselessly, smoking off the rails into the night. I don't ever stop on my own volition; I suppose I needed an external break to be pulled on my path. And I know I'm not the only one chugging along their last drop of oil, rusting.

This is a guide to holding down the pages of our narrative & following its words with our finger. A guide to slowing down in the face of quick-turning events that make us want to metaphorically throw the book at the wall. A guide to not skim over the tragic events in our lives or tragedies surrounding us. No, it's to instead the bend the bind of that book and reflect. In times that hit us with life's plot-twists, to have both the courage and space to ask: how have I served myself, what is this serving me, and how can I serve others? In my own reflections following a difficult week, here are some practises I have cultivated to continue turning the next page over . . .

Slow Food, Slow Living
I believe we can learn lessons beyond knife skills in the kitchen and slow food is the embodiment of this perspective. When we prepare foods that need to simmer, slow-roast, or culture, it's a subliminal re-patterning of our habitual need for instant results. We want to eat it now

When we face adversity, same. We often search for a quick resolution, even when we are aware that certain situations require patience and time to resolve. We can reflect the idea of slow food in the realisation that time & patience will lead to a greater result. Pickled onions, for instance, just won't taste as good if they don't sit to do just that: pickle. Take the time to make slow food and meditate on this thought process. Try some sumac pickled onions. I like to top off this toast with the said pickled onions, a sprinkle of this, and local pink pearl apples.

Now that your food is simmering or culturing, turn your attention to what you can do in the meantime .  . .

Body Awareness Meditation: The Battery Pack
During my first visit since my difficult past week, my acupuncturist immediately noted my drained energy without my having said a word. The acupuncture treatment was necessary for it & my passing out in a heavy-breathing nap was not surprising. I transcended out of my body. 

However, he also brought me right back into it with his recommendation of a novel-to-me body awareness technique. It is a technique that goes hand-in-hand with slow living—one to cultivate a body that is doesn't utilise speed but efficiency in completing tasks. When we have more than we can chew on our plates, our tendency can be to rush through as many tasks as we can, unaware of the errors and frankly unawareness that might cause. Despite what our perfectionist tendencies tell us, we don't have to go at every single task at our 100 percent . . .

Instead, before you begin a task, first analyse how much effort it requires you to expend to do a good job. It doesn't have to be P-E-R-F-E-C-T; what would be good enough? This might require you to lower the bar for yourself a bit—how would it feel to be kinder to yourself, knowing you can still complete a task without slaving over it, knowing you have done enough? Not the bare minimum but enough, without the ensuing thoughts after completing it of what you could have done more. 
How would it feel to be kinder to yourself, 
knowing you can still complete a task without slaving over it, 
knowing you have done enough?

This way, we're not running on empty after spending 100 percent of our energy on only one task. We can see our body as a battery pack, a machine that is highly capable on running on battery mode but is also plug available. We can recharge ourselves throughout the day, not only by working efficiently but meditating on just that image. Before you begin your task and as you work on it, picture your spine plugged into a socket, a direct charge to get your brain juiced back up. You can even let your imagination go wild and picture 100 batteries being charged—if one is drained, you got 99 more . . . You have 99 tasks but energy ain't one.

This is an area that is best kept simple in trying times. Our physical and emotional bodies are already depleted, so overwhelming them with too many supplements is counterintuitive. Instead, I recommend picking one anti-anxiety or panic-mode supplement out of the three I can recommend: this oil, this plant medicine by Sun Potion, or bathing in this. Again, remember that these are to supplement your diet and self-care, not replace it.

I highly recommend not simply supplementing tension away with a pill but addressing the root cause of it. In many cases, that's either a physical dis-ease in the body manifesting itself as a mental stress or vice versa. If it's the latter, reconnecting with our feelings either one-on-one through journaling or sharing them with a therapist is helpful. We all have lives, so if journaling seems like too big of a time commitment, try to journal once per week. The same goes to therapy, which is often a time and financial concern. If these are an issue for you, I highly recommend BetterHelp, which makes professional counseling accessible, affordable, and convenient on its online portal.

Other-Focused Gratitude
Although making lists on what we're grateful for in our lives, we can expand that by sharing it with the people we are grateful for. 
The easiest way to practise this other-focused gratitude is by noting birthdays. Instead of writing on their Facebook feed, call them and send them a card. I love this zero-option for birthday cards with artist-curated designs, including ones rom my favourites such as Mr. Boddington's Studio, Kate Spade, and John Derian. Throw a New Yorker cartoon one in there for an "it me" laugh. Take a moment to note upcoming significant birthdays—I use Facebook—then write cards as a mental break, which not only can brighten your perspective but the day of the recipient as well—win win!

With the amount of tragedies others are facing recently, it's understandable to have a multitude of bemusing reflections: that our own difficulties are diminutive in comparison coupled with a paralysis of what cause to assist with and how. The way to tackle this is to first acknowledge that we have the world-at-large and we have our own macrocosm, with its own tectonics that shake up our respective world. To feel a sense of despair or helplessness for yourself amidst that of others is o.k. and necessary in order to be there for others. We only deplete ourselves of the energy we can save in lending a helping hand if we don't take care of ourselves in the face of our own tragedies. 
It's like an emergency on a plane; you must put the air mask on yourself first before you assist anyone else who might be incapable of doing so. 
If you're currently processing a difficult time, allow yourself the space to do so.  It's like an emergency on a plane; you must put the air mask on yourself before you assist anyone else who might be incapable of doing so. Because if you don't, two lives rather than one would be lost. Allow yourself breathing space. Just as you will turn immediately to the person in need to put on their air mask after yours is on, turn to volunteering or activism as a part of your process in healing. We hurt differently but heal together. Pick just one cause to focus on that truly calls to you rather than diluting your efforts by dabbling in a few. This might be personal—a loved one suffering the effects of a recent hurricane—or sheer sense of humanity. Then, research both remote & local ways you can assist in relief. I have a few pointers here on helping out with current efforts. 

Patterned Tension Release
Last but certainly not least, ease the tension off your body: don't let your emotional body shift the alignment of your physical one. Notice not just hunched shoulder but small tensions as well. Are your brows furrowed? Is your jaw clenched? Is your tongue pushing towards the roof of your mouth or towards your teeth? How do your eyes feel? Is your head jutting forward? Soften all of them . . .