Self Care in Difficult Times
Many of us have been grieving after last week's election results awarded the office of President to a man who has conducted one of the worst campaigns in history - mocking people with disabilities and inciting violence at his rallies. In the days following the election, many people of color and LGBTQ folks have already been attacked by this man's supporters. As we try to move forward and find some peace within ourselves so we can be strong for each other, how can we continue to practice self care and transform our grief and anger into action? In my personal practice, 2 Mudras have helped me both in my own meditation and in leading my students: Hridaya and Avahana mudra. I have been using Avahana mudra to center myself before I teach, and Hridaya to end my classes. According to "Mudras for Healing and Transformation" by Joseph & Lillian LePage, Avahana mudra is for "cultivating heartfelt acceptance". "When we embrace life unconditionally, we come to see that even the most challenging experiences are an important part of our learning. These challenges and difficulties reveal the limiting beliefs that need to be released in order to proceed toward awakening. As we practice heartfelt acceptance, we recognize that everything is part of a larger plan whose intention is always to reveal the limitlessness of our true inner being. This larger plan is a reflection of the universal intelligence, which always gives us exactly what we need for awakening at each step of our journey."
Avahana directs the breath towards the solar plexus and upwards towards our heart, the center of compassion. Place your hands palms up in front of the solar plexus. Touch your pinky and ring fingers together and touch your thumbs to the base of the ring fingers. Relax your shoulders and elbows. Elongate your spine and ground down through your feet and sits bones. Breathe slowly in and out, imagining your breath moving from solar plexus to your heart. End by taking several long, slow breaths into the heart.
Hridaya mudra is a gesture for seeking Divine Refuge. Hridaya means "heart". We place the right hand over the heart, leaving a small hollow between the palm and the heart, and place the left hand over the right. Hridaya mudra also directs the breath towards the heart and "cultivates a space of inner refuge." "When we turn to the Divine in challenging times, we recognize a greater intelligence that can support and guide us through challenging times that seem beyond our control. As we turn to the Divine for support, we open to receive the clarity that allows us to gain a wider perspective of the challenge we are facing, assisting us in finding a solution more easily." Hold your right hand, slightly cupped over your heart - leaving space between the palm and the heart. Place your left hand over your right hand. Again, relax your arms and shoulders and breathe into your heart space. Stay for as long as you can.
I have found both of these mudras to be comforting in times of deep distress and heartache. Knowing there is a larger plan and being supported by those around you can be deeply nourishing and healing. Finally, my friend and fellow yogini, Janice Morgan Hedden also shared this poem with me by Danna Faulds from her book, "Breath of Joy". I have been sharing it with my students: Opportunity to Trust Remind me today to look up as well as down, In as well as out.
Remind me today that doubt and faith can coesxist, that anxiety doesn't have to twist me into knots I can't untie. Remind me that everything in my life is infused with truth, that the illusion of my separateness won't last once I see through it. Remind me that this whole day is an opportunity to trust in unforeseen outcomes and the ultimate supremacy of love.