Before I move into the restful time of turning inward as we move into the darkest part of the year, I have put in some serious time for workshop and event planning. This work and sense of accomplishment will make the upcoming hibernation all the more sweet. I’m certainly look forward to some deep rest.
This time of year is a time we so often, instinctively, turn inward and allow for introspection and rest in order to plant new seeds, allow them to take root for the springtime, and shed things we are ready to let go. We do this by settling down, embracing the darkness of the day, and resting. We eat seasonal foods and drink warm beverages. We curl up by the fire with a loved one or an extraordinary book. We allow the world to fall away as we fall into ourselves. We reflect on the year and all the things we've done and the things we didn't get to do. We regroup. We make a new plan for the new year. We give ourselves that deep healing rest.
With the Winter Solstice comes the darkness: an aspect that means gloom and doom for some and freedom for others. At times we must travel a great distance in the dark. And sometimes, we must do it alone. It's at these times, when, if we remember our own light, we can make the journey less scary and a little more dim. We can pull ourselves out. When we recognize our own light, we regain our strength to continue the journey without wanting to give up.
And when I say we must go there alone, I mean the inward journey. We each have a journey and no two are alike. It's the journey with all the twists, turns, plenty of bumps, and no handy road map. Recognizing our inner light is recognizing that these are the times when we must turn to our practice with steadfast determination. The practices that lead us back to ourselves. It is our practice that holds the answers. Our practice is the road map. We often feel so lost, but the instructions are with us at all times. We just have to remember them, and we have to remember to use them.
"Your right is to the work alone, but never to its fruits." ~Bhagavad Gita
So I encourage you, as we move into this momentous Winter Solstice – unlike anything we've experienced within our lifetime, to allow for rest, make time for your practice, get on your mat, and dust off your cushion. You will be grateful that you did.
Back in 2012, over the course of three days, I spent about 16 hours volunteering (the word for this in Sanskrit is seva, meaning service) at the DNC Oasis in Charlotte. For anyone unfamiliar with the Oasis, it was a collaboration between The Huffington Post and Off The Mat, Into The World to provide an "oasis" for the delegates at both the RNC and the DNC, giving them a place to go for a little peace and quiet, and to recharge before heading back out to the hectic environment of these political events. Among the offerings at the OASIS were asana, meditation, massage, and healthy food.
With the rise of excitement over the DNC being here in Charlotte, and then the buzz dying down in the days after, I have spent many moments reflecting on my role at the DNC Oasis and what I learned from being in service during this event.
Reminder of why I do what I do
Showing up my first day, I had high hopes. Meditation is a difficult avenue and knowing that asana and meditation were being offered, I figured so many delegates would be coming to meditation instead of asana, opting for a little peace of mind without any sweat.
Nope, this wasn't the case. Even in the midst of the DNC, meditation was still a hard sell.
Day one, I managed to drum up one client for a private meditation. I found a private corner of the room and set us up as best I could for a nice meditation experience. Mind you we were in a room where several private yoga sessions were occurring at the same time so we were not alone.
Even amidst the music, voices of several teachers and their students, I was able to guide her to an amazing experience. It was beautiful. That's what meditation is all about--being able to find that peaceful calm within no matter where you are, and what is going on around you. I love what I do.
The craziest part was that I got to experience this with client after client over these 3 days. And each time, I was so grateful to have been able to guide them to a peaceful place.
Most of them were first time meditators and to see the look on each face as they opened their eyes, I could see that they were able to fully let go and fully go in.
Take care of yourself first
Because of my shift time, I didn't get to meditate before I went in on my last day. Luckily right after I got there, Sharon Salzberg was doing a meditation class.
Figuring no one would want a private meditation while a group meditation was happening, I took advantage, and went to class. It was so amazing being able to participate in a group meditation class!
Normally I'm the one teaching and rarely do I get to enjoy the beauty of group class. Not to mention, it was an honor to meet Sharon.
Then after doing one private meditation for a client, there was another lull. I was still feeling a little worn down when a Qigong class was starting. Knowing nothing about Qigong, I decided to attend.
So glad I did! The teacher, with her very gentle nature guided us through the 8 stages of brocade. Not only did I leave feeling energized, but with new tools to use with my energy work.
Now with meditation and Qigong as my support, I was ready for anything!
And that was good, because over the next several hours, I went back to back with private meditation sessions. When I thought I couldn't do anymore, an entire group was forming for meditation. I ended my three days, and my continuous sessions spree with a spontaneous 6 p.m. meditation class.
Without all the care I had given myself during the afternoon, I wouldn't have been able to be there for all those people. And without the mini breaks I took, I wouldn't have been able to last.
What a good reminder that we can't take care of others if we don't take care of ourselves first.
How often do we run around making sure everyone else's needs are met, but forgot about our own?
I used to live my life like that on a daily basis - always drained and exhausted. Now I can help others from a calm, grounded place, instead of with frantic energy that will leave me feeling burnt out. I remember to fill myself first and then I can help fill others.
This was also a great reminder that we're all human and we are more alike than we are different. We can spend a lot of time feeling separate and different from everyone else. And while we are all unique, we also have a lot in common with those around us.
As a regular service, I teach weekly at a Woman's Prison facility, one of the most remarkable things that I've learned from this experience is how these women are so similar to me. How they are just like my friends, family, and the people I run into as I am out and about.
And the delegates that I met from all over the country at the Oasis, the same, just grateful for a little break from the stress of their worlds. It is when we can stop seeing ourselves as so different that we can connect to everyone around us.
Leave a comment: What have you learned about yourself from a time you've been in service? About others? The world?
See the photos and interviews for many of the volunteers ~ including me ~ on the Huffington Post!
If you liked this blog, you may also enjoy:
Use Meditation To Stop Unwanted Thoughts and Calm Your Mind
The Power of Loving Yourself
Santosha: Finding Contentment By Looking Through Others’ Eyes
I came home late at night several weeks ago after a wonderful evening of teaching, followed by al fresco dining with some of my workshop students. Mind tired, but belly and heart full, I went outside to take in the beauty of the night before turning in.
While I was outside with the dogs, I saw a strange creature on the fence. I quickly came inside to grab a flashlight, and my husband, so he could check it out too. In the dim light of the night, my imagination had already begun to go wild. I was sure it was a small alien creature attached in this awkward pose on our fence and was doing my best to keep the dogs away for fear that it might attack them. They, of course, were paying it no attention. Note to self, these dogs will do no good in event of an alien invasion.
To our delight (and horror), it was a Cicada in full process of molting. Yikes! But at the same time, what an opportunity to see this in action. I still have half a cringe on my face as I am typing and with good reason. That shell is certainly alien in nature as it still hangs empty and lifeless on our fence. But it's definitely got me thinking, is this how we view change for ourselves?
Change can definitely be ugly, foreign, and certainly feel alien in the midst of it all. If we shed that layer we are certainly moving out of a place where we are comfortable. I mean, shedding your entire shell? That's got to feel like losing your home, your safety, and security. That's definitely how it feels during change.
As we crack through those outer shells of our own being and shed the layers of ourselves that we no longer need, we are really letting go and opening up to a part of us that contains more beauty and more awareness.
Sometimes removing that ugly layer can be truly scary. But if this is what we are leaving behind each time we change, maybe we shouldn't be so afraid after all?
Jenn White, Yoga Educator, Meditation Teacher, and Owner of Embodied Bliss, began her journey of yoga and meditation in 2004 while recovering from a back injury. Feeling lost, restless and seeking something more from life, she found her path through meditation.
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