Last Tuesday, my boyfriend Robert and I woke up to text messages wondering whether we were safe. A fire had begun the night before in Ventura. I felt a sinking in my gut. Heat crawling up my skin. Panic. The wind had been knocked out of me. Sad. Scared.
All my immediate feelings.
Over this past week, I have watched this fire’s progress: taking out multiple structures, leaving people homeless, killing and displacing hundreds or perhaps thousands of beautiful animals. I am feeling another wave of sadness as I write this. The fire has crawled its way up toward us in Santa Barbara, bringing along a huge smoke plume, which has turned our beach town into a breathing hazard, overnight.
I am sending love to all those on my newsletter list who have been affected (or who know someone who has been affected) by this fire. Truly. I pray that you are safe, loving up on yourself and your loved ones, and moving through this with as much ease as possible.
I’ve been pondering a lot: when crisis hits and everything rustles, what do we do? How do we come home to center in the midst of ALL the fear and fire burning both literally and metaphorically around us right now in the world?
How do you keep holding space for all the grieving while not losing yourself in the process? How do you face, feel, and love yourself through those moments when you realize that everything could come crashing down in an instant, and that life as you know it will never be the same?
We all experience crisis at some moment in our lives. It’s inevitable. And so, I want to share with you some of the ways I’ve been coming back to center through this past week, in hopes that you can take what resonates and use it when you’re feeling stressed or challenged or enmeshed in crisis.
Now, this is not a “perfect” practice. It’s highly individual, and what I share here is what I’ve developed throughout the past few years during crises and challenges in my own life and business. I intend for you to take what resonates, use it to fuel your own discovery around what works for you, and leave the rest.
I’m clear that our practice on our yoga mats can only take us so far, and that the deepening of the practice begins when we step off the mat and learn how to show up in our center, even when the world feels chaotic and unstable. Even when it feels hostile and scary.
Whether you’ve been affected by these fires or not, there are fires in life that will touch you. For each of us, there will be moments where it feels like life as we know it is crashing down all around us, and the question is: how will we face, love, and connect with ourselves through it?
To returning to center with you,
P.S. If you’d like to support locally what’s happening in Ventura and Santa Barbara County, consider donating to these organizations:
- Humane Society: https://humanesocietyvc.nationbuilder.com/thomasfire
- Elevate Foundation: ElevateFoundation.org (this is a dear souls’ organization who lost his whole house and business dwelling)
- Direct Relief: directrelief.org
Amongst so many other amazing organizations
Tips for Re-Centering in the Midst of Chaos, and/or Challenging moments:
- Remember to put on your oxygen mask first before assisting others. We all know this one, and yet, in moments of crisis, prioritizing our own needs often goes right out the window. Truly, truly, truly, I am seeing, feeling, and experiencing–now more than ever–the importance and essential practice of filling up your own reserve and making sure your own needs are met so that you can be effectively of service. Taking care of ourselves opens up essential space for us to be more impactful in the world, moving responsively rather than reactively in our attempts to support and help.
- Sort your files of control. Take an honest inventory: what do you actually have control over and what is truly out of your control? Then, consciously unhook from any people, places, experiences that you don’t have control over. This one has been a game changer for me, because when there’s a lot going on, my over-responsibility queen has a tendency to show up front and center, getting into other people’s business because she wants to control things…and she obviously knows what’s best for everybody (wink wink). Let’s be real: that’s not truly helping. Sorting my files of controls each day frees up my energy and attention, allowing me to prioritize what I can control.
- Shake it out. It’s so important to move our bodies. Whether it’s coming to our yoga mat or engaging in some other type of movement, even a few minutes here and there really helps. The truth is that we store emotions in our bodies, and especially during times of trauma, if we’re not moving and shaking things up in there as often as possible, the energy can stagnate, making it more challenging than usual to function. Throughout this whole fire mess, I’ve been coming to mat regularly…centering into my own Tadasana. Tadasana, or our true north alignment, brings us into a steady, connected, ease, and the more I practice this, coming to my mat in times of stress and challenge to find center, the more able I am to respond from a centered space in my day-to-day.
- Choose to see yourself (and everyone else) as whole and capable and complete. In times of chaos or crisis, it’s easy to get caught up in fixing mode, whether that’s about us fixing others or believing we need to be fixed or saved in some way. The savior in me sometimes forgets that regardless of how it may appear to me, each person is on their own perfect path and is integrating what’s happening exactly as they need to. It’s a powerful practice of remembering: I can guide, suggest, and facilitate for others when that’s welcomed, but at the end of the day, I am not responsible for others’ experience. Trust me, you’ll save yourself a ton of energy if you remember this one.
- Call on Sangha, community. Remember, you’re not alone. This week, in the middle of crisis, I have witnessed so many beautiful people extending their hearts and coming together to support and care for each other. I have seen community created where it seemed non-existent before and existing community strengthened in the face of adversity. In the times we live in right now, it’s crucial and beautiful to remember that when it comes down to it, we are never truly alone. Reach out for support. Offer support where you feel called. Allow yourself to feel held up by the goodwill of people you meet.
- Unplug. I am all about being plugged in and informed, and I also have learned that it’s essential for our well-being to intermittently take times away from social media (and media in general) so that our nervous systems can unwind. When we’re rested and relaxed, we’re most able to respond, and often, the barrage of news and opinions coming at us from the outside world does not allow space for that. Know when you need to allow yourself space from outside energies.
- Breathe. Being in the middle of a crisis or chaos can send your nervous system into fight or flight, and you may feel uncharacteristically on edge. A great tool for calming your nervous system is Sama breathing. I’ve been using it a lot. Inhale 4 counts, hold lightly for 2, and then exhale 4 counts, holding again for 2 at the bottom. Try doing this for a set number of breaths or just set a timer for a minute or two. Believe me, even one minute of this can powerfully shift the way you’re feeling. This is a great reset for your nervous system.
- Feel your feelings. Yes, we will get through this. No, crisis doesn’t last forever. Yes, this crisis will somehow support the unfolding–we will learn so many valuable lessons along the way. And, it’s also important that we allow ourselves to feel all our feelings about what we’re experiencing. Skipping over the feelings that come up for you around what you’re experiencing is a spiritual bypass, and believe me, you’re going to have to process them sooner or later. It’s much easier to do that in the moment than to wait for a trigger that will eventually force you to unpack at an even more inconvenient time, most likely. So, rage as you need. Feel your fear, your sadness, whatever you need to feel so that you don’t stuff it away and have it come out sideways later. Believe me, everyone you know will thank you.
As I mentioned, it’s critical that when it comes to caring for yourself, you discover what it is that works best for you. Take what’s offered here, try it on for size, and feel free to play around until you find the practices that bring you relief. And remember, this too shall pass.