By Mary Hilliker, RDN, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT
How can we emerge from this year? Let’s just say it. It’s been a crazy year. Uncertainty and quickly changing circumstances have dominated our lives. Situations and events that tear at the heart have happened with greater frequency. Even the most balanced and steady among us have felt stress, anxiety, loss, and grief. I’ve been thinking about how wildflowers have some answers for us.
Every year wildflowers return to the core of who they are, allowing their brilliance and show-stopping displays to whither and return to the earth as compost. I’m not suggesting that you turn yourself into compost right now, but prioritizing some time to be with yourself in quiet reflection is a great alternative. Turn off the news. Shut down the electronics. Let nature be a therapeutic balm for your senses. Breathe. Courageously know yourself.
One of our students has a ritual of watching the sun rise over the Wisconsin River. It’s his contemplative time of day. Rituals of connecting to nature, the cycles of the day or season, and faith are all powerful ways to return to the core of who you are.
Breathing deeply is also another way of returning to Self, that part of you that is unchanging. Self is that center that is unchanged by the drama all around. And the quickest way to return to that core is via the breath. Even 12 deep breaths can lead you home.
Wildflowers rest. In all my years of teaching yoga, teaching teachers, mentoring students, and working with clients on therapeutic practices, I’ve never seen a time where people have been so in need of deep rejuvenating rest. The chronic stress and anxieties of this last year drain our systems. We can become like wildflowers without any food, water, or sunshine.
Movement practices like gentle breath-infused yoga postures, Tai Chi, embodiment, Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement (ATM) or any movement done in a meditative way are all wonderful ways to slow down and provide nourishment in the form of circulation to muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, fascia, organs, glands, the brain, and entire nervous system. It is just like giving a wildflower some oak leaf mulch, warm spring rain and a good dose of sunshine. Even if you are extremely attracted to a hard driving workout, it’s supportive of your immunity to do a gentle practice at least once a week to rest and rejuvenate.
Guided relaxation and meditation also help with deep rest. Even 5 – 10 minutes of relaxing music with legs up on an ottoman or chair or up the wall will signal to your body to do its “rest and digest” function. This is particularly helpful to our immune system and can support the work of your Covid-19 vaccine.
Wildflowers digest food, water, and sunshine to emerge in the spring. We too need nutritious food, water, and light to digest the experiences of this last year. There are many ways to digest what has happened. Loss and grief and coping with change looks different for each person. Prioritizing some time for what helps you is a good start. As we emerge, we risk jumping back on hamster wheels that are not really our own. Find what really nourishes you and helps you process what happened this last year. Some people meditate, some journal, some take counsel in a good friend, some pray, and others return to activities that help them feel like they are contributing to the greater good. It is enormously helpful to have a process that helps you feel like you are digesting your own individual experience to reflect on what’s been lost, what remains and what feels more important than ever before.
And that brings us to blooming. Without fail, the wildflowers return each spring. From delicate, almost Victorian-like preciousness to bold and strong displays, they return. They have used the gift of returning to their core, resting, and digesting to emerge once again.
The lessons for us as we emerge are perhaps simple. Be like the wildflowers:
- Return to the core of who you are for at least 5 minutes each day. Take in nature through the senses. Breathe deeply. Turn off the drama of the world for some time every day.
- Prioritize some rest in a way that helps your body achieve its most optimal immunity. We all need that right now. In fact, the entire world is banking on every human building immunity. Schedule your restful self-care.
- Digest and process the experiences of this last year in a way that suits you. Reflect on what has been lost, what remains and what feels more important than ever before. And set your sights to that light of inspiration.
- As the time comes, bloom! Don’t feel any need to rush the process of emerging. Let what is meant to manifest in your life do so. Honor the cycle that we are in right now as it is likely to be different with some small and large changes.
May your mind-body practice (and vaccine) support you like soil, food, water, and sunshine nourishes those wildflowers.