Last week I noticed a low-level feeling of sadness clouding over my otherwise blue skies. I had a deadline to meet, so I pushed down a growing sense of nostalgia arising in me, that was craving the everyday pleasures that I took for granted before the virus. I was missing simple things, like not having to remember my mask every time I leave the house, relaxed meals with friends, wider family meet-ups, and most of all girls' days out with my my lovely daughter. It wasn't convenient for me to give these feelings space by allowing myself to feel them. I had to review and revise the final proof and artwork for my Yoga by the Stars book. I resolved to put these feelings aside and make one final push to get the book over the finishing line, ready to go to the printers.
Once I'd met my deadline, and spent some time feeling exhilarated that my editor had signed the book off, I noticed that those wistful feelings, I mentioned earlier in this post, were still lingering in the background of my mind. The wise part of me knew that the best thing to do was to stop and be with the feelings. Another part, less wise, whispered to just carry on, ignore them, minimising and invalidating the feelings. A low-level migraine had also been hanging around for a few days too.
Yesterday, in preparation for writing my monthly Yoga by the Stars newsletter, I read through the Scorpio chapter of the Yoga by the Stars book. It reminded me of the importance of doing the warrior work of approaching and befriending our fears, and how we must learn to cultivate compassion for our struggles and difficulties, surrounding them with love and understanding. It reminded me to stop and feel my feelings, which I did using a tried and tested way of doing this, the Surrounding a Difficulty with Love Meditation (page 126 of my Yoga Through the Year book). The amazing and unexpected benefit of doing this meditation, on this occasion, which included a good cry, was that my migraine completely disappeared and I felt better than I had for days!
The Surrounding a Difficulty with Love Meditation allowed me to turn towards and feel all the difficult feelings of loss and yearning that I had been pushing aside. I noticed where I was feeling the feelings in my body. I surrounded these tight, tense areas with love and compassion. I gave myself up to the tears that arose, staying aware of bodily sensations and my breathing. I followed this with a Mindfulness of Body and Breath meditation, to bring me back down to earth and ground myself, and I finished with a 3 Minute Breathing Meditation. This whole process took about 30-40 minutes. Afterwards I felt lighter, energised, and my migraine had disappeared. What a relief!
So, how are you feeling? Before you say, "I'm fine thanks", pause for a minute, and ask yourself how are you really feeling? We all have losses during this pandemic. Our lives have changed irrevocably, and it is worthwhile to stop and allow our selves to recognise how we feel about the monumental changes that are occurring in our lives and the wider world. The lesson of the zodiac sign Scorpio is that if we face fear, we can find freedom.
See also: Mindfulness to Manage Difficult Emotions for a script of the Surrounding a Difficulty with Love Meditation (or page 126 of the Yoga Through the Year book).
In the next few posts we will be exploring how the wisdom of Scorpio offers us the gift of facing fear and finding freedom. Currently there is an epidemic of fear due to the pandemic. Naturally, we all feel a heightened sense of alertness as we negotiate the risks of doing everyday activities in the face of the dangers posed by the virus. Regardless of your own Sun sign, Scorpio will help you to cultivate the resilience you need to approach your fear and move through it.
Scorpio teaches us the wisdom of facing fear and finding freedom. This is also the approach that mindfulness uses too. From personal experience I know how debilitating anxiety can be. I also know that practising yoga and mindfulness gives us a toolbox to manage overwhelming feelings. Anxiety is all-consuming, it narrows our focus, and shrinks our world view. Whereas our mindfulness practice delivers us from the small confines of our fearfulness and allows us to see the bigger picture.
Turning towards your fear and allowing yourself to experience it is warrior work! You put your fear under the microscope of your awareness, and allow yourself to feel it both emotionally, and where it resides in your body, whilst at the same time holding in your mind the bigger picture. Then with practise you realise that yes, your fear is there, but you also notice that you are breathing in, and you are breathing out. Mindfulness gives you an anchor, such as the breath, that prevents you from being overwhelmed by the waves of emotion that accompany fear and anxiety. In turn you also learn to carry this mindful awareness into your daily life, noticing what you can see, smell, hear, and feel. You are aware of suffering, and you are also aware of the beauty in the world around you.
The Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, reminds us that suffering is not enough. He teaches that one part of our meditation practice is to be aware of suffering in the world; whereas the other part is to appreciate all of the beauty in the world. This practice of turning towards suffering and simultaneously noticing the joyful and the beautiful, allows us to experience the totality of life as it is, without getting overwhelmed by it.
"Life is filled with suffering, but it is also filled with many wonders, like the blue sky, the sunshine, the eyes of a baby. To suffer is not enough. We must also be in touch with the wonders of life. They are within us and all around us, everywhere, any time.
Meditation is to be aware of what is going on- in our bodies, in our feelings, in our minds, and in the world. Each day 40,000 children die of hunger. The superpowers now have more than 50,000 nuclear warheads, enough to destroy our planet many times. Yet the sunrise is beautiful, and the rose that bloomed this morning along the wall is a miracle. Life is both dreadful and wonderful. To practice meditation is to be in touch with both aspects. Please do not think we need to be solemn in order to meditate. In fact, to meditate well, we have to smile a lot"
Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace
Hello, I am Jilly Shipway, the author of Yoga Through the Year, and my forthcoming book Yoga by the Stars. In this Yoga by the Stars blog I will share with you zodiac-inspired yoga insights and inspiration. I also have another blog on my Yoga Through the Year website.