GM of SuperFeast, Tahnee, has written a series to help us as we move through this strange time of isolation.
You can catch up here:
Here's Part VI, enjoy:
I have read so many pieces on how this is the new slow. I have even written some! The time of the great Yin. The letting go of the unnecessary. The great shedding. It's nice to pay lip service to these ideas, they sound great and make us all warm and fuzzy. But how many of us are actually living slow? I am finding it increasingly busy wherever I look, and especially online. So many offerings, so many voices calling for my attention. I am turning away. Maybe you have been too?
I know in our house, with a business, a toddler, a relationship and our practices, we are rarely not doing something. This is the slowest time we've had since Aiya was born (except for maybe the fortnight after her birth). And we're still working full-time and caring for a tiny energiser bunny of a human.
And I see it everywhere - Learn to cook! Learn to play guitar! Plant a garden! Do this course! Do that course! Get on a virtual Zoom party. Learn to knit. Watch this two-hour conspiracy video so you know what's REALLY going on (like any of us could really know what's really going on).
I mean, it's all well-meaning and lovely and probably very nourishing and great, but why, oh why, can't we all be chill just lying in the sunshine on a patch of grass watching the leaves dance? I did that today, on my lunch break, while Aiya tried to ride Goji (the kelpie) and rubbed her dahl all over the dog and me. And I thought, how is it you have been in isolation for weeks, and this is the first time you've done this on your lunch break?
I also had a conversation with my acupuncturist recently that was enlightening. We were talking about why I was suddenly in Kidney deficiency (I'd felt tired and unmotivated for a few days, and extra sensitive). John, our acupuncturist, said, rather bluntly, "Tahnee, you've just been handed the cheque, you have to pay the bill." And I laughed, and I got it. How many times have you gone on holiday and gotten sick? When we finally stop, it all catches up. This time is also the time of collective fear and, as Gil Hedley pointed out when I interviewed him a week or two ago, we are each a cell of the 'human species organism,' and we all feel what the collective feels, on some level.
If this is a time of collective rest, why aren't we (actually) resting? There is a deep hole I could go into here, the inner demons that shame us if we aren't productive, that arise from our neo-liberal, industrial society that values individual achievement and work over anything else (because ECONOMIES! CAPITALISM!). But I won't go there. People smarter than me have talked about it ad nauseam, and we don't listen. Because we like it. Being busy keeps us from ourselves. And for many of us, if we really tune in to what we need, we realise we are a long way from honouring that deep longing.
Ever tried to sit still and breathe with your eyes closed for 10 minutes (in some circles this is known as meditation ;)) ?? (Or remember the first time, if you're an experienced meditator?) You know what comes up when you sit still? Your shit. Yoga calls them vrittis, the thoughts that harass us when we try and sit. The commentary, the memories, the emotions, the weird desire to itch that tiny corner of your nostril, the shopping list you create in your head. You're not doing that cos you're itchy or desperately in need of toilet paper (Coronavirus joke!). It's cos it terrifies you to slow down.
I quote Alanis Morisette here: "Why are you so petrified of silence?"
The desires that drive us are powerful, and they're influenced by culture and our upbringings, as well as our karma (if you believe in such things). Until we get a handle on them, they're in charge. My teacher Paul Grilley explains it like this. Little kids have lots of energy but no discipline. They cannot sit still. That's cool, 'cos they're little kids, but ever notice how kids need to rest and nap? They're always moving, and they crash out hard and then, boom, they're off again. Their emotions move through them, and they live from moment to moment. Their ego's kick in - 'me' 'mine.' They're full-on, right? And being around them can feel like a roller-coaster. 'Cos it is.
We adults do this too, we have our phones, our work, our social lives, our kids, our hobbies, our neuroses, all of it consuming our energy all the time. We want all the things. Me, mine. Sometimes we run ourselves into the ground as we grasp for what we desire. Then we stop, we crash, we reboot, we start again. But do we have enough downtime to properly reboot? I would argue most of us do not. We take the herbs, drink the coffee, get addicted to the adrenaline, and keep going. Then we wonder why we end up with chronic illness and weird things going wrong in our bodies and our minds. We don't recharge the batteries with rest, downtime, not-doing time, not-striving time. Sleep is not enough.
What adults can do, what kids have trouble with, is we can make better choices about how we use our energy!! Kids learn self-control as they age (or at least, that's the plan). We can decide if it's worth it to use our energy when we could be resting. We can look at the reasons we push ourselves, our underlying motivations. We can start a savings account, resting even when we don't need to, topping ourselves up. We can keep ourselves at 60-80% capacity, so when the shit hits the fan (and it always will) we have a reserve, so we don't go into overdrive. Who of us really lives like this in our culture?? (Even the people I know who are off the grid seem to be in a perpetual hustle.) Do we really need to use this time to do more things? Why don't we all just what has to be done, and let the rest slide?
The point of this long rant is that things take time. Healing, changing culture, changing ourselves, growing into ourselves, finding our rhythm, working out our own flow. Redefining what it means to be slow. Because it's not a new recipe or a new practice. It's the absence of these things. Yin is the void. It's the womb, the dark matter, the place where life isn't yet conceived of because before something is born, nothingness needs to have its moment.
Personally, I am trying to look at this from every angle in our lives. With myself. How do I do less? With our team. How do we take the pressure off, slow it down? With our family. How do we navigate this extra time so that it is restorative and nurturing for us? With our world. How do we collectively redefine what is essential, and let the rest go?
I bang on a lot about how much of a teacher Nature is, but let me say it again. Go spend some time with her. Watch a leaf in the breeze. Stare at the stars. (We did this the other night, and the first thing I thought was how I needed to go learn what all the constellations were in our local lore, which is a great sentiment, but why can't I just enjoy the stars?? LOL). Find a patch of grass and watch how many critters are going about their lives down there, oblivious to the madness of the human race. Listen to water move: rain, ocean, river, pond, even the tap dripping if that's all you've got. Really listen. There is music in those gurglings.
"Let us… seek peace… near the inland murmur of streams, and the gracious waving of trees, the beauteous vesture of earth, and sublime pageantry of the skies. Let us leave "life," that we may live." -- Mary Shelley
I had the pleasure of interviewing Gil Hedley, as I mentioned, I am a HUGE fan of his, and this post of his from Facebook is super relevant right now. I've popped it below.
"Cocoons are super effective strategies for positive transformation. As a chronic optimist, I can't help but imagine that current circumstances bear some resemblance to a metamorphic process. Whatever your perspective on it, it seems that our species is taking a moment--and it really is just a moment in the grand scale of things-- to shift patterns.
"Our habits, our standard mode of operating, our usual ways of doing things, are suspended, not unlike the caterpillars who pause from their leaf-munching ways, suspend themselves upside down in a silken sack, and hang out for a bit. And, truth be told, the old forms do not survive the process. I cannot speak for caterpillars' first hand experience as such, but putting ourselves in their place for the moment, we must admit to some terror as the liquification process commences. What assurance have any of us that it's going to work out well?
"At first blush, turning into goo does not sound like a promising path at all. And yet we do have cakes and butterflies as reference points on the bright side that all may turn out better than it might seem while we are melting down. If your mood permits a thought reframe, consider this one.
You have undergone many biological transformations, from single cell, to embryo, to infant, child, teen, to adult. You have shed many habits and grown not only physically, but mentally and spiritually over your lifetime. Though some of your metamorphoses have been more intimidating than others, you have shown up and renewed yourself. And however much you may feel wrapped up and your style cramped right now, this is the perfect place to commit to your new self preparing to take flight." -- Gil Hedley
I hope you have fun weaving your cocoon, turning to goo and seeing what emerges.
Much love, Tahnee.
PS From the Caraka Saṃhitā:Vimānasthāna:III:12-18 via Dr Claudia Welch
"Truthfulness, compassion for living beings, charity, sacrifices, prayer to the gods, adoption of preventative measures, tranquility, protection of the self by mantra, etc., search for things that are good for the self, residence in auspicious places, observance of brahmacaryā, service to those observing brahmacaryā, discussion of religious scriptures, great sages and those who have self-control, and constant association with religious, sāttvika and learned persons—these are the therapies which if adopted during the epidemics can easily save the lives of individuals, provided the death of a particular individual during the period is not predestined."