…the art of freedom becomes the necessary adventure of grasping secrets that are everywhere in the open and stirring their aspects within us, in such a way that we come alive: learning from the fish how to surface and dive, from the flower how to open and accept, from the stone how to crack and let the light in, and from the birds that wings are more useful at times than brains.
Rather than finding ourselves in everything, we are challenged daily to find everything in ourselves, till being human is evolving inwardly in the likeness of everything, shaping ourselves to the wonders we find, until like birds, who have known this forever, we too make song at the mere appearance of light.
Find a comfortable seat that establishes a balance between effort and ease or lie down and invite deep relaxation into your whole being from the crown of your head to the tips of your toes. In either position, you can lightly scan the body to observe where you are holding tension and whether it is serving you or whether it is okay to release it.
Observe the natural flow of breath, noticing the inhale, the slight transition, and the exhale. Match the mantra to your natural inhale and exhale. Begin with the first line of instruction saying it to yourself internally or out loud, as you prefer. Say each line of instruction fully twice, then consider dropping the full instruction to the core words (e.g., in, out; deep, slow; calm, ease; healing release). You can decide how long you wish to practice one instruction before moving on to the next.
At the end, pause to notice any impact from your practice. Consider placing one hand over your heart and the other over your belly and invite a felt sense of kindness and warmth into your hands. Feel the breath under your palms, easy and gentle. Remind yourself: present moment, safe moment.
To be human means that we share universal experiences. We are born, take our first breath, require sustenance, seek the embrace of others and the shelter of dwellings, live in dependent relationships to the earth, sun, moon, and weather, and evolve day-by-day. Much else is variable in human experience. However, this moment in time has created a unique and unparalleled, global, shared reality.
Parallel to our individual lives, the natural world continues with its broader rhythms of day and night, moon and tides, fallow and harvest seasons, the expansiveness of skies and landscapes. There is a steadiness, a predictability in nature’s rhythms, as spring continues to melt frostlines and release sprouts and little blossoms in our northern hemisphere.
In this time of universal and individual anxieties, we can return to the embrace and solace of the natural world. We can lean into its rhythms and breathe deeply from the gift of fresh air. We can invite our worried minds to clear and open, observing thoughts, as if clouds in the sky-floating along-leaving no trace. We can remember our connection to something bigger and beyond and return renewed. This can happen by looking at a photograph, engaging in a visualization exercise, as well as taking a walk outdoors. Nature’s resources are ever-present and available. We are not alone.
This short talk was a free resource posted by National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine or NICABM on March 31st, in response to COVID-19. It reviews how core knowledge and tenets in the treatment of trauma can serve broader populations in this moment. Bessel van der Kolk is an internationally, renowned trauma therapist and author of The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. He speaks about the natural feelings of helplessness, distress, and lack of agency that arise in the midst of unpredictable life circumstances like a pandemic and offers practical suggestions about self-care and resources.
**Alert: van der Kolk comments briefly on national politics. Hopefully, whatever one’s political or apolitical leanings, the core resources and therapeutic messages can be received.