It's a sunny Monday morning and the light is beginning to stream through the wide window to my left. I can almost feel the green aloe, spider and other lively plants, sitting on the sill, reaching up to take all that light in. I find myself leaning towards it as well. The last vestiges of summer.
This past Saturday morning I gave a talk about stress at a gynecological cancer event. The theme: What are the invisible, unacknowledged, unpaid stressors that women often hold?
As I allowed the topic to pop in and out of my consciousness I had a number of insights about my own invisible stress and recalled a simple practice I have done in the past.
I thought I'd share a bit of what I have held-past and present- and that practice I mentioned above.
I am worried about my child all day as he is traveling over the mountain pass back to his home.
I am worried about a friend who is having marital problems, thinking about her, texting her to check in.
I am overwhelmed about the stress my partner is under and how it’s seeping into our home life.
I remember I need to make that dentist appointment for myself, and my daughter, and I need to pick up groceries on the way home from work, and get my child from daycare all before my "official" work day ends.
I am disheartened and frustrated I couldn't fit in exercise this morning and haven’t found a way to fit it it yet.
I am worried and deeply sad about the refugees and immigrants at the border.
I am heartbroken when I hear my friends child declare, at age 24, he’s not having children because of his fear of what the future will bring with climate change.
I remember I need to call a plumber to fix the toilet.
And I need to check in on my mother and sister today because both have shared they are depressed and lonely.
Oh, and check in with my friend whose been having some mental health challenges,and needing to deal with that off comment my boss made a couple days ago in that meeting, and make a vet appointment for the cat, and feeling anxious about my credit card debt, and the bills coming up...And on and on...yup.
Any of this sound familiar?
Pause. Take a moment and simply acknowledge whatever you are carrying/holding in this moment. Feel the weight, the texture, how it colors your moments, how it tastes. No judgment here. Breathe. Simply witness the unseen parts you carry. Just doing this. Acknowledging is a powerful step.
And a next step would be---This quick (2-5 minutes) and simple practice for you to explore and see if it lessens the load. When I do this regularly it works it’s magic. Honest.
I learned this through my mentor-ship with Russell Delman, and his mentor and friend Gene Gendlin.
Emptying the Backpack.
We carry more than we sometimes know in our conscious minds.
It’s helpful to know what’s in there, to take some things out and take a look at them, or put them to the side to see how it feels to not hold them for a bit, or let them go.
You can do this any time and I prefer to do it at the end of the day. You can take two minutes or longer.(two minutes makes it a very doable commitment)
Imagine you are wearing a backpack.
Sit quietly. Bring your attention to your body. Feel the weight of it on the surface you are sitting on. Sense your feet. Your hands. Take three deep breaths and then bring your attention inward.
Ask yourself “What is in the way of feeling peace and ease right now?” Whatever thoughts or feelings come acknowledge them. Try not to censor what comes. There are no right or wrong ways to do this. (If nothing comes because you feel at ease and peace right now, take the two minutes to bask in that!!)
If something did come, acknowledge it, let yourself feel the weight and then imagine taking it out of your “backpack” and put it on the ground beside you.
Then notice how you feel? Are you feeling peace and ease? If not ask the question again. Continue to do this for three to six rounds noticing how you feel as you take things out.
Has your load been lightened? No worries if not. It doesn’t always happen the first time. It’s a practice. Most importantly it begins to grow your awareness of what you are carrying.
Once done it’s okay to put back what you took out, or not. It’s up to you. Sometimes letting go is what is needed and sometimes not.
Give it a go for two weeks. See what happens. Let me know of any aha or epiphanies you get.
Really. I would love to hear from you.
To making what’s invisible visible and then choosing something different.
P.S. We have a free Stoke Your Woke event on Cultural Norms at the library, click HERE for more information.
P.S.S. Here is a post from my other newsletter about intensity and creativity and...
P.S.S.S We are preparing for another afternoon retreat in November; Money: Self and World. Juicy topic and timely as the holidays approach. Stay tuned!