There’s a lot of suffering in the world right now. The climate crisis, inhumane treatment of migrants at the southern border, tenuous international relations, and political corruption, to name a few. The pathway to a thriving future can seem foggy at best. It can feel like a struggle to keep up with what can seem like an avalanche of bad news, let alone make progress on doing something about it.
Now let’s pause for a moment. Observe where your body is right now. How are you sitting or standing? What’s the quality of your breath?
As I write about all of these problems in the world, I’m noticing that my body is collapsed in on itself. I’m slouched over my keyboard with my neck in an awkward, almost painful angle. My shoulders are drawn in, creating tension in my back. My abdominal muscles and belly are tight, and my breath is shallow and constrained. It’s not a very easeful or empowering way to be holding myself! I’m literally embodying the struggle in the world that I’m worried about.
Let’s both do ourselves a favor. Try this: stand or sit upright, take a deep breath, and focus your attention on a point in the distance while wiggling and stretching in whatever way feels good. Do that and come back.
Where is your body now? What are you experiencing after wiggling a bit?
My spine feels longer and my belly is more relaxed, letting a bit more air into my lungs.
For me, I’ve noticed recently that being collapsed is the position my body defaults to, especially when I’m worried about the state of the world. Sitting, standing, and moving with “good posture” actually feels strange and uncomfortable to me because I’m so accustomed to slouching (aside: “sitting up straight” is also not good posture). Slouching, of course, causes problems in the long term that I’m already noticing. I regularly experience pain in my neck, back, and hips because I’m so often out of alignment and ultimately working against my body rather than with it. Spending hours and hours a day sitting at my computer doesn’t help.
Beyond the physical effects of holding my body that way, I notice that my mental state tends to mirror the tension and misalignment in my body. When I’m tense and hunched over, I tend to feel frustrated and overwhelmed. I’m not sure which comes first, but my spiraling thoughts and collapsed posture definitely feed into each other. It’s exhausting!
If this sounds at all familiar, I have good news: there is nothing wrong with you, AND another way is possible.
Consider for a moment that the human brain is wired to always be looking out for threats. And when it finds a threat, even a little one, it’s default response is to put your body into defense mode to keep you safe. We each have a different way our bodies do this. For me, I tense my muscles, tighten my belly, and collapse my shoulders and back to get small and protect my core. For you it might be a little different. That response might have been helpful 10,000 years ago when humans had to avoid predators, but today that response more often leads us to work harder than we need to.
Fortunately, we can learn to observe when this natural response is happening and shift our attention to a more authentic way of holding our body. And we can do the same with our brain when we notice that aspect of our mind some people call “monkey mind” or “lizard brain” chattering at us as it swings from worry, to doubt, and back to worry.
The even better news is that each of us has a gentle voice of wisdom inside of us that will gladly share possibilities for acting and moving with ease.
When you observe yourself tense or slouching, take a moment to thank yourself for noticing that there could be a more easeful way to hold your body. Then move your body around in a way that feels good until you settle into a more aligned position. Seriously! Without straining, roll your shoulders and head, lengthen your spine, relax your belly, and wiggle to your heart’s content. Your body will tell you where to land.
Likewise, when you observe your monkey mind chattering at you with worries and doubts, you can “move” your attention by first considering what you’re grateful for. It can be anything! The voice that responds is your voice of wisdom. Take a moment to ask that voice, “What is the smallest, simplest action I can do right now that would produce a meaningful result?”
And do that thing! Notice what it’s like to align your actions with your voice of wisdom rather than your worries and doubts.
At first, you’ll probably notice yourself go back to your old ways of thinking and moving. I was just slouching again when I wrote that sentence. That’s normal! Acknowledge yourself for building the skill to notice when you’re out of alignment, and shift your attention to being aligned. Creating a new normal requires lots of practice and support.
Getting support could be as simple as asking a friend or loved one to let you know when they notice you holding your body out of alignment. You might also want support seeing clearly what being authentically aligned actually feels like for you.
That’s why RSC has teamed up with KORU Real Wellness to create Embodying Ease for Social Changemakers, a one-day workshop on August 24th where you can learn what alignment feels like in your mind AND your body — so you can experience ease in your changemaking. Because, let’s be real, we all deserve to cultivate ease and enjoy this one precious life we have, especially while doing work to support our communities through challenging times.
We’ll spend the morning looking at practical tools for bringing ease into our changemaking work while integrating our learning through gentle yoga and stretching. In the afternoon, we’ll learn to discover alignment in our bodies through a one-hour Feldenkrais (Awareness Through Movement) session. And we’ll have a delicious vegetarian lunch with time to connect with fellow changemakers inbetween!
Learn more and register for Embodying Ease here: www.radicalsupport.org/ease
Or sign up for a discovery session with an RSC coach to discover precisely what would support you to experience more ease in your life, whether that’s enrolling in the workshop, one-on-one coaching, or something else altogether.
Consider what would become possible if everyone in your community or on your team were making a meaningful, authentic contribution with ease and joy.
We look forward to supporting you to experience that possibility!