What a Week In Bed Taught Me About Presence
For the last week and a half, I’ve been practicing the yoga of sleep. It’s not often that yoga teachers get to sleep in. But, for the past seven days, it’s all I’ve been getting. I have switched the alarms off, I wake up when I’m ready, I go to bed when I’m tired, and I often have naps in the day. Again, no place to be, no times to adhere to, just the natural rhythm and flow of the days and my body.
To be honest, being sick is something I’ve really struggled with. I’m not the most graceful sick person at the best of times. I find it hard – no, extremely challenging – to stop. Why? Because stopping means being present.
We live in a world where we really don’t have to practice presence. We don’t like our toothpaste? We swap it. Our bread doesn’t tickle our tastebuds? There’s another 15 brands to choose from. From food to jobs to brands of bread, we live in a culture where ease and convenience are afforded to us at every turn.
And ohhh, it can be a wonderful thing. We are so blessed to live in a time where we can achieve, bloom and do more than our ancestors could have dreamed of. But, has this made us disassociated from real life?
This week has been a struggle for me, because I’m so used to being busy – from early morning yoga classes, to school during the day, to a private class and then another yoga class in the evening, my days are filled to the brim. Granted, filled with what I love doing, but down time is at a premium. So, when I have a week of uninterrupted time to do no-thing, on doctor’s orders no less, it takes some adjusting.
What exactly did I struggle with?
Firstly, it was the feeling of… Too. Much. Time. I’ll be honest, I freaked out. Generally, I am a busy person – so when I have an unexpected week off, there’s a lot of stuff that isn’t getting done, that needs to be done, that is piling up in a corner still to do! Tied up with this, I felt quite strongly that I was wasting time.
Deeper than this, I realized that for me, being busy is tied up in self worth. BINGO.
If I’m busy, I’m good enough. And whilst that rings a bell of truth for me, for others their self-worth is tied up in their job, in their outfits, in their partners, in their house, their stuff.
Sure, we say it doesn’t, and we act like we don’t care. Yet, when something comes up that challenges this, or takes our comfortable stuff away, or pushes us against those rough edges, we react. We eat sugar. We have sex. We drink. We exercise. However we release our charge, we do anything to stop feeling what we’re feeling. In other words, we do anything to stop feeling present.
Pema Chodron tells us:
“Feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we're holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we'd rather collapse and back away. They're like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we're stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it's with us wherever we are.”
In other words, when we stop running from our feelings, we actually continue to move forward at a greater pace than staying stagnant with what we know.
My life coach agrees – she is always excited whenever we talk about dreams and she hears my voice shake. For her, that little bit of fear means my goal is big enough; that I’m being totally present, not stuck back where it’s “safe” and known.
So, this week, despite my best intentions not to feel, I’ve had to sit with emotions: Feelings of not being good enough. Not loved. Confusion over career. Being sick and lying in bed for hours on end sure can bring up a lot of stuff, some real, some imagined. But today, on a day when I can finally see the light, I wouldn’t change any of it.
Not that I love hanging out in discomfort. But, I do love living. And living life means experiencing all the color, joy and sadness it has to offer. It’s the whole kit ‘n’ caboodle, the entire spectrum of emotions. So, today’s self-meditation is about sitting in this present moment, and practicing the yoga of presence – despite how it feels. It is about letting go of the “stuff” and sitting with what is. Won’t you join in?