When sad, heavy things happen, both out in the world and closer to home, we can feel paralyzed by intense emotions. It's difficult to function while in that state, let alone be our smart and loving selves, and it can take a physical toll.
Keeping our energy flowing and not constricted helps tremendously -- exercise and fresh air are always helpful in that regard. And yet if you find yourself paralyzed or debilitated when experiencing intense emotions, here are six simple practices you can do at any time and anywhere to gently unlock your energy, shift your perspective, and recover a sense of peace.
Press your palms together and rub them vigorously for a few seconds, generating some heat. Then place the heel of each hand gently on your cheekbones beneath each eye and cup your hands over your eyes, fingertips resting on your forehead bumps, pinkies crossed. Hold for a few minutes while taking long deep breaths, making sure not to press too hard on your cheekbones. Covering some key neurovascular points on the face brings the nervous system into balance, helps release stress, and relieves eyestrain and tension held all over.
There are many benefits to this simple position, where your head is below your heart and your back gently opens. This posture soothes the nervous system, calms and refreshes the mind, and brings space and energy flow to the back where we hold a lot of tension. In addition to forward bends when standing and seated on the floor, you can benefit from bending forward while sitting in a chair. Fold your torso over your lap, letting your arms and head dangle towards the floor. Breathe into your back, relaxing and releasing more deeply with each exhale.
Getting energy flowing through the lower torso can help relieve a sense of stuckness. With both hands resting on the belly, fingers touching by the navel, press in gently and pull your hands out to the sides like you're smoothing out your shirt. Continue this motion, sweeping horizontally out to the sides with your palms, down to the hips and up to the ribs. Then do the same thing on the lower back, opening up the center and sweeping out to the sides. Then take a moment to notice the spaciousness and vibrancy that results!
A shift in perspective can bring needed relief from an intense and paralyzing emotion. Imagine you're looking at your paralyzed self through a camera on a drone that is slowly lifting up in the air. You can watch your self getting smaller and smaller as it slowly zooms away -- watch as you see your block, town, region, country, continent, planet, solar system, galaxy getting smaller... From this remote perspective, what does your distress look like? While the cause of your distress is still real and no less valid, it can start to feel less overwhelming and more manageable when viewed in the larger context.
This Kundalini mantra refers to the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. It is a powerful centering meditation, and you can read detailed instructions for how to do it. I think of it as "this too shall pass" and often find myself repeating the mantra and the corresponding mudra (hand positions) in times of stress, such as when I was in labor with my sons.
Finally, as always, I recommend shifting to gratitude as a way of returning to a grounded, centered state. I love this simple Buddhist four-part exercise:
1. Let your awareness move to your immediate environment: all the things you can smell, taste, touch, see, hear. Say to yourself: “For this, I am grateful.”
2. Next, bring to mind the people in your life: your friends, family, partners. Say to yourself, “For this, I am grateful.”
3. Next, turn your attention to yourself: you are unique, blessed with imagination, the ability to communicate, to learn from the past and plan for the future, to overcome any pain you may be experiencing. Say to yourself: “For this, I am grateful.”
4. Finally, rest into the realization that life is a precious gift. That you have been born into a period of immense prosperity, that you have the gift of health, culture, and access to spiritual teachings. Say to yourself: “For this, I am grateful.”
I would love to hear about your experience trying these practices! And please feel free to share with anyone who might benefit.