Go Slowly

So, how ya doin’?

Right. I know… these are some wild times we’re living in. I don’t know how things are where you live, but here in California the whole state has essentially been directed to “shelter in place” and everything but essential services has closed or been postponed/canceled.

In the absence of places to go and things to do, I’ve seen so many creative, innovative ways that content providers have started to engage with their audiences… from free social media dance parties and virtual museum tours to free audiobooks and group instruction via online conferencing, there is no shortage of things to keep us entertained at home. I also know many local teachers who have started providing classes online–yoga, pilates, karate, dance, guitar.

Some of my regular yoga students have asked if I’m going to start teaching virtually, and I’m honored and humbled that there are those who find my classes valuable enough to want to keep taking them even during a global pandemic. Unfortunately, my answer (at least right now) is no, and there are a few reasons for this. First, there is already a lot of available content… some very good yoga teachers are already teaching live classes, have recorded videos available, or provide instruction via online apps; email me if you’d like some suggestions, or you can find some recommendations at the end of my last blog post here.

The second reason is that I already have quite a bit on my plate right now… I have young children who are now schooling from home for the foreseeable future. While we have tremendous support from their schools and teachers, there has been a steep learning curve to our transition to distance learning that is taking a lot of my attention and energy to navigate (in addition to all the other parts of our household that I manage, from grocery shopping and meals to extracurricular classes and ongoing home projects).

The third (and really, the most important) reason I’m not teaching right now is that going through a global pandemic is a traumatic experience. For me, for you… whatever ways you and your community have been changed by covid-19, navigating these changes and simply existing with so much unknown is traumatic. We can sense there is a threat, and so our fight-flight-freeze survival instincts kick in; but unlike our ancestors, we don’t have a predatory mountain lion in front of us that we can fight with or run away from. Survival through the trauma of a global pandemic is going to look different for everybody. Whether your response is to fight (panic buying groceries/supplies or developing a new workout routine at home), to flee (binge-watching all the shows or playing video games all day), to freeze (napping all day), or your response is changing from day to day or hour to hour, there is no wrong way to survive this.

The way I am surviving this time is by slowing down. Those of you who have been following me for a while know that I’m a big fan of slowing down anyway. But for me, the principle of “go slowly” is of utmost importance when going through and/or recovering from trauma.

I know slowing down right now is not easy for most of us. I spent the first week after my kids’ school closed doing more and adding more to my “to-do” list than I had in the previous two months! It took me a full six days before I realized how much I was adding to my own plate and sat down to ponder why…

The answer? I wasn’t slowing down so I didn’t have to pay attention to my feelings. And when I finally stopped to pay attention to those feelings, there were A LOT of them… fear, helplessness, grief… and it was hard, painful even, to hold space for these existential feelings, to let myself cry and sob as I let them flow through me. When I’m in survival mode, I think part of me avoids slowing down out of worry that these powerful feelings will be too much, that I won’t be able to handle them… but the truth is that it takes far more energy to hold them in than to let them be expressed. The truth is that I am strong enough to allow space for fear, and helplessness, and grief, and the more that I allow them to be, to flow through me as they were meant to, the better I feel afterward.

Since that realization, I’ve been much more mindful of how I spend my days, choosing to do less and rest more. I’m reveling is simple pleasures like hot mugs of tea with just the right balance of honey and milk. I’m spending more quality time with my kids, playing games or snuggling or teaching them to crochet. I’m getting outside more, and thankfully the weather is cooperating. I’m laying in the sun, listening to the buzz of the bees or watching the clouds float by. And while part of me is really looking forward to when this part of the journey is behind us and I can get back to teaching in the yoga studio, I don’t want to rush my way through. I’m choosing to use this experience to learn how to take better care of myself. I’m choosing to go slowly.