With the pandemic dragging on and winter on the horizon, there are plenty of reasons to feel stressed. This year has been challenging for so many, in so many ways, and I can feel the collective tension that’s continuing to build all around me. Maybe you can, too. If so, know that you are not alone, and there are things we can do to take care of ourselves, which is why I keep returning to mindfulness. I have a variety of practices I’ve learned over the years that I can turn to in times of stress or overwhelm; some I do regularly (if not daily) and others I do only once in a while, when I feel drawn to it, or am simply reminded of it.
Gratitude (of course!)
Of course, practicing gratitude is always at the top of the list–especially this time of year. My family and I grew our Gratitude Tree this week, a little later than usual, but it still counts. I haven’t made a gratitude list in a while, but whenever things feel tough or overwhelming, it has never not helped to sit in a moment of gratitude. Sometimes the things I think I should be grateful for can’t be felt in the heart, and that’s okay… just finding something, anything really, that can make my heart soften (even if just a little) will do the trick.
Growing the Good
Another favorite practice is one I learned from my Inner Bonding mentor, Sylvia, called “Growing the Good.” My first year at Sylvia’s summer retreat, our lunch breaks were filled with conversations focused on sharing our successes. The idea is simple: we’re SO good at listening to our inner critic, we don’t often give ourselves credit for the very real accomplishments that we achieve every day. When I’m feeling down and need a pick-me-up, it helps to spend a few minutes recalling experiences from the last few days or week when I did something well–yesterday’s homecooked meal, or the fact that I remembered to shower AND brush my teeth that day, or not losing my shit at the kids after a long day. It always feels good to give myself a pat on the back and some recognition (especially for the little things that no one else notices).
A Return to Nature Medicine
Lastly, I’ve noticed more and more how healing it feels to return to nature medicine… through simple mindfulness activities that allow me to connect with the energy of mother nature, I feel nourished. These practices don’t take any special technique or supplies, just the willingness to not be distracted by external sources (television, music, social media, or the news) and a little time. I’ve found these experiences so supportive and have been sharing them on Instagram (oh, the irony!) lately, but wanted to copy them here for future reference. As you read, take note of anything that resonates with you (not just intellectually but emotionally and in your body as well). Consider trying your own version of sitting with nature medicine, especially if you’ve been feeling frazzled or overwhelmed lately. A little of nature’s medicine can go a long way, and it just costs a little of your attention.
“I needed earth medicine today. With the energy of the larger society at a decidedly frenzied pace, I needed help slowing down so I made time to sit among the trees. As I walked, I noticed how things have changed since the spring. The beds of leaves that line the trails have lost their speckles of green and are now a mixture of innumerable shades of brown. The berries and blossoms on the bushes are gone, sometimes leaving dried tufts or bunches of seeds ready to disperse with the wind of autumn storms that should be coming soon. I meandered on trails and sat still on benches, letting the strong steady beat of oak trunks, the warmth of autumn sun on sumac leaves, the malleable rhythm of the water in the streams, and the song of the morning’s gentle breeze feed my soul. Soaking up their healing energy, I felt the depth of a true gratitude wash through me. I needed earth medicine today.”
“Today is a day for plant medicine. Even though I submitted my ballot weeks ago, the collective tension of election day is in the air… so I’m calling on my plant allies for support today. 🌿 I started the day with cleansing sage smoke (a homemade bundle with herbs from my garden), then harvested some lemon balm and tulsi for soothing tea. ☕ Next I spent time chopping vegetables in preparation for the nourishing pasta sauce we’ll eat for dinner, taking deep breaths and focusing on the feel of air in my lungs, the knife in my hand, and the solid ground at my feet. 🍝 Later today I’ll walk barefoot through the grass and garden, letting my bare skin connect with the calming energy of nature. 🦶 Regardless of what happens this week, the earth will continue to be here for us, with her restorative energy medicine in abundance. 🌿 Today is a day for plant medicine.”
Fire & Water Medicine
“Today is a day for fire and water medicine. Recent mindfulness practices have highlighted how my body is still holding on to the tension of the past month. With the election (sort of) behind us, my days are now filled with planning and preparing for holiday traditions both new and old… I craft all year, but October, November & December are by far my busiest. This past week I could feel the tension building up… in my hands, between my shoulders, and (at night) in my jaw. So today I chose to take the time to soothe my body and my spirit… soaking up the warmth of the bath water (heated by fire), the nourishing minerals in the bath salts (carried by water), the soft fire of the candlelight as it moves with fluidity. I’ll pick up my crochet hook later tonight, but for this Sunday afternoon, I rested in medicine of fire and water. 🔥💧 “
As we come up on the American holiday of Thanksgiving, I want to honor the dual histories that I’ve been sitting with in recent years: my personal history with childhood memories of family Thanksgiving gatherings (filled with connection over good food and practices of gratitude), and our country’s history of Thanksgiving as a tool of white supremacy used to wipe out native peoples (their traditions, cultures, people, and history). While I find value in the family tradition of gathering annually to giving thanks for our abundance, I also honor that to Indigenous Peoples this “holiday” is a National Day of Mourning; I do not want to celebrate genocide and oppression and acknowledgement that much of my abundance (and the abundance of my white ancestors) has come at the expense of oppressed people.
So later this week, over good food, my children, partner, and I will gather together and share our thanks for all the positive in our lives… but we will also discuss Truthsgiving (see link below), honoring the Tongva peoples who used to live on this land, planning ways to continue our anti-racism learning, and donating to several Native organizations and initiatives. For more information, please check out these resources:
- “TRUTHSGIVING: THE TRUE HISTORY OF THANKSGIVING and how you can support Native communities this holiday and beyond” by Jackie Menjivar for DoSomething.org
- “Thankstaking or Thanksgiving” by All My Relations Podcast, 20 Nov. 2020
- “Thanksgiving Promotes Whitewashed History, So I Organized Truthsgiving Instead” by Sikowis, a.k.a. Christine Nobiss for Bustle, 16 Nov. 2018
- “Thanksgiving: The National Day of Mourning” by @lilnativeboy, a.k.a. Allen Salway for Paper Magazine, 15 June 2020
- “NativeLand.ca” to find out whose territory you currently reside on, Native-Land.ca – Our Home on Native Land