By Dejah Beauchamp
If there’s any season that will peel back the superfluous in your life and expose your raw soul, it’s winter.
What should be a winter wonderland only exacerbates the feelings of loneliness, isolation, separation, and if you suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), like me, it’s especially tough. It’s easy to think about running away to a tropical climate, especially after a winter of endless snow and freezing temperatures.
Sometimes it feels like the world is out to get you.
Where I live, it snowed on the spring equinox(!) and I’ve got a sinus infection that just won’t quit, and… well, I won’t bore you with all the ways in which the world seems wrong, but let’s just say there have been many fist-shaking-at-the-heavens moments in my house the past few weeks.
I began noticing that the days when I should be feeling joy and feeling grateful, were becoming burdens that I wanted to shake off. I tried prayer, I tried meditation. Nothing worked. My anxiety would always rush in, flailing its hands, raising its voice, keeping me from letting go of those things I needed to the most.
One day, my toddler son and I were so exhausted, he from running around all morning, and I from running after him, that I collapsed on the bed at naptime and fell asleep with him cradled in my arms. I woke up a short while later (naps with toddlers are not always a guarantee of actual rest, I’ve found), my nose stuffy, my throat sore, feeling miserable. All I wanted to do was sleep. I was so frustrated with everything in my life.
I felt inadequate; I felt unhealthy and unsatisfied; I felt unhappy.
I looked down at my sleeping son. His little face was so perfect, so relaxed in sleep, that I was a little awestruck for a moment. Is it really possible to be that relaxed? I thought.
Then I heard, as clearly as if someone were in the room there with me, a whisper:
Lean into it.
You may think this is kind of a strange, vague set of words, but it was like a light turned on and I knew exactly what I needed to be doing.
I sat there and allowed myself to get lost in my son’s face; it will not look the same tomorrow, or a month from now. But in that moment, it was perfect, and being there with him, I realized I was perfect too. Amazingly, I found myself becoming as relaxed as the sleeping child in my arms. I hadn’t felt that way in so long, and it was exquisite.
I took those words, lean into it, as the first step on a new approach to life.
I stopped beating myself up for not being the perfect mother; for not being able to be calm, composed, or sure all the time. I stopped focusing on what I couldn’t do, and focused on what I could.
There are areas of my life where I sometimes feel inadequate or incapable, but instead of saying I can’t do this or I’m not doing this right, so what’s the point?, I’ve learned to come at them from the other side.
For example, whenever I try to meditate, my mind seems to focus with laser-like precision on exactly those things that are guaranteed to make me more anxious. I’ve found I can use music as my conduit to peace. It takes me out of that anxious brain space that I often inhabit and relaxes me.
My writing has fallen by the wayside, but instead of feeling guilty for not putting pen to paper more often, I simply read more. I know eventually my creativity will return, but, in the meantime, reading allows me to stay connected with my preferred art form.
When I was sick, or just didn’t have time, or even the initiative, my yoga practice was nonexistent. I, however, stopped using my inability to do a whole routine as an excuse to do nothing. I don’t beat myself up for not being able to do a half hour of Vinyasa flow. I pick one yoga pose per day, and simply do it.
Holding Warrior II for a minute is something I can do no matter what kind of day I’m having, and it helps me feel like, well, a warrior.
That’s what lean into it means; and it doesn’t mean you have to be superhero. It doesn’t even mean you have to feel happy. What it means is: stay the course. When life gets to be too hard, be like the water of a brook that rushes easily around the stones that are in its way. Be supple as seagrass. Bend in the wind. The sun comes out eventually.
Lean into it means don’t look away.
Find something, no matter how small, and embrace it: the beautiful pattern the sunlight makes on the wall at certain time of day, or the throbbing of the drums on a particular song that seems to mimic your heartbeat, or even just the miracle of allowing yourself a minute to sit and just breathe.
Life is calling out for you. Listen, and lean into it.
Editor: Alicia Wozniak