Hello, dear readers! May was a hectic month for me. Between traveling out of the country, updating my site, and working on some new ventures (which I'll tell you about in the upcoming weeks!), I neglected my blog. But I'm happy to be back writing.
Speaking of travel, I'm going to let you on a little secret. I really hate flying. I get nervous during turbulence and take off. Every time I fly, I know I have to endure air time and this really puts unnecessary stress on my trips. But this discomfort is the perfect place to practice advanced yoga, i.e. breathwork and meditation.
From take off to cruising altitude, I focus on breath control, specifically elongating my exhales to calm my anxiety. Longer exhales stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing the fight or flight reaction that cause anxiety. As I've discussed before, meditation isn't always a peaceful experience. Meditation is simply about being able to sit with your feelings, which often are difficult and not peaceful at all! On a plane, you are literally forced to take a seat and stay where you are.
What I realized with this forced meditation is that peace is a process and peace is where ever you are, even in the midst of turbulent times. It is not a place you reach and then inhabit forever; it is a verb, an action, a continual return to the present moment.
Most times when I fly, all I think about is being back on the ground. Imagining peace once the wheels touch the runway. Interestingly, thinking about this actually increased my anxiety and sense of instability. Time stretched out and my feelings of insecurity were prolonged. When I shifted my mindset to the idea that peace was right where I was, in the middle of the sky in a plane, I actually felt my anxiety dissipate. I didn't need to land to feel safe, I just needed to feel safe exactly where I was.
I'm bringing this up only because of the larger implications. This is such an acute and guttural example of what we do on a daily basis. We unconsciously are always thinking that peace will come once we've checked off everything on our to-do list or get on the other side of a project or find a resolution to a problem. But that's not the case. If we reflect on all of the to-do lists and projects we've finished and all the problems we've resolved, we see we're still not at peace. Sure, we may feel a momentary sense of accomplishment, but then we're off again, making an entirely new to-do list, thinking, "this time, though, I'll really be calm at the end of this".
It's so seductive to think that peace comes from having all of our ducks in a row. And, every now and then, the stars align for a brief moment and our life comes together as planned. We may think, "I've made it. Life is perfect. I'll never have to worry again." But we all know how this story ends. Because eventually things fall apart. And eventually after that, things come together. An endless cycle of falling apart and coming together. Really, no one cycle is better than the other. For things to grow and get stronger, situations must collapse. The yin and the yang. Both working together to make a life whole.
This process of peace is very much like balancing poses in yoga. I see it my students and my younger yoga self, this need to be perfectly still in yoga poses. But that's not how balancing works. Balance, like peace, is not a place but a process. There are ongoing, tiny adjustments your body is always making to keep you upright. And these movements are constantly feeding off each other, counterbalancing each other, coming back to center. In the process of returning we sometimes need to fall completely down in order to return to our center. This is human life, this is life on Earth. Life is not a place, life is process. Life is a continual return to center. Balance is the same. Peace is the same. A continual process of returning home.