August 30, 2020
Do not sit long with a sad friend.
When you go to a garden,
Do you look at thorns or flowers?
Spend more time with roses and jasmine.
~ Rumi, 13th C., trans. Moyne and Barks
While I may disagree with Rumi’s first line, his next three offer an antidote to these times.
Whatever we’re witnessing or enduring— smoky skies, burning neighborhoods and parks, flooding, hurricanes and wind storms, ongoing lies, inaction, and bad actions from Washington, DC, people ill and dying from COVID 19, police and White Supremacist violence and murder—can be overbearing and all-consuming. And yes, throwing the stress meter into the end of the red zone.
The good news is that we have choice where to invest our time, attention, and energies.
Birds are still singing, raspberries continue growing plump, red, and sweet in the backyard, engaging books are asking to be read, and we come upon strangers on a trail who raise their eyebrows a couple times over masked smiles to offer a friendly non-verbal greeting.
These make-us-smile aspects of life reduce stress. For a moment, we’re 100% present time, savoring that single raspberry, hearing the birdsong suddenly emerging out of the clear blue, taking in a stranger’s surprise gesture, or coming upon an out-of-this-world passion flower in bloom on a neighbor’s fence.
When these sensory events come your way, take a moment to take them in. Even 5-10 seconds makes a positive difference—notice how your body responds while you’re present. My guess is your shoulders relax, facial muscles relax and perhaps even a smile emerges. And your organs soften. “Oh, relaxation, normal. I’d forgotten.”
These moments of becoming present to beauty, to natural life surrounding us, and a neutral yet friendly stranger can make a positive difference in our lives. True anytime, but especially now. Our bodies are yearning to let down, to de-stress. All we have to do is give them a chance.
Read more along these lines in this article “When Savoring a Pleasant Moment is a Radical Act,” by Ari Honarvar, an Iranian man who was a child during the Iran-Iraq war. Elders taught him, by example through poetry, humor, and story, about surviving a war zone intact. Honarvar also references trauma and stress physiology throughout his article. About current pandemic times, he wrote, “it’s also time to infect each other with love and fortifying stories.”
How about we create our own restorative and fortifying stories of beauty, laughter, and smiles during these challenging times? And maybe seeing Sara for bodywork is part of your restorative story. Learn more about how she addresses stress here and here.