anxiety

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Perfect Expression

Published December 13, 2012 by ireneglasse

For Pagans, the darker side of the year is a time for internal work–for choosing a battle, digging in, and working your way through.  The combination of myth cycles, sunlight and weather that keeps us indoors serves as grease for the wheels, if you let it.  This year, I’m working on Perfectionism.  I have an ideal inside my head of what my life is supposed to be like–what I should look like, how I should act, what I should do.  And when I fall short of that ideal, I wrestle with a lot of guilt.  The guilt feeds into my anxiety disorder.  I redouble my efforts, this time stressed and anxious, and ultimately manage to screw myself up.  I end up getting sick, overextended, neurotic…it’s an ugly cycle.  And it goes on almost constantly.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about ways to overcome my Perfectionism.  I’ve been working on self-acceptance, on the idea of ‘enough.’  That I do enough, have enough, am enough.  This evening I’m doing a releasing ritual with my wonderful working partner to further this cause.  I’ll be creating a new mala for use in prayer and yoga practice.

Yoga practice.  So many ideas come together here.  The one that really crystallized for me this past week was the idea of Perfect Expression.  A phrase often uttered by instructors at my studio is ‘Find your perfect expression.’  By that, they mean to listen to your body when you’re working on a pose.  To find out where you, personally, need to physically be, what you need to cultivate.  Not to worry about reaching the peak of that pose–Perfect Execution–but what is exactly right for your body in that moment.

For example, I have tight hamstrings.  I’m extremely strong, but not very flexible.  It seems to run in the family–we have very dense muscles and tissues that keep mobility a little pinned down.  So, for me, the Perfect Expression of Downward Facing Dog means my heels don’t touch the floor.  Yet I still get as much out of that pose as someone whose heels do touch–i.e. a great hamstring stretch/shoulder opener/lower back expansion.  That slight difference in execution becomes meaningless since the beauty and benefit to the body are equal.  Even if, 20 years from now, my heels still don’t touch in Down-dog, it will still be the Perfect Expression of the pose for me.

Perhaps there is a Perfect Expression of the Self as well.  We all have an ideal we strive for, whether given to us by our family, the media, our culture as a whole or some combination of those sources.  That ideal is Perfect Execution–beauty, health, wealth, a stable, loving relationship, enough time to help those in need, clean house, nice cars, etc, etc.  A perfectly executed life.  Yet the same way all our bodies are different, our minds and lives are different, too.  We have tight hamstrings, bad shoulders, trick wrists.  We accumulate little dings and dents along the way and must modify that Perfect Execution to fit the needs and limits of our unique, individual self.

And perhaps that modification is Perfect.  Perfect for us in that moment.  Perfect for our reality.  Perfect for the soul, the personality, the life we lead.  Perfectly expressed for who we are.  That expression doesn’t look like the ‘peak pose’ of the life we imagine–it doesn’t look like the ideal inside our head.  But the resemblance is unmistakable.  Although the images aren’t identical, we still cultivate the root of that ideal.  We reach toward it.  And that Perfect Expression is exactly where we need to be.

So I haven’t saved the world yet.  I haven’t completely balanced house-work-music-health-life.  I haven’t figured out the Mysteries of the Universe.

And it’s Perfect.  The things I think of as flaws, as failings, are just modifications.  I have tight hamstrings.  I have an anxiety disorder.  I modify Downward Facing Dog.  I modify my life.  And the beauty and benefit of those modifications are the same within me as Perfect Execution would be.  I do not feel guilt in my yoga practice.  I don’t beat myself up for not being able to flawlessly move through Standing Twisting Triangle.  Instead, I find that place within me that benefits most from the energy of that pose and I breathe into it.

Perfect Expression.

As in yoga, so in life.  As within, so without.  As above, so below.

A blessed New Moon to you, and to your Perfect Expression.

 

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Strong, slow, deliberate

Published June 6, 2012 by ireneglasse

Everyone has their battles.  I’m convinced that it’s impossible to make it to adulthood (and in some cases, just past 10) without a serious issue or two.  Or four.

I have an anxiety disorder.  It’s diagnosed, I’ve been through counseling for it.  As it was explained to me, one can have a predisposition for greater or lesser amounts of anxiety.  Think of it like a fight or flight response–the response is stronger in some people than in others.  In order to move from ‘responsive’ to ‘disorder,’ all that’s required is a little trauma.  Mine hit right around age 13 (since being a teenager isn’t hard enough on its own) and presto!  The shifter jumps a couple gears and off we go.

I’m pretty fortunate.  My anxiety issues are not so severe that they necessitate medication.  That said, they do need to be managed.  And it is in the management of our issues that I think people, myself included, often fall short.  It’s not enough to take the pill, you see.  Or to have gone through therapy of some sort once.  Although we can take the edges off of our issues, they remain with us, and can regrow their ridges if ignored for too long.

June is always a rocky month for me.  Many of the clubs I juggle in my life are in the air, and on fire, during June.  Cassandra Syndrome‘s summer tour season is underway.  Although we’ve pared back on gigs this year to one a month, there’s still a lot that happens behind the scenes to make those gigs happen.  Especially since we’ve just changed lineup.  My garden is also picking up speed–there’s more maintenance necessary, new rounds of crops to put into the ground, pest management has begun.  And finally the big one–the Shenandoah Midsummer Festival.  I co-chair the festival.  I’m blessed to have a team of amazing folks that helps make Midsummer happen, but it’s still a LOT of work.  This year in particular is a bit anxiety-inducing since we’re at a new location.  The location is fabulous, but since we haven’t run the festival there before, I don’t know what, if any, problems will arise.  I’m trying to plan for things I can only theorize about.

This along with all my other duties and activities.

I could feel the stress building over the last couple weeks.  I found myself, several times, quite literally turning in a circle while trying to figure out how to do two different things at once.  The memory problems that I associate with increased anxiety were showing up, plus the awful sinking feeling that underlies the condition.  The everything is going to go wrong, and I will be left alone forever feeling.

Here’s the good news.  I noticed the ramping up.  I noticed the issues coming to the fore.  And that increase in stress was what I carried with me into the Labyrinth during Monday night’s walk.

How do we slow down when the world speeds up around us?

One, we limit how much world is allowed into our minds.  I have a hard time not working if I’m attached to the internet.  So now, at 9 pm, an alarm goes off on my phone and I end all use of electronic media.  Reading is fine.  Writing (with a pen) is fine.  Meditation is fine.  Gmail is not.

Two, we focus on making our goals reasonable.  I know for a fact that it is impossible to get everything on my to-do list knocked out today.  I also know from reading study after study that multitasking is not as effective as many of us would like to believe.  So, I sat down, figured out what actually *needs* to happen, and focused on that.  If my living room doesn’t get cleaned today, the world will not end.

Three, we specifically make time for fun–for relaxation.  For letting ourselves off the hook for an hour or two.  If there is never a release in the pressure, we slowly grind down underneath it.

I figured out the fourth option last night as I was journaling.  I was mulling over stress and realized that there’s an area in my life where I’m already good at managing it.  Yoga.  My muscles can be screaming, my heart pounding, sweat pouring, yet in a yoga practice I am centered in myself, completely calm, and breathing fully and smoothly.  Three words came to mind about how I approach my practice.

Strong.  Slow.  Deliberate.

I focus a lot on alignment, on smooth transitions between poses.  On making my physical practice as much like the flowing of water as possible.  This idea of fluidity can be turned to my own life–to my to-do list, to the chittering monkey voice inside my head urging me to more and more faster and faster.

I choose my next task with Strength.  I will focus on it, turn all my attention to it, until it is completed.  I will meet it with all my energy, rather than attempting to divide my reserves.

I move Slowly.  Rather than the chaotic tumble of a mountain stream, I move as with the swell of the ocean.  I choose to take the time to ensure tasks are done correctly, thoroughly, skillfully.

I work Deliberately.  I consciously choose my actions.  I reflect on situations and obstacles and think them through rather than falling into mindless reaction.  When I do identify a path to pursue, I move forward in full awareness.  I stay mindful of the present moment.

Strong.  Slow.  Deliberate.  And, as always, remember to Breathe.