Start where you are. And Breathe.
I always admired people who could do a headstand. Not only the ones in the circus or on stage, who apparently made this their profession and everything in their lives seemed to evolve around it. But people who had other jobs, families and interests and also… could do a headstand. Or even better – a handstand.
And then common knowledge tells you, you just have to practice. But I had so many other things I wanted to do, that I didn’t see how I should ever get there. After all there is only a limited number of hours per day and also I felt a limited amount of energy to do things. Especially the kind of practicing that is needed to get in shape and achieve something as cool as a headstand.
When I had energy, I wanted to be with friends, work at these youth camps, create the theatre plays I was involved in, focus on my studies, do my part-time job as a secretary and travel. Or there were meetings I had to go to, family gatherings I should participate in etc. And any time that I didn’t have enough energy for those things, it meant that I was completely exhausted and needed to rest. I’d have back pains or migraine or just no drive to do anything productive. So I’d sleep or hang out until I felt that drive and then there were so many things to attend to again.
So I was telling myself convincingly that this headstandingthing wasn’t for me and that it was OK. Because you know, you can’t have everything in life and let’s face it – being able to do a headstand is not really important anyways.
However the different kinds of chronic pain that I had and the sensation of easily being overwhelmed were annoying, and limiting the joy in everything I did. So, I wanted to do something about it, without giving up on the things I loved.
And then I learned something amazing – I learned to pay attention to my breathing, wherever I am. In meetings and other moments when my back hurt, I learned to try to breathe differently. I started to become aware of the way I always sat in the same position, and that when I changed this in subtle ways every now and then, my back was much less disturbing and painful.
I was much less exhausted after the meetings than I used to be. In a way my pain had turned into a reminder to breathe and I began to do so much more often. Not only in meetings but also when I was standing around with my friends and noticed my back was getting tired. Or when waiting for the bus.
And something amazing happened – I didn’t have to give up on being active in order to be more well and have less pain. I didn’t have to drop everything, recover and then go out again. I could use any moment to gain more energy; starting where I was.
After these first lessons of paying attention to breathing and pain, I have learned many more things through my body. At several points in the past years I also made some drastic changes in the bigger structures of my life and I now live in a different country, work as a practitioner and do quite a lot of physical exercise.
However, without regaining energy and learning to do so more easily, by incorporating this into my every day life, I don’t think I would have gotten to where I am now. I didn’t feel I have the time or the energy to even consider the larger changes.
I still continue to practice breathing in different ways. Whether it is by noticing it’s rhythm and trying different speeds or by paying attention to an area in my body that is involved in the movement of breathing. Or just making sure that I actually breathe. I also do specific breathing exercises, if I have time for that. And whenever I don’t, I use the everyday activities and a moment of attention.
Right now I’m still alive, which means I sometimes have pain and I experience situations that could easily become overwhelming for me. But I have so much more control over my level of energy and where I invest it, that I don’t get as exhausted as I used to be on a regular basis. And instead of suffering and waiting to be “back up and with drive”, I use some of my time to practice unimportant and fun things.
And now – I can do a headstand. It might not be important. But I think it’s quite cool.
The handstand… I’m still practicing.
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