I know it’s been a dramatic start to 2021, but I‘ve been napping.
Let me back up.
I usually don’t set a New Year’s Resolution, because I know it won’t last, and it has always reminded me of the striving nature of most of us, trying and trying to be better versions of ourselves. But this year, I had a flash of inspiration, and I am going with it. It started out as just a thought – “I should learn how to nap.”
I think there was such hopefulness for so many of us – coming into the new year, letting go of the many terrible things that happened in 2020, ready for a fresh start. But of course, nothing changed with the turning of the calendar page. We began with a white supremacist insurrection on the US Capitol, a president’s potential second impeachment, and a virus out of control.
I wonder, how did you take all of this in within the last week? Did you get sucked in by the 24-hour news cycle, unable to look away? I certainly had moments like that. Have you experienced fear? Anxiety? Stress? Someone I’m close to shared yesterday that he has been watching the news and stressing about politics for months – obsessively watching like seeing a car wreck and not being able to look away. The healthy habits he knows he would benefit from have gone by the wayside, leaving him feeling disconnected, unhealthy, and unhappy. This is a stressful time, to be sure. He knows that his microscopic view of all the bad news in the world isn’t really helping him live the life he wants to be living, but he feels like he can’t stop.
I am constantly questioning how useful it is, really, for us to pay such close attention. I’m not advocating for putting our collective heads in the sand, but I’ve been asking myself: is it helpful for me to know every momentary change going on in the political sphere in the world? What difference does it make for us to be here, watching the events unfold like we are watching a futuristic dystopian movie?
The questions I have been asking myself is what is helpful? What does make a difference? What is useful information to take in? I want to be informed to be sure. I think it’s important for us to see the truth of what is happening in our world – the emboldened racist rhetoric, ideas, and actions, the fight for democracy versus fascism, the truth that we are a nation founded on white supremacy, and how it’s rearing its ugly head. It’s long past time to acknowledge that truth. But what is our role as individuals?
My first thought is that I need slow down the action. Take a break and take a breath. Pause the input, and tune in to my inner shifting of reaction, emotion, thought, and swirling phenomena.
It’s time for me to turn off the news for now.
My biggest hesitation about napping was that I would fail at it. I honestly am not so good at slowing down in the middle of my day. I definitely can’t fall asleep when there is so much to do. So instead, I resolved to practice napping. It means I don’t have to really succeed; I just have to try. I decided to practice napping in the same way I practice meditation. What happens when I am on my meditation cushion is certainly more practice than perfection. There are times when I find myself thinking for long periods of time, lost in thought, planning or ruminating, and have to remind myself to come back to my breath and my body. After years of practicing, I am better at noticing when I am lost and returning, without beating myself up about it.
So, I practice. I lie down, on my bed or the couch or on the floor beside the fireplace. Sometimes on my back, sometimes curling over on my side, resting in this vulnerable feeling posture, heart soft, eyes closing. Sometimes there is the buzzing from my day, sometimes some lingering emotion I perhaps hadn’t really noticed before.
There is nothing to do, because napping is the ultimate non-doing. It’s doing even less than meditation, or savasana. It really is doing nothing. I’m not even trying to keep my mind from wandering. I lie there for anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes. Just being my essential self. And then when I feel ready, I rise. A little groggy, but easier in my skin. I greet the world a little more softly. The places where I have hardened against my kid’s school schedules, the daily news, the annoyance I might feel about dishes in the sink or the list of things to do, these things look a little fuzzier, not so harsh and pointed. They have a softness around them, and so do I.
In taking in the world around us, what I feel might make a difference is looking not so much “out there” but looking “in here.”
You might check in – what is the state of your nervous system? Has the news of the day triggered a fight or flight reaction? Has it brought up fear? Triggered difficult memories? How can we stay tuned into the present moment instead of sifting through old wounds or triggering catastrophic forward thinking? Attending to our reactions, our sensitivities and our responses to the world around us – here’s where we can do the work of becoming more thoughtful, intuitive, and compassionate beings. Here is where we can make a real difference with our relationship to ourselves, to our family, to our community, to those we love easily and those we find difficult. Here’s where we can feel into our false sense of separateness and know that we’re not alone. We don’t have to solve the world’s problems, but we can hold with tenderness the difficulties that are here.
No surprise – I don’t have the answers for how to change the world. The problems are both far too complex and yet frustratingly simple – us vs them, our perceived separateness, how so many of us can’t seem to figure out how to care for each other and for our world.
I don’t know how to fix this. But I know how to slow down.
Here are the things that this past year has gotten really clear for me: what’s important to me is the warmth and soft protection I hold around my family, what’s important to me is being in nature, feeling the support and nourishment of the earth. What’s important to me is moving slowly enough to see the glow of spirit in everything – trees, sky, the rains, but also the dishes, laundry, the too loud songs sung by my daughter, my son’s teenage moods, the meal my family cooked together last night, my daughter learning how to wield a knife and dice a carrot. But also, the brokenness of our world and the suffering. It has always been so. This is not different than it’s ever been.
What’s important is holding both the simplicity and the complexity of our world in our hands and in our heart.
It takes moving slowly to hold both. Perhaps we should slow down together? Then we can greet the world’s difficulties with attentiveness, sensitivity, and compassionate action, and we won’t feel so alone. At least we can try. At least we can practice.
See you after my nap.
PS: Lots of opportunities this winter to slow down, to deepen attentiveness, and to learn. Please check out our January workshops and series: Our Family Yoga Classes, (beginning this week), De-Stress and Re-Connect with Movement (A workshop about the Vagus Nerve), and my mindful writing series, Writing Your Way Home.