I was inspired to write this article due to my recent conversations with a few patients who are feeling overwhelmed as the holidays approach. Isn’t it ironic that during a period of when we are meant to feel joy, gratitude, abundance, pleasure, and even sweet nostalgia that there is this accompanying feeling of anxiety and overwhelm? It it is with my experience in the past few years that I have chosen to purposefully slow down as the holidays speed up. Being present more so in the present moment versus entertaining the worry of what has yet to come or be accomplished on a never ending list of supposed duties and responsibilities. I actually want to enjoy the holidays by slowing down with them because once the momentum has taken off sometimes its easy to get “caught up” and over a sudden….it’s all over and I’ve been left feeling depleted, lethargic, and even run down, maybe sick. This is common for many of us during this time of year and I have written about this in my most recent article (HERE) and past articles around the effects of how running around during this season can create more stress and compromise our immunity.A few years ago, I attended an initiation and training for a specific modality and it was there that I felt inspired to rename my practice “Still Point Ayurveda.” The reasons for this are several but one primary feeling behind this is that I reflected on what it means to sit with the intimacy of stillness.
One of my favorite explanations for describing this still place is "Stillness has the power to heal the body and to awaken a higher energy and awareness in the mind. Such yogic stillness, however, is not an enforced stillness born of personal effort but a natural stillness born of deep relaxation."- Vamadeva Shastri (Dr. David Frawley) Furthermore, I learned in one of my first meditation classes that meditation can be described as “an interrupted flow of awareness of one object of consciousness”, as stated by Dr. Nischit from the Himalayan Institute. This one pointed-ness exists closely to the “still point.” In expanding upon this wisdom, I have shared with my clients that there is a similarity between karma, as I understand it, and the breath. Let’s begin with looking at the breath more closely. There are four parts to the breath. First, we have the “inhale” itself. Next, there is a “junction,” a point at the top of the inhale where the breath is paused for a fraction of a second just before it enters the exhale. Following this, we have the “exhale.” Lastly, we have the “junction” that is at the bottom of the exhale where the breath is paused for a fraction of a second just before it returns to the inhale. Dr. Vasant Lad has stated that “when we organically spend time in the pause between the breaths, the longer that pause will exist and eventually God’s lips will touch ours and we can be enlightened in six months of this natural process involving awareness.” It may sound poetic but I imagine the possibility of some level of truth around this. Try it out and let me know what you think! In yogic philosophy, the inhale resembles the future because it is of things to come still, and the exhale represents what has passed. It is common to experience anxiety and its parallel relationship to worries about the future, being part of the inhale. Whereas, with the exhale, what has passed is what we tend to let go of but what we don’t let go of becomes something that is heavy and keeps us de-pressed/depressed.
This is where we can expand this relationship of breath and karma. From my perspective, karma is generally understood per “cause and effect.” Also, with how the ego identifies itself with circumstances associated with time, the ego will either think futuristically or mull over the past, preventing itself from actually settling into the present moment. In the present moment, the ego doesn’t really know how to wrap itself around reality which is happening now. This is where many of us have or continue to become uncomfortable. This is the place the still point lives and it is sometimes even unbearable to really truly stop in the right now. It can feel scary. In the now, the ego actually comes to a halt. It’s unsettling here and therefore it will find some distraction, considering that it is a “Master Shape Shifter, and find something else to perpetuate its existence and create scenarios of suffering. Within traditions such as yoga, there are pranayam techniques (breath supported/controlled/disciplined exercises to manipulate the breath and in doing so these techniques anchor us in the moment. It inherently gives the mind something to do since that is its nature. The mind/ego want to be kept busy, otherwise they find ways to consume us. Furthermore, I see karma like the swinging of a pendulum. When the pendulum swings forward it represents the future and when the pendulum swings backward then it represents the past. When the pendulum stops swinging, at the center point/still point, it is in the present moment. When the mind goes into story-telling the pendulum has begun its movement yet again. If we notice the stories occurring, notice how its an interpretation of what is being experienced in the moment, and question what the story(ies) are coming up as by asking “is this true?” I like this exercise because Byron Katie has taught that the unraveling of the mind and understanding of what the mind is happens when we ask the simple question “is it true?”
There are a few modalities and techniques that I have come into contact with over the years that have the effect of inviting an individual to connect with a “still place.” Here are a few of them: Shiatsu, Thai Bodywork, Reiki, Polarity Therapy, CranialSacral/Visionary CranialSacral Therapy, and Shirodhara. It is even safe to say that at the ending of a general yoga class savasana (corpse pose) is another opportunity to explore this ‘Still’ place. Even massage offers this where at the end of the session you are left there to relax and integrate the session. Most often than not, this moment brings people to a deep state of relaxation, to the point of even dozing off or a deep sleep. Additionally, as part of traditions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and the Quaker culture, sitting in silence, sitting in meditation can be another way to explore stillness. Simply going into nature and connecting with any or all of the five elements can allow us entry way to stillness. This is a form of meditation. Please know that there are many other cultures, practices, and traditions that exist globally which can support this intention of stillness and therefore is not limited to the short list I’ve provided.
In conclusion, consider these words as the holidays roll in and you find yourself in the chaos. There is a choice on some level where slowing down is even an option if you heed to the silent whisper. Slowing down makes it easier to hear this whisper. As mentioned above, there are many modalities and techniques to choose from to help with this. These tools serve to remove the distractions so we can see what’s present when we are liberated from as many distractions as possible. In doing so, we’ll find more peace in our mind and nervous system, peace in our digestion, and overall we’ll have stronger immunity and feel happier. Start somewhere and practice makes perfect over time. Slowing down allows us to connect to a deeper part of ourselves. Can we make space for this? What will you find when you allow yourself the opportunity to slow down? What will you see? What don’t you want to see or feel? Check it out. Your inner you will thank you for doing so and for wondering about all this.
Finding the stillness may actually be something that happens not because you did something but because you chose something else to open up to what’s been here all along. It is similar to meditation where meditation is not something we do but something that happens as a results of not doing or not doing the things that actually prevent us from experiencing what is happening here in the moment when we slow down to it.
DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions.