Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: ayurveda

A Good Winter’s Sleep

Because the winter’s temperatures rose above 2° around here – nay, they rose to the 50s! – I resumed the morning walk habit for two days in a row. Yesterday the spring-like conditions drew my attention to the melting snow and wet grounds. Thankfully the earth is equipped with the capillaries to direct the water where it needs to go, even as a few deeper ditches kept hold of their dirty piles of ice and snow.

I find it fascinating that the earth – at least here in Ohio – comes equipped with this season where it hardens up and lets everything remain on top. It doesn’t let stuff sink in during the winter. It just sits under blankets of snow, doing nothing, creating nothing, though a wealth of energy still circulates through its inner body. This freezing, though appears as idleness, serves an essential role to the entire seasonal process.

When I was younger, my grandpa Bud – one of those farm men who knew how to do about anything (except drive a zero-turn lawnmower, but that’s another story) decided to grow an apricot tree from the pit of another apricot. He showed me the process: he took the seed, wrapped it in a wet paper towel, and stuck it in the freezer. He explained that the pit needed the coldness to learn how to break open and begin to grow.

We haven’t done a good job of taking cues from the earth and the apricot tree. We don’t make a season of being covered in blankets, allowing ourselves the sense of rest and dormancy that the natural world undertakes. Our culture of Go! Do! Accomplish! Win! beckons us to hurry out the door for another long day of achievement. Our internal systems have no opportunity to find dormiens,  dormancy.

The body heals itself during sleep. When we’re not spending extra time on the couch or in bed, we’re generally out and about with other people, spreading germs, and wearing down our physical selves. Thus, H1N1 outbreaks. Even our holidays, days added to the calendar so that people could be free to cease from the strain of work, add so much activity to our lives that we require a recuperation from our celebrations.

We’re taught that idleness is of the devil, that doing nothing is a recipe for a failed life. While I agree that a life of meaning includes work, I think we missed the design for effective work. Processes exist to allow a cycle of production, not a never-ending output. My friend (the notorious KLR) owns chickens which lay eggs based on the cycles of light. Because my fridge took a winter’s hit, I told her I would buy them a nice warm light, but the chicken doesn’t benefit from endless egg-laying.

Our bodies, our minds, our very selves, are designed for a period of dormancy. Quietness. Days of being covered in blankets without the need to absorb and create and produce. It’s in this long winter’s nap that our internal energy recharges so we can greet spring with a new life and begin the creation process anew.

So here’s what I’m advocating for, in our house, during this next round of winter weather: Blankets. Books. Naps. Movies. Popcorn. Minimal-effort baking. Gentle movement. Warm beverages. More books and blankets. Fuzzy slippers. Mindless tasks, like crochet or knitting or coloring. Board and card games. We’ll emphasize less what we can accomplish – unless it’s finishing the current novel – and more how we can simply be.

And if you need a permission slip to do nothing today and tomorrow (pending your speaking engagements and classes are also cancelled), here you go. It’s your Hall Pass to stop being productive. Now, go cozy up with a steaming mug of coffee.

 

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All In

A few things that people who know me well will attest to:

  1. I hate cold and rain. I choose my OSU football game attendance based on these things.
  2. I’m a fair-weather runner. See above.
  3. I love food.

Based on the evidence above, my current state of bliss seems unmerited.

This week I’ve been taking on a seasonal reset, enjoying a mono-diet of kitchari and juice and little else. I even went All In and gave up the coffee and subsequently gave myself the side eye. Can I tell you about the first 2 days of such cleanliness of eating? Misery. Anger. Haze. Tiiiiirrrreeeeeddddd.

I reminded myself that everything is temporary, that I would soon eat foods I love again, and stopped checking Instagram. (Y’all post a lot of food. Please stop.) I ranted to all my closest (and even furthest) friends about my dissatisfaction.

Last night I turned a corner after the last dose of green juice. This morning I was slated to run hills for an upcoming half marathon for which I’m training trying to prevent myself from dying. It was 48°, overcast, and I hate running anything but a straight, flat line. Yet here I was, per my sister’s training instructions, running the same steep hill 10 times.

By hill #3 I was tired. And then, it started to rain. You guys. I hate cold and wet. Instead of quitting, like I wanted to do when denying myself a sandwich, I decided go All In.  To simply be present to each step. Instead of zoning out with daydreams and my music, I tuned into the push/pull action of my hamstrings and quadriceps. I told myself, “it’s just rain.” And eventually, it stopped. Or, I stopped noticing. To me, it’s the same thing.

 “What we discipline is not our “badness” or our “wrongness.” What we discipline is any form of potential escape from reality. In other words, discipline allows us to be right here and connect with the richness of the moment.” – Pema Chodron

I love this new take on discipline; I’m not just training myself to crave better things, though it is a delightful side effect. And I’m not just preparing my body to run faster or farther, although that, too, will come in handy on April 29. The discipline is to bring myself into my body, instead of believing everything my mind tells me, such as “this is hard” or “I’m going to dissipate if I don’t eat something else!”

The food I missed, the ease of flat trails – these are things I use to avoid feeling the moment. They’re familiar and I’m able to live on autopilot while I engage them. But limiting my intake (this week included the media and the social/emotional stimulus as well as food) gave me a chance to process. It had a chance to move through me, and I felt it. I couldn’t numb it with familiarity. And letting it go, working through it instead of around it, provided me new freedom.

I feel really good today. Sore, tired, and a tad hungry – but good. I’ve remembered what it was like to feel. I gifted myself the experience of now, knowing full well that now is fleeting.

This week has become a deeper glimpse into what I’ve meant by, “listen to the inner wisdom of your body.” The discipline goes beyond craving familiar and comforting and into the world of being present to what is real. Right here, right now.

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