Here in Maryland, the dogwoods are in full bloom, approaching the end of their spring display, and there are Star of Bethlehem flowers in many of the lawns in the neighborhood. Since I took over cutting my own lawn again, I was able to mow around these lovely white flowers and give them another week or two to adorn my yard.
In the US, COVID cases are dropping. The virus may never go away and may continue to kill thousands of people every month, due to the combination of vaccine fears and new variants. But by sometime this year, life should be able to find a new normal that allows us to gather in person again.
In India, though, COVID is spiking dramatically. Because of widespread poverty and close quarters, the virus is very difficult to manage and contain there.
Thank you for whatever you are doing that supports health and healing in your family and in the world.
And in the interest of psychological and nervous system healing, I have declared May to be the month of small personal practices!
May is the month of small personal practices!
I invite you to join with me in setting the intention to do personal practices every day (or most every day), or to add additional practices to your standing regimen.
How is it helpful to do more small personal practices? If I am doing pretty ok, why should I trouble myself with trying to fit one more thing onto my plate?
Let’s start there. The intention in doing personal practices is not to add an item to your to do list that will increase your stress. We want to reduce stress and increase flow. So if setting an intention will cause you stress, then perhaps you can just have an idea of maybe trying something out if you feel like it.
But let me explain why personal practices are useful, and then I invite you to find a way to fit them in with a spoonful of joy rather than stress.
Based on my conversations with people seeking healing and growth, folks really want potent experiences and significant breakthroughs. We want to feel clearly in our bodies that something has shifted, that there is more room for us to be free, to feel, and to be ourselves.
I actually had the pleasure of such a shift just this past weekend. It was not a single event or insight, but four days in an intensive trauma training called ISP, integralsomaticpsychology.com, in which I got to do several practice sessions both as a facilitator and as a client.
As a result of that work, I feel like I have more space to be alive. I think that my life-long habit has been that whenever I feel actual eagerness, a dark shadow (there’s the reference to shadow LOL) immediately shows up and pours water all over my eagerness, so I end up muted and wet. But today I noticed an eagerness show up and I noticed that the eagerness just stayed there in me, that nothing came to drown it out.
That is what we want so much, palpable shifts, a clear knowing that who I am today is different than yesterday in some real way.
Do small personal practices bring about these substantive shifts?
No and yes.
Most typically, small practices do not directly evoke the profound shifts we are looking for and longing for. If they do not bring about major shifts, what do they do? Small practices can lay the groundwork for big breakthroughs. Here are two ways that our daily (or intermittent) practices support us in coming to major shifts:
First, to state the obvious, any shift is an adjustment, a change in how we feel or in how we perceive things or in what happens inside of us. A shift is a change. That is obvious, but it leads into this point. A small practice generally produces a small change, often temporary, lasting only during the time that we do the practice or for a little while afterward. So, not a permanent shift, but a change nonetheless.
If you do a variety of practices over time, your body experiences a variety of small, often temporary, shifts. Through this, your body learns repeatedly that shift is possible. The habit of shifting your experience through practice makes you more flexible and this allows your body to more easily accept a larger shift when circumstances allow one to arise.
The other element is that major healing shifts tend to be accompanied or even driven by insight and meaning, by shifts in cognitive understanding. The small practices we do every day often gift us with small insights, or with glimpses into a larger understanding that we can touch in our minds but can’t yet feel in our bodies. The accumulation of these smaller experiences of insight can support the meaning making elements of a larger shift, when circumstances allow for that larger shift to be possible.
So when we are in a particularly potent healing container or we have a life-changing event or a profound spiritual experience, the groundwork we have done through our practices creates fertile ground that makes a movement toward healing both more able to occur and more likely to stick.
And sometimes the accumulation of many small insights and shifts blossoms directly into a transformation inside of us. I don’t want to rule that out!
Perhaps June or July will be the month of larger shifts. I will offer ideas and suggestions about how to invite those shifts to happen. In the meantime, all of the small practices that we do in this month of May will indeed support those inevitable and powerful healing experiences that each of us seek.
What practices do you want to try, and how might you try them in a way that is easeful and joyful?
Note that when I say “small practices”, they can be really small.
For example, I just looked up from my laptop, looked out the window at the neighbor’s tree moving in the wind, and took a deep breath. That ten second act brings me a little more calm and a little more present.
I just took some moments to feel my feet, my calves, my thighs, my buttocks, my hips, my belly, my chest, my neck, my shoulders, my arms, my hands, my face, my brain, and the top of my head. It took more time to type about that than the time it took to do it. Yet that simple series of paying attention brought me more connection with my body and breath.
I just raised my arms up in a gesture of gratitude and smiled. That took about 15 seconds, and it softened my heart, my face and my body.
Throughout the month, I will be sharing my small practices daily through Facebook and Instagram and on my blog. I will also share some of them with you through my newsletters.
I invite you now to do one small thing. Stroke your own face lovingly. Or send a prayerful blessing to someone you care about. Or stretch. Or dance. Or breathe – deep breathing or belly breathing or alternate nostril breathing or breath of fire, whatever breathing practice your body loves.
Do one small thing, and then thank yourself for doing it!
I wish you a fruitful and joyful month of May!