When the Storm Comes, Find Your Light
By Melissa Hurt, Ph.D., M.F.A.
People look at me--yoga teacher, voice and speech trainer, communication coach, and meditation teacher—and say, “You must feel Zen all the time.”
Just like everyone else, I get lost in the storm life moves over me.
Just like everyone else, I suffer from pangs of loneliness, anxiety, and fear.
Anxiety makes me feel ungrounded, scared, and distrustful of what is happening in my experience. I don’t sense my body except for the parts that hurt or feel agitated.
Can you relate?
This pain is amplified by physical tension that comes from the fear of not knowing what will happen in the imagined circumstance that brought on my anxiety. Fear tightens my body, contracts me inward in a protective mode— curling up to survive the attack.
It’s tempting to stay curled in a ball (metaphorically or, sometimes, actually!) and cry, choke on my tight breath, or bemoan my circumstance.
Thankfully, I have been practicing yoga, voice and speech that is based on a deeply inward connection to myself, and meditation for years. When I feel the storm moving over me, I know what tools I need to see my way through.
And I’m here on this earth to share them with you.
I am not letting my fear overwhelm me because I know my inner light is bigger than the fear.
And I want you to know this, too.
I know this because I have cultivated a subtle personal strength through short daily meditation practices.
Meditation is not about life being still, balanced, and lovely all the time.
It’s about getting real with things as they are. Sitting in the storm, finding courage to sit in it, observing it, breathe, and feel your steadiness, expansiveness, and humanity.
I learned a life-changing meditation practice from Pema Chrodon’s book When Things Fall Apart, a book I highly recommend, in which she teaches that meditation practice begins when life’s turmoil hits the fan.
That moment when we feel our bodies tighten up in anxiety, fear, or any discomfort... THAT is the place from which we start. Be brave and sit with it. Breathe. Again, b-r-e-a-t-h-e...
You—beautiful you with an inner light that cannot go out-- will find you are much larger than that feeling.
Here is a short roadmap to get to a place of shelter in the storm:
Sit comfortably. You can sit in a chair or a pillow on the floor. The only important things here are that you are comfortable and have an aligned spine (no slumping, please!).
Breathe with awareness. Notice your breath moving in and out of your nose. Feel the temperature change from the cool air coming in and the warm air moving out. The more you choose to take a long breath in, the better able you are to catch a moment of anxiety before it takes hold. Also, if the mind is focused on the breath, it cannot focus on anything else. Take THAT fearful thought!
Notice the breath with non-judgment. Yes, thoughts will come. You may even hear the squeaky hamster wheel in the front of your mind or the clatter of monkeys distracting you from within. Just notice. Breathe. Notice sensation. Don’t get lost in the story. Notice the sounds around you and let them be.
There is no need to control the moment (it’s impossible, so let’s be productive with our energy). Instead, be with your senses and feel your connection to your breath as you ground in the REAL of here and now.
And notice how you—beautiful, dynamic you—is at the center of all of it. Your breath, your heartbeat, your inner light. It might be dim right now, but nothing’s going to stamp it out.
Sit and continue giving attention to your breath. Keep going until you feel a little more like yourself again.
A two-minute sit can grow into four minutes, then ten minutes.
You’ll notice a difference in how you feel and how you perceive your surroundings.
You’ll become responsive, not reactive.
And, for me, that’s the biggest success in overcoming anxiety.
Life has given us quite a storm in 2020. But, we’re here, hanging on, and not going anywhere. Let’s find daily practices to enhance the brightness of our inner light so we can shine.
Melissa Hurt is a certified yoga teacher and communication coach with her Ph.D. in acting theory and MFA in directing pedagogy. She is the owner of Integrative Studio where she teaches clients how to release stale energy holding them back to become their true selves. She is a published author and teaches theatre at SUNY Albany. Become Enlivened at www.melissahurt.com.