Stand tall, Dear Ones.
There are days that align; days that lift me and carry me easily aloft as they pass. And there are days that are the opposite; weighted somehow, heavy. And then the days - most of them really - that lie in between; neutral, malleable, a continuation of the yesterdays before them.
These in-between days are really where most shift is possible. They are waiting for us to choose. They have a momentum of their own, but they can be influenced and given direction.
The work is then to find the simplest, most direct practice to elevate the neutral, coasting moments. To do this, we need strength. Physical strength is an external demonstration of our inner efforts. Inner strength fuels inner thoughts and can be built and tuned just like outer muscles and dexterity.
Step one is to take 3 minutes at the start of the day - can be combined with other things (showering, brewing tea, driving to work, walking the dog...) - but take 3 minutes and breathe in The Good. Bigger breaths. Taller spine. Heart high. Maybe a smile. Lift your gaze just lightly. Find beauty - a tree, a flower, the sky. Tune into a reminder of something larger, greater than your current state, and breathe it in.
The first 10 seconds are easy perhaps, like most exercises. But we practice to sustain it. To build stamina in our ability to expand, to smile, to expand. To let that momentary elevation take root in our blood and our brain chemistry.
Step two is to begin to give our strength dexterity. To shape it towards who or what needs elevation in our lives. I've looked back at days recently where everything that needed doing was done. Where everything I'd wished to accomplish or read or sweat out or hold had happened. Similar days of great promise lay ahead of me. So why wasn't I singing with joy? Habit. Sheer, steady, implacable habit. There have been long, long days of struggle to get to today, to now, to this. And that struggle has become engrained in my posture, my expression, my emotions.
The skill I need now is to breathe it in. To see it, embrace it, and lay claim to where I am Right (blessed) Now. The emotional stamina to maintain my joy is all that is needed. It is as simple as an undeveloped muscle. It can be trained. It can come more and more easily with each repetition and it can start to hold me up even when I'm not trying.
We do our physical yoga practice to feel our own relationship with our bodies renewed. We are stretched out, reconnected, reunited, and stronger for it. Each time we go we don't just gain physical prowess, we also had to overcome all the resistance, all the excuses, all the reasons we may have had at first to not showing up for ourselves. But little at a time we overcame our own reluctance and we built a practice that was consistent enough to stand down all the other whispers and whines to stay in bed another few minutes and leave the mat for tomorrow.
So too, I am learning to lean into the Good I can find in my breath. That with practice it isn't at all about what I've done well or not in that day, but rather it is the simple practice of feeling the sensation of Good - of being alive, of my ability to love and be loved, to be aware of it all - and this can grow.
It resembles brushing your teeth: a simple moment of mental and emotional hygiene, 3 minutes a day (or more if you are daring!) and you can start to brush loose the plaque that may harden on your heart during tough times such that you can't remember the last time you really let loose and turned on the high-beams, eyes bright and mouth wide. Smile. Shine.
You are an extension of the Great Good in the world.
Much love, Martha