The holiday season tends to be a very busy and stressful one for most of us; extra things added to our to-do lists and a lot of demands on our time. Looking for something that we can put down to make it through the days, it is easy to have our self-care practices get bumped off our schedule. But what if we received this stress as an opportunity to strengthen our self-care practices instead?
In the past few months, I have had many opportunities to think about how to maintain my practices – keeping my relationship with Qi flowing – when there was no time to devote to those practices. This year has been particularly challenging, with the demands of moving my household layered on top of the full time jobs I already have. After many years of daily practice and an awareness of how critical Qi cultivation is to my well-being, I managed to avoid forgoing self-care completely but I was forced to dramatically curtail my routines. Initially, I railed against what felt like deprivation. I was telling myself that if I don’t have as much time and cannot sink deeply into my practice, I wasn’t getting as much nourishment. As the weeks of stress continued into months, I felt increasingly depleted and experienced much suffering.
This began to shift for me when a wise teacher reminded me that the practice is not a special time that I carve out of my daily life, but is, in fact, the way that I approach daily life itself. Being nourished by my practice and by being in connection with Qi does not require a 30 minute Tai Chi routine done in an inspiring setting (although I will gladly accept and revel in such an opportunity!). It only requires that I show up for myself – in the present moment – with an intention to be in connection with Qi.
Breathing into this lesson, I remembered that washing the dishes or driving in traffic can be opportunities for my practice. Although I definitely prefer the serene settings and the comfort of my rituals, I softened my resistance and opened to what was present. I began to tell myself that the 5 minute sitting meditation that I could squeeze in was enough. I took 2 minutes to align, ground and then did a few wave hands like clouds movements in the parking lot before I went in to pick up my kids from school. I turned my attention to my breath and did an Absorbing Pure Essence qigong movement while standing in line at the bank. When it occurred to me, I stopped running around for 30 seconds to breathe and offer myself a couple of encouraging or compassionate words. I gave myself the gift of mindful presence while washing the dishes after dinner. I played with mindful weight shifting while sweeping the floor after breakfast. I began to inch closer to the goal of a 24/7 qigong practice by sprinkling in a few minutes at a time. After several weeks of this “limited” practice, I have to admit that it has actually brought me to a deeper experience of Qi.
This chaotic and busy time is a signpost guiding us back to basics. It is an invitation to deepen our practices and make them part of our lives 24 hours a day/7 days a week. We are being asked if we are willing to allow ourselves to be nourished and to bring in Qi even though there is no time for our usual class or self-care routine. We are being challenged to reconsider and rediscover what really matters in self-care; our self-compassion and receptivity, for example. When there isn’t time for the practice, allow what you are doing to become your practice ground.
May you find rest and stillness within the movements of your busy season.
Best Good Care,
Susan Lucas, M.D.