She wore her ferocity like armor, and it was purely asexual armor. Liraz was untouchable and untouched. ~Laini Taylor, Days of Blood & Starlight
I’m learning to let go of my shields, to take the armors off (they are too heavy anyways) and march unguarded, if ever the need arises, towards the battlefield in defense of love. ~ Ayokunle Falomo, thread, this wordweaver must!
Pretty armour doesn’t make a warrior. ~Mark Lawrence, Emperor of Thorns
We live in a world that applauds busyness. If we aren’t doing-doing-doing, then we are wasting time, wasting space, wasting our life. Rest is unacceptable. Self-care is considered selfish. Slowing down, or worse, actually stopping, is a clear sign of our laziness.
A truth is if we are overwhelmed with our busyness, there is little to no time, space, or energy for true connection — not with our own Self, not with those we hold most dear, not even truly with our community. The more we are doing the less we are being. The more we are distracted with our long to-do list of task after task after endless task, the less we are questioning why we are allowing ourselves to be so busy, the less we question the status quo, the less we question if there is another way to live, another way to be, a way to actually feel fulfilled, loved, connected.
A way to move beyond our busyness, to find our way to being able to tolerate being present in, and even learn to enjoy, the now, is by coming home to our bodies. When we are able to slow down and calm our sympathetic nervous systems and then move into the work of connecting even more to our bodies, our boundaries, our connection to ground and our own center, we learn to be in the present, we begin to feel the grip of those endless to-do lists loosen and our whole being be able to relax.
This is a process. And there are some little tips and tricks, beyond the nervous system exercises I share in my weekly newsletter and on social media, that I have found helpful, perhaps you will too.
Sticky Notes: Write a single word or phrase on a stickie (or several) and stick it on your bathroom mirror, your refrigerator, your closet door, your window sill, your walls, where ever you like. The more stickies you are willing and able to put up around your home, the better. These are gentle reminders of our intentions, of the ways we want to live. When we walk by them and notice them, we can take a moment to breathe in and exhale and allow that word or phrase to enter into our conscious mind. Also, when we pass by them and don’t consciously notice them, our peripheral vision will see them and send that message into our subconscious (which is where the real work of shifting and change needs to happen).
“Tattoo” your inner forearm: Write a word or phrase on your inner forearm with a marker (trust me, even “permanent” ink washes off relatively easily). This serves the same purpose as the stickies, the difference being it is more of a constant reminder of what we wish to embody.
Window Chalk the Windows: Same as the previous two, but putting these words or phrases on our windows, glass sliding doors, and or mirrors. We can embellish the words or phrases as we like, adding flowers or butterflies or hearts or whatever you like.
Some words and phrases you could use:
- Slow or Slow down
- I am love(d)
- I am enough
- I am safe in this moment
- I am worthy
- I am deserving
- I am my own Self
- I am NOT her
- Break Patterns
- Break Cycles
You get the idea.
Folding Laundry “Meditation”: While folding laundry practice paying attention to what you actually doing. No TV on, no music, simply standing or sitting folding the laundry, noticing each piece of clothing — its colors, textures, size (You may also begin to notice stains and small holes or tears that need attention!). In time you can add breathing to this exercise if you like, taking a slow, big inhale as you begin folding the piece of the clothing and letting out a fully, big, forced exhale as you finish and set it on the folded clothes pile.
Washing Dishes “Meditation”: Similar to Folding Laundry, but adapted to work with washing dishes: noticing the temperature of the water, the way the soap bubbles melted, the colors and textures of the dishes and utensils. You can do this even as loading the dishwasher, it is all about noticing what is happening, what you are doing, paying attention. When you notice your thoughts have begun to wander, bring them back to the task at hand and back to noticing.
Cleaning “Meditation”: Adapting the above exercises to any type of cleaning exercise: sweeping or mopping, cleaning mirrors, windows, counters, toilets, tubs. Noticing the feel of the rag or sponge or brush in our hands, noticing the difference between the dirty parts and the parts you just cleaned, noticing colors and textures, etc.
Laughter: Google “dumb dad jokes” and go to the images and let yourself chuckle. Or watch your favorite comedian or comedy show or movie. Read a kids’ joke book. Whatever it takes to laugh, do it. (Laughter has been shown to help calm our sympathetic nervous system and to boost our production of endorphins and serotonin.)
Connecting to nature: Go sit at the base of a tree, go barefoot in the grass, sand, mud. If you like hiking, go for a hike. If you like gardening, go pull some weeds or transplant a plant, or harvest the fruits and vegetables you have been growing. Water a house plant and stand with it and talk to it, breathing in the oxygen it is is producing and giving it some extra carbon dioxide to process.
These practices are things you can try if you are feeling resistant to the more “formal” nervous system regulation exercises or in addition to them. They are ways to help us slow down, to be in the now, to remind your body that in this moment, you are physically safe.
None of this is a quick or easy fix. None of it will completely change you overnight, or within a week or even within six months. And you will start to notice little shifts, you will start to take those moments to pause, and in time those pauses will become longer and longer.
This essay was originally written for my weekly-ish newsletter in August 2018. It has been edited and revised for publication here. To receive my most recent essays, you can subscribe here.