As we approach summer, many of us would usually be preparing for holidays and perhaps weeks of travelling to exotic lands. Usually, however, isn’t what we’re dealing with currently because, as lockdown continues, most holiday plans have probably changed. If we’re not journeying outward though, we have a unique opportunity to explore what’s happening on the inside, and although it may not include a trip to the beach or cocktails by the pool, reconnecting to our inner world can often prove to be the biggest adventure yet. It’s time to learn to Travel Light, because without knowing it, many of us carry around years of unresolved stress and tension, memories and mysterious aches and pains without even realising it.
Body workers, therapists and osteopaths tend to agree that at least a percentage of chronic pain or general dis-ease can be traced back to a ‘stuck’ emotion or a reluctance to change. If pain and anxiety have become your normal, everyday base-line way of being, it’s likely that your mind almost feels ‘comfortable’ in this state. Familiar and comfortable in its own way; suffering can be predictable, we know where we are with it, and we don’t have to think too much…. The moment we try to make as positive change or start a habit with the intention to move away from pain and anxiety (like meditation or yoga), the subconscious mind gets scared; “But this isn’t how we work! This is different, this is unpredictable, this isn’t safe!”, which is partly why changing and letting go of what no longer serves us is challenging. Carrying the weight of worry or unresolved fear may have at first seemed unbearable, but the mind and body adapt, and now it goes unnoticed – it’s simply your ‘personality’.
There’s a reason we might carry around negative thinking or fear mindset, as Osho explained in one of his many lectures; “The way human beings are brought up plays a very definite role. If you are unhappy, you gain something from it… Whenever he is unhappy, everybody is sympathetic toward him. Everybody tries to be loving toward him. And even more than that, whenever he is unhappy, everybody is attentive toward him, he gains attention. Attention works like food for the ego… If everybody is looking at you, you become important. If nobody is looking at you, you feel as if you are not there, you are a non-being”. Indeed, whenever we embrace fear, pain or anxiety, we feed the ego and reinforce who we ‘think’ we are. When we stop holding on to the familiar patterns and the personality we’ve created however, the ego gets smaller, the load gets lighter, and we begin to see who we truly are – pure consciousness, ego-less.
5 Steps To Travelling Light
So, how do we start letting go of the heavy emotions and physical tension that no longer serves us? How do we travel light? We have to allow the ‘stuck’ emotions or pain to move, firstly by using the breath. Massage therapist and author of Issues In Your Tissues Denise La Barre says; “Breathing fully, the way se were born to do, circulates energy through the body, revitalising and nourishing all systems. As we deepen the breath, the muscles relax, thinking slows and we feel more spacious in our bodies. We invite creativity to flow through. The mind loses its stranglehold on our attention and allows us to feel our emotions”. If you’re ready to lighten the load, start this 5-step practice this month:
- Observe: When we’re entangled within emotional or physical discomfort, it can be difficult to actually see what’s happening; how we’re thinking, acting and making decisions. Being able to observe ourselves allows us to step back from the situation and bring unconscious habits into conscious awareness, where the real work and change can take place. Begin the practice of mindfulness by watching your actions and thoughts throughout the day. There’s no need to actively change anything to begin with, simply observe your habits and any self-talk. If you’d like a more formal way to practice this, sit in a comfortable position and watch your thoughts without attachment or judgement for 10 minutes.
- Accept: The next stage of releasing what we no longer need is to accept what we find. So often an illness or injury persists for longer than necessary because we simply don’t accept the reality of the situation, or the feeling of stress circulates around the body for an extended period of time because we haven’t let go of it yet. When we accept what is, we allow the pain or emotion to start moving, and we dislodge it from where it’s been stuck in limbo for days, months or years. Emotions are energy-in-motion, and they need to move in order to heal.
- Breathe & Feel: When we hold the breath, we essentially hold-in emotions or sensations we’re unwilling to feel. Breathing fully and deeply allows emotions to flow, and when they flow, we feel. This step is difficult because sometimes the ego doesn’t want to feel. If this is challenging for you, begin a simple pranayama practice of Adham Pranayama, the ‘abdominal breath’. Inhale deeply to expand the lower ribcage, your stomach and your back three-dimensionally. Exhale to allow all the muscles to relax. Do this for a few minutes per day, especially when you observe a fearful thought or physical discomfort. Watch the emotions start to move, and if it becomes too much to handle, only commit to the breathing practice for a few minutes at a time, therefore gently encouraging the emotions to flow, rather than opening the metaphorical floodgates.
- Move: Remember, emotions are energy-in-motion, and they need to be moved! Animals naturally experience ‘neurogenic tremors’ (a.k.a shaking) after a stressful event, allowing them to return to a state of homeostasis, thus letting go of the stress. In a bid to be ‘civilised’ however, humans have gradually repressed and forgotten the ability we all have to shake, which is essentially our in-built de-stressor. To lighten the load, move in any way that feels good to you – run, walk, practice yoga, dance, and shake your body!
- Release: Once the emotion or physical discomfort has been ‘un-stuck’ and allowed to move, it’s time to let it go. This can happen in a number of ways; through a long exhale; with the help of a massage therapist; and through vocally expressing your intention to release what no longer serves you. Once you’ve practiced the previous steps, express the following: “I let go of what I do not need, I release this [memory / pain / emotion] and choose to be free. I travel light”.