Back to center – the STAY practice

mindfulness retreat

Early August in Denmark, and a few other countries, is the pivotal point where most of us come back from holidays, children to school, activities back to schedule… but is it, really?

Of course, this year has been unusual, to say the least. Although we might have cancelled our original plans and did not really “go” on holidays, fall is approaching, and with it a cycle of completion and a practice of coming back.

I know that many of us in the past few months have let go of our regular practice – and quite understandably, studios and other facilities being closed. It is natural to feel ungrounded in uncertain times, especially when our familiar structures get shaken up. Yet if we don’t pay attention, good daily habits quickly disappear, and then we go down the slippery slope… Sounds familiar?

One thing that does not go anywhere and is always available to us is our center. The practice of coming back to it, whether it is yoga, meditation, dancing, gardening, qi qonq, creative writing, or something else, is right in front of us, always available too. In times of change, we easily get “thrown off center.” Our willingness to stay in our center and commitment to a practice of some sort fades. As you now, the willingness to change or commit is a hard thing to cultivate. I suggest to take it in small bites…

Mindfulness

The STAY practice

This summer, my beloved and I decided to drive all the way down to my native southern France, after the within-EU borders re-opened a few weeks ago. Being on the road, and actually for me being back in France, easily puts me off my center. Although I enjoyed the trip very much, being out of my familiar environment challenges me in staying committed to my daily practice. Without even realizing it, the internal discourse such as “I don’t have time”, “there is no space” or even “I can skip my practice in holidays because there are all those things I want to do” (…) had taken over and put me off track just within a few days after our arrival. I realized two things: (1) As a matter of fact, there are new conditions that need adjustment, therefore making the routine difficult, (2) and simultaneously such new conditions make it a good excuse for not sticking to my practice!

In times of change, there are undeniably new conditions to deal with, and yet I find that it is my willingness to stay in my center, or stick to my daily yoga and meditation practice, that is the biggest challenge!

Now back at home, I started to reconnect to a longer practice. This morning, I set up my timer for a little longer than usual, just to challenge myself. I was sitting, trying to focus on my mantra, when I noticed that my mind was trying to go ahead of time and already planning my next activities for the day. I paused, and suddenly this word came up: STAY. I sat with it for a few minutes, inquired a little more, and then got it: Something was encouraging me to stay a little longer, and thus challenge the impulse to end the practice and move on with my day. So when the bell rang, I remained seated for a minute or two. A sense of ease spread throughout my body and mind. Later, as I was finishing breakfast, instead of getting up on my last bite I stayed for an extra minute – again, I noticed a clearer sense of quietude. Today, I am going to try to prolong each situation with a few extra breaths or a minute, and hopefully reconnect to a deeper sense of center.

Just as in an asana sequence in yoga, moving from one pose to the next, transitions happen when moving from one activity to the next. Transitions are small “bites” of time, which we go through anyway, where we have an opportunity to go back to center. The “STAY practice” is about staying an extra moment, and thereby making an intentional space to connect to our center or the present moment.

I invite you to practice “STAY” with me today and the next few days, and let me know how it works for you! Like I already have, I suspect you too will experience a sense of space and grounding. Ironically, whereas I want to move on to be efficient and go through my to-do list of the day, dismissing the possibility to reconnect to the moment in-between activities decreases my efficacy in completing tasks and creativity, which both get resourced and replenished when given a break. (You may find that the STAY practice can easily be broadened to something else than an activity, such as making room with a challenging feeling.)

Evidence suggests that one of the secrets of a long, healthy life is a daily routine. Moreover, brain science shows that mindfulness repeated over a period of time increases creativity and productivity. In sum, the STAY practice eventually makes us GO longer and further 😉.

Although self-practice is a great resource, group and other supported forms of practice are utterly helpful to remain balanced and in touch with our center. There is something about being with others who share the same intention of presence; it supports us and inspires us at a deeper level.

Coming up…

In the near future, I invite you to reach out for support to get back on track and back to center. I am more than happy to help you out whether at the next retreat, September 10-13 at the fabulous venue of Mindfulness Manor in Sweden (it is safe to travel to Sweden again, yay!), with private sessions, or at your favorite studio in town.

Check out this special class this Sunday 10am at Hamsa Studio, co-taught with my friend and colleague Caroline! (just sign up for the Sunday morning class, and you’re in!)

Online videos and audios are still available for free for your practice from the comfort of your home.

I cannot wait to see you and hear from you soon!

With gratitude and many blessings of centeredness,

Cédric

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