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Mindful : June 2019
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Kelle Walsh is a senior editor at Mindful. She writes and edits from Boulder, Colorado, where she loves running trails, doing yoga, and deeply listening to her breath to melt her psoas muscle. No matter what else is going on, these things—the breath, the body, and the steady support of the earth itself—are always there, solid and real, for every single one of us. cars, and I haven’t done any yoga or much exercise at all. I’m ready to go home, but some things there too are uncertain. I miss my dog. “Just welcome the breath,” Pransky is say- ing, and as the emotions fill me, I’m grateful for this guidance. I touch the sadness lightly with my breath, exploring its shape and size, its texture and density. After what could be a few moments or an hour, it starts to grow lighter, thinner, and more transpar- ent, until...it’s gone. I feel lighter, my mind suddenly alert, yet my body is still deeply relaxed. Wo w. This experience is why Pransky is a proponent of pairing mindfulness with somatic awareness. When we engage in restorative poses, opening the anatomy and welcoming the breath deeply into the body, we not only trigger the relaxation response, we uncover those deeper areas of tightness and holding. And as we just notice, just rest, just listen, we offer ourselves a great kindness that makes us feel cared for. “It sends our mind a signal that right now, in this moment, we’re OK,” she says. She describes it like a plane coming in for a land- ing. Before the plane can touch down, the pilot needs to receive a message: “Wel- come! It’s safe to land here.” Having the embodied sense of being supported by the ground, of being safe in our own bodies, we can start to lay down the armor of tension. “And our mind can begin to shift into a new conversation: ‘I’m OK here on the ground.’” The more familiar we are with how and where we hold tension, the easier it is to notice “how we are closing down or opening up to the current conditions in our lives,” she says. This is where Deep Lis- tening becomes a tool for life. We’re building resil- ience “over time, making more space and capacity to stay open with whatever arises.” The Power of Softness Releasing our tension requires softness. It does not require know- ing all the answers to what- ever may come up. We don’t need to figure everything out. We just need to give ourselves kind and friendly space to receive not only our first uncomfortable thought or feeling but every uncom- fortable thought or feeling. If we can trust the ground to support us, we can open more fully to what we dis- cover. It’s like allowing our breath to come in. We don’t have to do anything. We sim- ply need to welcome it. —Jillian Pransky in Deep Listening When she teaches, Pransky uses cues, simple words or phrases that seem to bypass thinking and land right in your body. She talks of a “spacious belly” and “effortless legs.” She asks you to “imagine the breath flowing in through the front of your heart and out through the back of your heart. Washing through your chest. Softening you.” And she refers to the body, breath, and the earth as “family.” During our session, as I lay in repose, no tension left anywhere, this notion immediately hits me as so simple and beautiful and true that I feel my heart melt. No mat- ter what else is going on, these things—the breath, the body, and the solid sup- port of the earth itself—are always there, steady and real, for every single one of us. “Similar to the way we learn to rely on the support of the ground, becoming aware of our partnership with the breath reinforces our experience of con- nectedness. Of not feeling alone,” Pransky explains. “The breath is always there for us, without question. It is our life partner. Really, it’s family.” And this feeling of belonging, of safety, helps you to stay soft. To stay open. To let in the good while knowing that you are also strong and stable, supple and responsive to whatever comes. You are listening, deeply. ● ing through the night. Or blow our stack at someone we love, or suffer a panic attack and become afraid to live our lives. Before we can release tension, however, we have to know where we hold it. And it’s not always obvious where it resides, Pransky says. “ We’re so used to liv- ing with it, we think we are relaxed while, in fact, we are still harboring tension.” Lying with my head and back supported by a bolster, my mind idly following my breath as it moves through my limp body, I’m suddenly aware of a sensation of opening deep in my core, and something seems to shift within. As my breath sinks into this new space, I feel a sense of sadness. I feel how weary I am. I’ve been traveling for almost two weeks, and it’s been emo- tional, visiting with older family members and com- ing face-to-face with how much has changed, and how much more change is still to come. I’ve spent hours on planes and trains and in June 2019 mindful 63 well-being