Mental Health - Lovingkindness
Mental health, like our physical health, is dynamic & fluid. My mental and emotional health directly impact my physical health, so I must be intentional with all.
Years ago when I began my yoga teacher training, I self identified as a burnt out Type A personality. Mentally and emotionally, in the depth of my being, I was toasted, done and beyond exhausted. My inner warrior had been defending me and carrying me for so long, I knew I could not go on the way I had been. Fear and lack of confidence constantly robbed me of my inner peace. My childhood taught me to give all I had to others. Making myself a priority was considered unacceptable. “Surely if there was time for pleasure, there was work to be done.”
One of my teacher training assignments was to journal how I wanted to feel. How did I want to show up in life? My response, “I want inner peace. I want to replace fear of making mistakes with confidence in myself, and relinquish the need to control outcomes. I want to be calm when the rest of the world is in chaos. I want to share so others may find healing, inner peace and confidence.”
Fast forward, after years of taking and teaching yoga, which includes pranayama and meditation, I know myself and what I need. I know my daily need for quite and space; and I am confident enough to speak up and claim this for myself. While working through my current CEU course, I needed to identify my superpower qualities. I reached out to friends for their insight. Here is what they individually, yet collectively conveyed: Calm, Compassion, Empower and Encourage.
This helped me realize how years of sitting with my fear, anger, disappointments, etc. allowing them to rise and pass through, not just lay them down and pick them back up, but truly choose to be still with them when they show up, has allowed me to release so much of my inner conflict and pain. I am more aware and better equipped to protect my mental and emotional health. No longer do I bypass my needs. My previous need to be right and prove I was right, came from a place of insecurity. Now I am secure in who I am. I am secure in my gifts and strengths, and I do not need to be everything to everybody. I do not need to agree with everyone, and more importantly, I don't need everyone to agree with me. This alone builds emotional and mental health reserves.
Part of my mental and emotional health care includes extending love and kindness to myself, and then to others. I am currently reading The Five Side Effects of Kindness by David R. Hamilton, PhD. A simple and scientific declaration of the critical importance of Kindness for personal and society health. I hope you read it. "Simplicity is genius." - Moni Aizik. Kindness is healing.
The following passage is talking about a study of the brains of monks since they have practiced meditation and specifically loving kindness meditation for centuries. Here are a few of my key take aways. "Some research suggests that it (lovingkindness meditation) actually creates physical changes in the brain, both on the left-hand side of the prefrontal cortex (the bit above your eyes), which is often thought of as the seat of positivity and compassion, and in a region known as the insula, which is considered the empathy center." "...when they wired up the monk's... the power output of the monk's brains was so high it had 'stuck' the dial on 'maximum'... The high reading from the monks' brains was believed to be due to dense wiring in different parts of their brains as a result of their practice of compassion."
In conclusion, mental health awareness is a personal and social need. As we compassionately acknowledge mental health, we help ourselves and others release the social stigma and truly heal. We can have open conversations so friends and loved ones feel respected, heard and seen. I am no where near the level of monks, but I do notice the difference from where I once was and where I am today. When we choose to extend love and kindness toward ourselves and to others we will enjoy more peace and compassion. We will help ourselves and others live healthier lives and enjoy a healthier society. There will be more laughter, less anger; more empathy, less judgment.
To support you on this journey, I am sharing a link to my most popular guided meditation. If it is helpful, leave a comment here and/or on my YouTube channel. When you are there give it a thumbs up and stay connected by subscribing. After all, we are all just walking each other home. Loving Kindness Yoga Nidra
Prioritize 30 minutes for self care. You might play it as you lay down at night. If you fall asleep, let go of judgment. You might listen on your off days and allow yourself to be truly present. Whenever you choose, just make it happen. For greater benefits repeat daily or weekly for a month or longer. Maybe you journal or take notes so you can look back at your progress.
As we connect mind, body, breath and spirit we can exhale the past, inhale the present, exhale stagnation, inhale inner peace. What better gift than the gift of health, whole body health.