Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Ambulance Meditation

by Kate Lynch

Stop everything, breathe consciously, and listen.
Every time I heard one, I would put my hand on my heart and say “may you be well” over and over, sending compassion to all of the occupants speeding past.
I said to myself, “It’s a little like a mindfulness bell, tuning us in to what is essential.“

On Friday, suddenly, that wasn’t enough.
Where I live in Brooklyn, near Fort Hamilton Parkway, there is much less traffic now. Except for the ambulances. Friday I lost count. There were often two at a time, their sirens layered in an unsettling melody. The stress of the day compounded with the sirens and I became overwhelmed. Again.

Relentless empathy can be traumatizing. I went inward, to inquiry.
What’s here? Grief. Tenderness.
What am I trying not to feel right now? Hopelessness, helplessness. Worry and vulnerability. Yet, they belong. These feelings are uncomfortable, but appropriate to the moment. So, I made space for them. Then, the sadness was still there, but the suffering reduced. 

Cognitive dissonance, that belongs too. I might find my mind elsewhere, suddenly. It’s a normal, protective response right now.
I can’t control any of it, but I can reframe. I know that resistance to what’s true will only cause more suffering. I can choose what to focus on. I can choose to expand and pay attention to the positive, without bypassing the very appropriate feelings, instead allowing them to wash over me in waves. I can hold space for all of it. This belongs. AND… Look for the helpers.

What does the sound mean?
It means we have a functioning society. It means people are receiving care and giving care.

It is the sound of hope and courage, as well as compassion.
The first responders in the ambulances are saving lives. It means there are people acting heroically all around us, all day and night. 

It’s a visceral reminder of the helpers.
In our own way, we’re all helpers in this crisis.
For those of us who are being asked to practice non-doing, we can get stuck in a freeze response to stress, with no outlet. The threat is real, and still, we can choose how to be with it.

Recognizing that stress is there, without judgement, is the first step. 
We might really need to dance and shake every day. We might need to discharge the tension in other ways. Progressive squeezing and releasing of each muscle, a cold shower or hot bath, self-massage rolling on a ball, jumping jacks…?

My ambulance meditation has shifted a little now:
I’m breathing in gratitude for the helpers through the back of my heart, breathing out lovingkindness through the front. Sending wellbeing out, while receiving courage in.
Toggling between one very true feeling… and another, equally true. Helplessness… hope. Fear… courage. Grief… gratitude.

I’m not trying to avoid the sound, I’m receiving it into my body. I’m expanding the courage and compassion already there within me. A long, even inhale…long, even exhale.
Today there are fewer ambulances. I don’t know what it means, and I can’t control that either.

Next time you hear the sirens, please give it a try. Let’s hold hope and trust together. 
I’m noticing the birds are adding in their song.
At night, trying to sleep, I recommend white noise or earplugs. Sometimes, we just need a break.

Kate Lynch is a meditation coach and inclusive yoga teacher in Brooklyn, New York. She has been teaching and cultivating community since 2002. Her classes are welcoming, friendly, creative, intuitive, and reflect her core values: empathy, integrity, equity, and respect. She offers accessible variations, and encourages self-nurturing, mindful breathing and awareness.

Kate has advanced education in meditation, mindfulness, anxiety, trauma, integrating equity, prenatal, and postpartum yoga. She specializes in supporting anxious parents of atypical kids with the mindfulness, resilience, and self-care tools that help her get through the day. See: 
HealthyHappyYoga websiteHealthy Happy Yoga PodcastHealthy Happy Yoga YouTubeFacebook, and   Instagram

This post was edited by Patrice Priya Wagner, Managing Editor of Accessible Yoga blog and member of the Board of Directors.

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