One of the most exhausting jobs I have had was as a chaplain at a hospital. I spent the day standing or sitting next to sick and tired patients lying in hospital beds & really tired of being tired loved ones, usually sitting on the other side of the bed. The air in hospitals is weird. I am sure they have a complex fan & filtration system to keep it moving, but it remains an unfortunate potpurri of cleaning supplies, medicine, plastics, bodily fluid, and that stale air that needs the windows kicked open for a while to let some fresh air in. It’s like the whole building feels like the inside of your mouth when you have a cold. Blech.
The standing & sitting around of loved ones keeping company & vigil for their people — the non-active action of being in a hospital is strangely energy sucking. It is exhausting to sit all day, watch t.v., watch someone sleep, or watch someone struggle to sleep. It is mind-numbing to shift your weight from side to side while you listen to doctors and nurses, trying to rouse your brain to be awake enough to pay attention to their every word & ask all the questions you remembered just after they left the last time they were in the room.
The Meditation Mantra of the Month is the word Tapas. Tapas is the energy & adrenaline in our body to get stuff done. It’s the fire in your system that keeps the complex engine in you moving strong and steady. One of my favorite definitions of it is “a heat generating activity to burn off the rubbish”. Sweet heavens yes, let’s burn off all the rubbish.
I’ve been in a real lack of tapas the last few months. It felt like the fire in my system was mostly out. I had no energy to work out, even though I knew that working out would give me the energy that I was lacking. I think what started out as an honest to goodness need to rest, over time became lethargy, and after lethargy came some depression, and with the depression came some weight gain, and then the lethargy…and on and on.
When I chose tapas as the mantra of the month I felt kind of hypocritical as I sure don’t feel like I have a belly full of tapas. And then obviously decided that maybe this was exactly why I needed to be reminded of it every time I taught yoga (it’s all for my benefit, do you see that now?). I also started to read this book, When Your Body Gets the Blues (by Marie-Annette Brown & Jo Robinson), that I bought years ago. It talks about the very real mind, body, spirit effect of the tired of being tired, lethargy I was experiencing. One of the most important things it recommends is a 20 minute walk outside, every day. So, that’s what I decided to do.
I need to get the fire in my belly started again and this feels like the slow, consistent, and sustainable work of rubbing two sticks together to start a fire. Obviously there are faster ways to start a fire. But, that doesn’t feel honest or sustainable or at all life-giving at this point. And it has started to work. It is good to be outside, even when it is cold. It is good to feel my body moving again. It is good to feel my heart & lungs do something substantial as I walk. I feel the warming up in my body, mind, spirit.
Tomorrow starts the free, monthly Caregiver’s Chairish Yoga class at Arbor Rose Memory Care Center in Tolono. Hopefully the winter weather predicted will not keep it from happening. Caring for a loved one (whether infant or elderly) is exhausting. It’s hard to get your own needs met of healthy food, exercise, sleep, laughter, fresh air. It is a lot, no matter what. This class is for you and JUST you. It is not even so that you can be a “better” caregiver. It’s just for you, for the sake of you. You alone are enough reason.
I don’t expect the Chairish class to completely change your universe. But, it is a START. It is rubbing the sticks together. You will get to move & stretch, breathe more deeply, maybe giggle, be with people you would not otherwise, and you will not have to be in charge of a single thing. You do not have to make it happen. I promise to be in charge, make the decisions, and think it all through. You don’t have to prepare anything or help clean up. You don’t even have to pay me. (This whole love bucket of a class was the heart-child of Tolono Presbyterian Church who is sponsoring it!) What you need to do is Show Up, in the midst of conflicting schedules, not sleeping well, getting over a cold, your people needing and waiting for you about this, that, and some other thing. So, I agree — It Is No Small Thing for your to actually show up. It’s maybe huge.
I know that some of you who read this might know this feeling, or might be a caregiver too and live far from me but you want to attend this class. Maybe this is the nudge you need to check out the schedule of your parks & recreation department in your town. Or maybe the community college? I know it is hard to find one at the right time, location, teacher, cost. Yes, it is hard. You will most definitely have to rearrange a few things to make it work. But, don’t you really hope & pray it starts to rearrange a few things in your mind, body, spirit? Make it work. Start. Take the first slow steps of rubbing those sticks together and do SOMETHING to get the tapas going. Getting started works with the same momentum as with lethargy, just in a different direction. Trust it.
If you can’t come but want some of the quiet meditation, the stretching & movements, the me being in charge & telling you what to do — click on “store” on this website look for this icon. That leads you to The 5 Chambanas — a 10 minute audio file of meditation and 5 poses (in chair & standing behind a chair) that I guide you through. It’s free. Download it to whatever device you can figure out how to listen to something. It is something to do with yourself. It is a practice. It is rubbing two sticks together to start warming you up again. And let me remind you, if I haven’t said it lately; practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice is perfect. Got it?
If you or someone you know and love can make it tomorrow night to Caregivers Chairish Yoga; great! If it doesn’t happen this month because of the weather, it will happen again, I promise. I also teach a billion classes a week and you might be able to catch me another time. Or if you would like me to come to your community and talk about this — get in touch with me! I would love to.
Now I need to get my fanny out in this cold, steely white sky and take me for a walk like my quality of life depends on it — because it does.
Peace on your head, you.