Last week, I started an experiment. I wanted to practice my idea of radical self-care: to get ready for bed. No, really. To take ACTUAL care of myself.
I’ve done experiments like this before (I’m going to yoga everyday! I’m going to make a new smoothie everyday!) and quickly figured out that anything labeled “everyday” instantly goes to the area of my brain labeled SABOTAGE and dies.
A nightly routine eludes me. I tend to buzz around all day and then purposely CRASH into bed – no time to process or unwind. I know that a nightly routine will help me sleep better and alleviate anxiety. Those two successes alone would no doubt create ripples of positivity into all areas of my life. However, night after night, I ensure I won’t have enough time for this process. What am I really avoiding? What will actually happen if I take the time to unwind? To get lost in the cascade of a hot shower before bed?
For starters, I have a vendetta against routines. I’m somehow convinced that routines will leave me rigid and immobile. I never really try things long enough to gather reliable data. I also fear extra time. If my mind isn’t spiraling about not getting enough sleep or feeling guilty for not washing my face, will I feel anxious? Will restlessness settle in? Will I feel bored?
The answer? Yes. As I performed the supposedly simple tasks of washing off the day, tidying my apartment, and settling into bed, I found DISCOMFORT. Big time. BARGAINING. Like crazy. My mind raced to come up with reasons why I should do one more task to make myself a little more frazzle-tired before bed so I wouldn’t have to actually feel. But I also had an inkling that I would eventually like spending this extra time with myself. I started to feel proud when I got into bed feeling more at ease, having taken the time to pause in the shower and notice the hot water on my skin or brush my teeth for the entire recommended two minutes. My mind felt clearer in the morning and my days more full than frazzled.
Yesterday, I unrolled my mat in Mary Beth’s yoga class. I always leave her classes feeling joyful and fulfilled, but I felt a new level of connectedness. My movements were a beautiful blend of effort and ease. My body was telling me the right way to move, and I had the space to listen. I found openness where there had been rigidity. I could melt into poses without any force. Ease. Flow. Breath. IN it.
As I came down onto my back toward the end of class, I knew I had honored my body in a way I haven’t been able to access lately. I realized I was able to listen because I had practiced listening each night as I got ready for bed. It felt like my body and mind were on the same team for once. Doing what my body needed eventually started to relieve my mind’s fears.
As I softened into savasana, I felt vastness – of possibility, of peace, and yes, of emptiness that may have previously been labeled “boredom.” Mary Beth closed those sacred sixty minutes with a hope of “creating from a space of spaciousness and ease,” something I could actually feel deep in the belly of my muscles, in the crevices of my bones, and in the depth of my heart.
Turns out, structure actually provides more freedom. The rigidity that I feared actually allowed for more flexibility. The extra time that felt daunting invited more space for imagination and presence. The avoidance of boredom turned into a welcome (valuable) quietude that led me deeper to my Self.
How can we make feared routines into beautiful rituals?
What ritual can you create to feed your soul?