Things that help me stay calm

I remember when I joined Modo Yoga Burnaby six years ago. It was a Saturday morning. The studio was buzzing with happy activity. Sweaty, smiling people were streaming out of the hot room. Others were arriving for the next class. There were exclamations of delight, hugs, laughter, and genuine warmth and welcome. Eric signed me up. When I told him I had never done hot yoga, he told me I was going to love it. I was sure, in that instant, that he was right. I sat on the bench with the iPad, filling in the waiver and answering the questionnaire. I remember especially one question – not the exact words, but the meaning: The question was, what was I looking for? My answer was easy: Peace.

I came to Modo seeking peace. I felt like life was a roller coaster and I was just barely hanging on. I needed a way to bring mind and body together, to calm the turning, churning energy and find a calmer, more centred way of being. Eric was right. I did love it. I left my first class feeling euphoric. Six years later I am so glad I walked into the studio that Saturday. I found the peace I was seeking, and so much more. Taking that first step into the hot room is one of the best things I have ever done.

Now, I crave peace more than ever. We all do. With our Modo studios closed, schools and workplaces empty, social distancing, and personal experiences of illness and loss, is it possible to find even a moment of calm? I’m dedicating this month’s blog post to just that. This is how I am finding calm during a time of unprecedented turbulence. I hope that this may be helpful to you as you read it – to think about your own path to moments of steadied emotion, even glimpses of peace.

I go outdoors

Just about the only thing left to do outside the house is go for a walk. That’s good! An hour outdoors, under the sky, is a wonderful tonic for a worried heart. The motion of walking, observing trees, mountains, water, birds, feeling the rhythm of heart and breath in the stillness of nature; all of these help me to forget momentarily whatever is on my mind and heart. I walk holding hands with my husband, shoulder-to-shoulder with my son who lives at home. I walk 10 feet apart from a friend. After just a few minutes, I feel so much better.

I create something beautiful

I paint mandala stones. I learned how to do this at a workshop hosted by Ninna Snider at Muckabout Gift Gallery, just up the street from the studio. It’s a wonderful sensory experience. I feel the smoothness of the stone, and appreciate its solid form. I choose a combination of colours and create a simple or intricate design. One stone can take 15 minutes or two hours to paint. It’s a meditation and an act of beauty-making. It feels good. Looking and making help calm my mind. Other ways to find this calm include photography, knitting, playing music or singing, even assembling a jigsaw puzzle. It doesn’t matter if the thing I make is imperfect. It’s the process, not the product that invites peace. (If you want to paint some stones, contact Ninna via the Muckabout website. She can get you everything you need.)

I cook

I like to cook. I choose simple recipes with fresh, local ingredients. I can find everything I need in a quick and careful visit to a produce store, and from my freezer and cupboards. Cooking helps me feel like I am imposing order on chaos. Using fresh ingredients helps me feel connected to the earth, conscious of all of the good that exists in our environment. When I cook, I am also feeding. I nurture those who I love with a wholesome meal. I can do something that helps others, even if it’s just make a really great salad or pot of soup.

I look at maps

This is a weird one. I have always been fascinated by maps. If I’m reading a book, or watching a movie, and a place is described, I will look it up online, and examine a map of the place. If there’s a map hanging on the wall, I will study it. Recently, I bought some maps from the bookstore. They are spread out on my table right now. I have a North American Road Atlas, a map of New York City, and a map of Italy. Something about seeing the world laid out in all of its order and intentional beauty helps me feel calm.

I talk on the phone

I have spent more time on the phone these past two weeks than in the past year. I call friends and family members just to say, “Hi, how are you doing?” It’s reassuring to hear the voices of people who I love. I feel their gladness at hearing from me, and I know I am adding to their calm. It seems like we have forgotten about this mode of communicating and connecting. Now we mostly text or post to social media. Having a good long chat that leaves my ear and my heart peculiarly warm is a very good thing.

I show appreciation

My husband and I have joined the 7pm cowbell ringers and pot bangers, showing appreciation for first responders and health care workers. It’s cathartic to make a big noise, and even when we can’t see our neighbours, we can hear them hanging out their windows and standing on their porches, hooting and banging. I’m seeing a lot fewer people in the course of a day, but as I walk past, I try to share a smile and a kind word. I have been sending personal messages to my friends on social media, letting them know that they matter to me. And at home I am telling my loved ones how grateful I am for them, and why. It feels good to be specifically appreciative. It reminds me that I have a lot to be grateful for, and that the people in my life are the most important of all my riches.

I have a spiritual practice

My faith community is not meeting in person right now, but we are connecting by email and phone calls, sharing encouragement and reminding one another that we are not alone in the world. Repetition of familiar stories, the reassurance of ritual, connection to people who follow a similar path – all of it is calming to me. I don’t think that prayer will end the pandemic, but belief in something good, bigger than any one person, is a comfort to me, and helps me to experience feelings of calm.

I limit my news consumption

It’s important to know what’s happening in the world but I don’t need to know it 25 times a day on 4 different platforms. I take a small helping of news some time during the day, then put it away. On the weekend our family turned off the news altogether for 2 days. It felt good to have a temporary reprieve. We slept better and found it was easier to talk about topics other than the crisis at hand.

I continue my yoga practice

Modo Yoga is live-streaming classes on Instagram. They stay available afterwards for 24 hours in the story. I have also downloaded Modo Yoga online, and I’ve taken some of the video classes. It’s not the same as moving and breathing together in the hot room, but it’s still very good. The live-streams especially have a feeling of immediacy and authenticity, and I know others are in their own spaces, breathing and moving at the same time. If you haven’t tried it yet, I hope you do. Watch for Instagram posts telling about upcoming classes. You can get a free month of online Modo classes here. Use the Code BBY at the checkout. Current unlimited members can email the studio for a special promo code.

So now it’s your turn. What helps you stay calm? Talk to a friend about it – maybe someone who you met at Modo Burnaby! Sooner or later, we’ll all be back in the hot room together.  In the meantime, please be gentle with yourself, and share your discoveries of calm with people you care for. The things we do to help ourselves in this time will be the things that we remember when it’s over.