WORDS FROM ALYSSA: When Life Gets Hard, Breathe!

The first 10 days of 2018 presented some challenges for my family.

First, when it was 10 degrees outside, the thermostat broke and we had no heat.

It took several different people over the course of several long days to figure out that it was the thermostat and not the boiler. We used space heaters in the bedrooms at night and dressed in about a zillion layers during the day. It was cold.

*Note: MANY people living in public housing in NYC, including children and senior citizens, were without heat and hot water during the coldest days last week.*

About a week after that was fixed, we had a flood in the basement.

Not just your garden-variety water flood, no. A sewage flood.

Home ownership = good times.

The sewage flood was in fact as gross as it sounds. And to make matters more complicated, the plumbers could not find the sewer drain, which meant almost two full days without running water and usable bathrooms.

So, Steve, Lily, Amanda, my mother-in-law Jeanne, and dog Polly got an AirBnB downtown.

They found the sewage drain underneath the ceramic tile of my basement floor, and now it is fixed.

When we were in the car on the way home, my mind went to how inconvenient this all was. I got cranky, my chest got tight, and I felt restricted. I shifted my awareness to my breath and created some space in between those thoughts.

I thought about all the Syrian families that were abruptly forced from their homes with no resources and nowhere to go. Families just like mine.

I thought of all of the families that recently lost their homes to hurricanes, floods, fires, mudslides. They had to leave with just the clothes on their back and the lost everything. Families just like mine.

And I was flooded with gratitude. My mind generated thoughts about how we were all safe, had the resources to fix what needed to be fixed, and were able stay somewhere safe and warm. My body felt lighter and more spacious.

We all know the power of gratitude. We all get it, intellectually, and it's easy to feel it when things are just humming along nicely.

But how do we access it when things go wrong? Most often, the mind latches onto what is wrong and down that road we go. How can we stop that? How can we turn the switch to gratitude and change our experience?

I truly believe the frequent practice of yoga makes this switch more accessible.

We must practice continuous self-care (in which I mean internal gentleness and non-judgement) and mindfulness. Notice the quality of your thoughts and how they make you feel without judgement. And then come back to your breath. Our breath is the doorway to more expanded states of consciousness like gratitude, joy, appreciation, and love.

When we are able to cultivate the practice of watching our breath in yoga, massage, or other subtle body work, we create a fertile soil in which gratitude can grow.

When things go wrong, we are resilient, spacious, and level-headed. And of course, able to access gratitude, which makes our inner experience so much better.

And when our inner experience is good, everything else falls into place, even if it looks like things are falling apart.

In gratitude,
Alyssa