In Praise of Underestimating Ourselves

Therapists often talk about therapy as a one-way street. The reality is more complex. We are relational creatures. I am inspired and learn from the folks I sit with every day.

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We sit together each week and talk about your practice. How you try to make space for the thing you love. How you know that getting better means letting there be moments of less good. How five minutes of consistent practice is better than punishing yourself for not practicing. And as you begin to practice, to make space in your week, I see lightness gather around you. I hear more kindness in your voice. More patience with yourself. It is not how you want it be, but it is changing. It is not the perfect practice you long for, but it is living and growing as you make space for it each day.

I breathe in your transformation.

It helps me remember the things I love. It reminds me to make my own space. Before my daughter was born, I began practicing Ashtanga yoga. The discipline of this practice was something I never imagined for my life. I woke up at 5:30 every morning. I walked or biked to the studio. I went in the rain and the snow. I went when I had a cold. I made no excuses.

After my daughter was born, I tried to keep my practice as it was. Once I was well enough to practice I began to wake up early, drag myself to the studio. I was still breastfeeding several times a night, and my daughter's sleep was not consistent. I was exhausted. My practice was slow. I was not in my body. And when I could not practice the way I wanted to I stopped doing yoga at all. My free time seemed to evaporate. When I had "only" fifteen minutes I thought I could do nothing.

Last week someone said to me:

"What if being with the unknown is the most important work you can do?

What practices support that? How do you leave your mind and return to your body?"

And so, inspired by you, I have returned to my yoga practice. I do it first. Before I go online, or turn on the television. I do it in a cluttered and tiny storage room that might one day be an office. I push aside boxes of unused art supplies to make a little space to put my socks and slippers while I practice. My mind wants to get organized. Clear more space. Get rid of more things. "No." I tell myself. I feel the floor beneath my palms.

This is enough. This is all there is.

 

Anna Stern
Sleeping Between Contractions
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When I was in labor with my daughter, my doula advised me to "sleep between the contractions." For hours, I waited for a break long enough to sleep through. Contractions were coming every ten minutes, then every nine then every eight. Frustrated and exhausted, I reached out to my doula again. She explained what she meant--when there is a break in the pain, sleep. Sleep for seven minutes. Sleep until the next one.

 

How can we find time for ourselves when there is no time?

As a mother and as a therapist, I am often in conversation about how we can take care of ourselves. How can we make space for what used to matter to us when our lives are so busy with family and work and the countless minutia we manage every day? How do we do all this and also cope with the things we can't control? The losses? The career changes? The illnesses? The relationships? The state of the world?

Several years into my own journey, I remembered the answer I learned at the very beginning. We must sleep between the contractions.

 

We must claim the time we have.

Pick up a book for five minutes. Take out the yoga mat even though the baby may wake up any minute. Turn off your phone and pay attention to your feet as you walk from your office to your car.

 

This is your time. Take it.

Anna Stern