Over the weekend, I facilitated the last of a three-weekend teacher training for yoga teachers who want to learn about Yin Yoga. Because of my own interests, it deals with subjects not usually present in trainings like this, namely how trauma and stress dysregulate our entire systems and how what we practice — and if we’re lucky enough, get to teach others gets to retrain our body-brain-nervous system — and lead to healing.
It is fashionable to poo-poo the concept of resiliency because, the argument goes, it focuses too much on individual causes of stress and trauma and leaves too much of the burden on individuals for getting themselves right, when the causes of stress are often beyond the individual’s scope of influence: poverty, for example, or a culture that requires us to work ourselves to the bone, or a pandemic.
I did the first Yin teacher training four years ago in the midst of an uncertain time for myself: today is the four-year anniversary of my second cancer surgery. I was one weekend into the training, and unsure if I would be able to complete it and I felt a sort of preemptive guilt about not holding up my end of the bargain for my 17 students.
Somehow — perhaps some innate scrappiness that the challenging moment brought out in me, I got through that period, and my students became fiercely tender teachers.
This weekend, one of things I taught is the three biggest emotional stress factors for humans: Uncertainty. Lack of information. Lack of control. Here we are, collectively facing all three, in a shared private lockdown.
I have no doubt that being forced to do the last two weekends of this training on Zoom (which caused a level of personal stress unseen in the last few years of my life, but with it, a corresponding level of persistent scrappiness) also brought out the best in my students. They expressed the importance of having a common purpose, of feeling in their own bodies how essential this work is, of having real, even intimate, connection across physical distance.
One of the most important ways we become more resilient is through connections — to others, to nature. And one of the ways we become less resilient (or at least miss the opportunity for growth) is by pretending we know the way things will play out, we have all the information we need, and we’re in control.
This is exactly the way that the larger collective — namely, those in power — often choose to deal with crisis. It’s why states are re-opening prematurely, and why leaders are making false claims about cures and definitive predictions. It feels awful to know: we don’t know when or how this will end, and the only thing we can do is stay present and trust that if and when the crisis comes knocking down our door, our intuition will kick in and we will know what to do. I take solace in understanding what is happening from the framework of trauma and resiliency.
Here is an essay written by one of our greatest thinkers, Rebecca Solnit, which talks about uncertainty and control which is well worth the read. (Charles Eisenstein’s The Coronation also deals beautifully with why control is what we don’t have and what governments will exert more of in times like these)
Happy reading and stay present!