Reality Check

I’ve never believed nor expected yoga to cure the multiple sclerosis I live with.  I know there are a few yogis who swear that yoga has cured them or alleviated their symptoms to the point of appearing cured. But, that’s not why I started yoga. For me, yoga has been about managing the symptoms of both MS and fibromyalgia.  Something to soothe both body and spirit. Maybe even to mitigate some of the symptoms. So, imagine my surprise when I recently realized that somewhere, deep down in my subconscious, a part of me had been expecting yoga to delay the progression of the MS — and was maybe even a little ticked off that it hadn’t.reality-check

That realization has been a long time coming.  I haven’t written in a while because the last year has been challenging and its taken some time to figure stuff out.  The fatigue that came with last summer’s flare up took forever to go away — in part because I didn’t want to listen to what my body was telling me.  Instead, I began teaching additional yoga classes in the fall because students in the Modified Yoga Classes wanted yoga more than once a week.  YAY!  What yoga teacher doesn’t want their students clamoring for more classes?  After a month, I began getting sick — I had some type of cold every month last October through April.  And I was always tired.  Still I didn’t listen.

Last Fall was about the same time I began to experience an emotional roller coaster ride every time I came to my mat to practice.  During the first few weeks of this ride, I would get about half way into my asana practice before the strong emotions would arise. Then I’d become either very angry or end up sobbing.  I’ve experienced tears on my mat in the past (but never anger) and when I did, I’d use my breath to ride them out.  THIS was different. Riding it out wasn’t working for either emotion..  As the weeks progressed, the emotions surfaced earlier and earlier in my practice until I couldn’t step onto my mat without instantly becoming either angry or sad.  So, I stopped practicing.

Seriously, that was my solution. I just stopped. My excuse to myself was that I was too tired or in too much pain to figure out what was going on.  And, that was partially true. But, looking back, I was also avoiding messages I didn’t want to hear.

I quietly told two good friends about what was happening, but continued to ignore my mat. Then this negativity began to creep into my teaching.  I would wake up on teaching days and find myself wanting to do anything but teach. [If you are one of my students, please know this lack of desire had nothing to do with you.] The feeling would pass once I got to class. But the drive there was long and painful. I knew I had to do something.  But the holidays were upon me and with them came the grief of saying good-bye to our 11-year-old cat, Tasha.  Sweetest cat that ever lived, bar none.

Eventually I reconnected with a therapist I’d worked with in the past. And with her help, I am finally at a point where I am willing to hear what my body has been saying: the MS is progressing and change has to happen.  

There hasn’t been major progression — no canes or walkers or permanent vision or cognitive loss. But little by little abilities are diminishing.  The emotional roller coaster ride on my mat came from two things: (1) my daily asana practice is where the changes in my physical abilities has been most noticeable, and (2) as my therapist says, my mat is my Place of Truth. On my mat, I couldn’t lie to myself about changes I’ve had to make in the way I do a particular asana or the time I’m in a pose or even the fact that these days, a lot of my physical practice is done from a chair instead of a mat. I also couldn’t ignore that I was feeling a bit betrayed that my practice hadn’t kept these changes from happening (who knew?). How dare the practice that was supposed to be my refuge, instead be the magnifying glass through which loss in ability/energy would be most visible!  It’s been a while, but I believe my last post hinted at the possibility of a “dark side” to transformation on your mat. This was it, baby.

For the first time since being diagnosed in January of 2005, I have more than just moments of not wanting this disease; more than a passing fear now and again of what the future will bring; frustration that now I can count on my body even less than I have in the past. It has felt like MS was taking my practice and my ability to share it through teaching. Even though neither would be the first things I’ve lost to this disease, the grief and anger felt as fresh as the first time I had to alter my way of living to accommodate symptoms.

Two weeks ago what was supposed to be an evening of yoga and dinner with several gal pals turned into a reiki session and dinner with 2 of my dearest friends.  Reiki replaced yoga because I’d been dealing with headaches that were exacerbated by moving my arms or bending forward and the friend that could get to my house before dinner is a reiki healer (my term for her). We’ve worked together before and sessions with her have always been healing.  This was no different.Reiki_CloseToHome_005

Thanks to things that came up during the reiki session, I now realize I have been trying to fit my practice and teaching into my idea of what these things SHOULD BE — how a yoga teacher’s personal practice SHOULD LOOK; what a career as a yoga teacher SHOULD BE.  And that’s another thing.  Somewhere during the last 2 years, as I began to teach more classes for pay, teaching yoga has moved from a calling or service to a career.  Not that it can’t be both.  It can. But I had turned it into an either-or as I followed the “shoulds” in my head. I’m always telling students not to worry about how the pose looks, but how it feels; to find the version of the pose that fits their abilities in that moment. Apparently, I haven’t been following my own advice on or off my mat.

Yesterday, I experienced another reiki session with a different healer.  This time I received confirmation of several things I’ve been feeling I needed to do/work on since the session with my friend. The path ahead is not all clear.  But, I do feel like I’m back on the path the universe has for me instead of the one in the “should” center of my brain.  To paraphrase country music singer Lynn Anderson (and apparently also Martina McBride and Suicide Machine), “I beg your pardon, yoga never promises a rose garden.  Along with the sunshine, there’s got to be a little rain sometimes.”  And if you’ve ever walked through a rose garden, a few thorns as well.



The Eight Limbs of Yoga and Why They Matter

In earlier posts I’ve mentioned that yoga is more than stretching and today I thought I’d dive into that topic in more detail.

Here in the West, yoga is commonly thought of in terms of its postures and movement.  Because of that, many continue with the misconception that yoga is only for the thin and flexible. Completely understandable when you consider the typical cover of Yoga Journal, an American-based magazine focused on yoga and yoga-related topics. 

(Full disclosure: I have subscribed to the magazine since 2008.  The content of the magazine has changed during this time to focus more on what I call “pop yoga.”  Still the monthly Wisdom column continues to inspire and the Basics column always provides interesting variations.)

However, movement and postures are only one element of Yoga.  The word “yoga” is Sanskrit and means “to join” or “union.”  In this case, the joining of body, mind and spirit.  We spend a lot of time in our heads — thinking, worrying, planning, remembering.  We spend less time nurturing the body and spirit.  Yoga recognizes that all three aspects need to be developed and in balance to live a healthy, full life.

In its fullness, yoga has eight elements or limbs.  The reference to limbs, as in on a tree, is to help us remember that they are not steps that lead from one level to another.  But, branches that mix together and support each other as they grow and develop.  These limbs were introduced in one of yoga’s oldest texts, Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras, verse 2.29.  Below I will provide two translations for each limb.  The first will be a more traditional translation taken from The Heart of Yoga by T.K.V. Desikachar.  The second is from The Secret Power of Yoga by Nischala Joy Devi, the first translation of the the Yoga Sutras from a feminine perspective.  I will use TKV and NJD to indicate each author.

1. Yama (there are 5 yamas)
     TKV: our attitudes toward our environment
     NJD: reflection of our true nature

2. Niyama (there are 5 niyamas)
    TKV: our attitudes toward ourselves
    NJD: evolution toward harmony

3. Asana
    TKV: the practice of body exercises
    NJD: comfort in being, posture

4. Pranayama
    TKV:the practice of breathing exercises
    NJD: enhancement and guidance of universal prana (energy)

5. Pratyahara
    TKV: the restraint of our senses
    NJD: encouraging the senses to draw within

6. Dharana
    TKV: the ability to direct our minds
    NJD: gathering and focusing of consciousness inward

7. Dhyana
    TKV: the ability to develop interactions with what we seek to understand
    NJD: continuous inward flow of consciousness

8. Samadhi
    TKV: complete integration with the object to be understood
    NJD: union with Divine Consciousness

Taken together, the yamas and niyamas provide a type of guide for living in harmony or good relationship with yourself and the world.  Because there are five of each, they have been called Yoga’s Ten Commandments.  But they are not commandments.  There is no cosmic penalty for not adhering to their guidance — beyond, perhaps, how you feel when you are out of sorts or at odds with your environment.  Concepts contained within the yamas and niyamas are quite helpful for managing illness and healing from trauma.  Therefore, I’ll be bringing them up in more detail in future posts.   For now, I just wanted to mention their existence and general role.  

The Yoga Sutras do not mention a particular asana (pose).  In fact, it only mentions that a posture be “steady and comfortable” (2.46). Many have interpreted this to mean easy seated pose, which is a common position for meditation.  Others that it can be any pose that is done with comfort and ease. For an interesting article on the roots of asana practice check out this article from the November 2010 issue of Yoga Journal.

If you’ve taken a yoga class, you’ve probably experienced pranayama, even if the teacher didn’t call it that.  In yoga, prana is the universal lifeforce energy that exists in everyone and everything — similar to the concept of qi in Chinese medicine.  (And I read something the other day that also related it to concepts in quatum physics. But can’t remember where that was.)  Asana practice helps to open areas in the body where the energy (prana) is stuck or to help keep what is open open.  Pranayama moves prana throughout the body via the use of breathing techniques.  If your teacher has instructed you to breathe in a particular way (i.e., ujjayi or ocean sounding breath), they were instructing you in pranayama.  

Limbs 5 through 8 are stages of meditation.  If you’ve never tried meditating, or done so only to discover that your mind zips around like a happy puppy greeting a room full of newcomers, don’t let this intimidate you. The fact that Patanjali addressed meditation in stages makes it more doable — at least to me.  I mean, if he’d jumped from pranayama to samadi, I’d feel hopeless.  There are days when I have trouble calming my mind for even a few minutes, let alone become completely integrated with the Divine. 

Why are the Limbs important?  When looked at through their lens, we can see that there is no requirement that one be thin or Gumby-esk to take up yoga.  In fact, postures make up only a fraction of the full practice.  We can see that we needn’t become a master at headstand to reap yoga’s benefits.  And we begin to realize yoga isn’t just something done on a mat once a week or even once a day.  It is a practice that can be integrated into all aspects of life so that it can help sustain us day-to-day. 

With this in mind its easy to see that anyone can “do yoga.”

Comfortable with Discomfort

: at home with, untroubled, serene, free from stress

discomfort: annoyance, nuisance, embarrassment, unpleasantness, trouble, unease, soreness

I don’t remember where I first heard or read yoga described as “learning to be comfortable with discomfort,” but it is an apt description.  It works with our thoughts and emotions via the body.  Thus providing a great laboratory to practice being at home with unease, tension, or trouble.  Why? So that when we are dealing with a chronic condition or our world becomes topsy-turvy, we can find our center and respond, rather than react.

The difference between responding and reacting?

The act of responding requires one to look at the circumstance, identify the problem or situation, hear what is happening and reflect. That reflection can be for a moment, five seconds, one hour, two days or longer. The time frame doesn’t matter. What matters is that you stopped and put an effort to think and suspended judgment. It is a conscious act and shows that you are willing to listen or observe … Reacting on other hand is the absence of this time gap. It is an immediate behavioral response and it is usually based upon emotions (also instinct or past experience) and not intellect [think autopilot]. (Responding vs. Reacting in Life)

Discomfort on the Mat

I’m going to use asana practice to explain the different types of discomfort and how to practice becoming comfortable with them.  However, the process for dealing with chronic pain (or other health-related discomfort), strong emotions, and health-related mental discomfort (frustration, grief for lost ability, etc.) off the mat is the same.  The mat just provides a great place to practice these skills so that over time, they become second-nature even off the mat.

Before we begin, please note the word used is discomfort, not pain.  So, it is important to learn the difference between the two.  If you are someone who lives with chronic pain, this can be a challenge.  In Yoga for Pain Relief, Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., shares several ways to know if you are dealing with pain or just strong sensation (discomfort).  I’ve reproduced her words in this document (Staying Safe:Sensations to Watch). 

Once you know the difference, you can begin to work with the discomfort you experience on the yoga mat.  Discomfort can be physical, mental or emotional.  

Physical discomfort can take the form of tightness or resistance, such as what you might encounter in your inner thighs in Cobbler’s Pose (Baddha Konasana):

Or perhaps you’ve experienced it as the way your arms begin to feel heavy or your thigh begins to “burn” after several breaths in Warrior 2.

Mental discomfort can be the anxiety that arises when your instructor announces a pose you find difficult or when its time for the partner yoga portion of class. (In some classes students are asked to partner up to work on a particular pose.)  The sense of ineptitude when trying a pose for the first time.  Then there is what seems to be the Queen of All Embarrassments, passing gas loud enough for others in class to hear.  FYI: Everyone farts in class at some point. My take is that it is a sign of achievement — you have released something that was blocked.  If you aren’t ready to take an actual bow for your success, please take an internal one and move on.   

The discomfort that can be the most challenging, even beyond that of flatulence, is when yoga brings an emotional issue to the surface.  Grief, anger, sadness, fear, unworthiness. None of these are beyond yoga’s reach. You could find yourself crying in Child’s Pose or feel anger rising during a twist. Yoga’s ability to bring buried emotions to the surface is one of its most powerful healing elements.

So, how to become comfortable with this discomfort? 

For starters, breathe. Yep, anytime discomfort in its many forms appears, the first thing is to breathe — starting with an exhale because discomfort often causes us to hold our breath.  Work to deepen your breath, perhaps using ujjayi or dirga pranayama.  Follow your inhale and exhale until you feel ready to make a conscious decision to either explore further or save that adventure for later.  

There are times, especially when discomfort arises from an emotional issue, that you might not feel up to working with it.  That’s okay. As long as you do so from a place of mindfulness — acknowledging there is something there that you need to work with, but right now, due to circumstances such as the location in which you are practicing, your energy level or the things left to accomplish in your day, you are choosing not to go deeper into this sensation. 

If you choose to work with the discomfort, the next step is become a curious observer.  As a curious explorer, you want to learn as much about this discomfort and your interaction with it as possible, but without employing judgment.  Sort of becoming the Jane Goodall of your own experience.  I’m presenting several lines of inquiry in the following paragraphs.  You don’t need to go through all of them each time you decide to undertake this practice.

Using my earlier example of tightness/resistance in your inner thighs during Cobbler’s Pose:  What is the level of sensation (is it at the surface or deeper)?  Is there an energy associated with it?  Does it have a shape, temperature, color or texture? Have the other muscles in your legs tightened in response to the stretch in your inner thigh?  If so, see if you can release them.  What is happening in your body besides the sensation in the inner thighs Have you brought tension into your jaw or face?  Have you lost the length in your spine because you are only focusing on your inner thighs?  Are there other physical sensations that seem connected to this one?

What is happening with your thoughts?  Have you started to take your teacher’s name in vain? (We know you do it, because we have done it).  Are you worrying about how your thighs will feel tomorrow?  Or worrying that you will never be comfortable in the pose? Does the tightness in these muscles stir up an emotion?  Do you find feelings of agitation or aggravation beginning to form as you wonder how much longer you will be in this pose?  Or have you opted for distraction?  Suddenly thinking about all the things you’ll do later today?  What was your immediate mental reaction to the tightness?  Leave the pose or “fight through it” or decide you can’t do the pose without trying?  Remember, you are exploring without judgement.  So, try not to criticize what you find.  That can be hard when observing your thoughts.  Also avoid getting caught up in your lines of thought or their stories.  

Now, what happens if you imagine breathing in and out of the area of resistance?  Does it change in any way?  Maybe it vibrates or changes shape?  Maybe its not as solid as it once seemed?  What happens with your mental dialogue?  The intensity of any emotions that have surfaced?   What about the other sensations related to the original point of discomfort?  

The exploration of mental and emotional discomfort is similar, except there is no specific area of the body in which to start your curious observation.  I suggest beginning with the chest and belly, two areas where mental and emotional discomfort often manifest.  The type of questions to ask and use of breath to help soften and calm are the same as those used to explore physical discomfort.  You are just exploring a different type of discomfort.  

When you feel that you’ve done enough work for the moment, make whatever adjustment you need to lessen the discomfort until the class moves on to the next pose.  Becoming at home with uncomfortable experiences takes time.  Like our asana practice, it is a process.  In fact, it is a lifelong process as we learn to work with new forms of discomfort as they present themselves (on and off the mat). Your reward for this work will be a greater understanding of yourself and an increasing ability to stay calm in the midst of the storm.  To discover that

“although we still have the same amount of physical pain and discomfort, we are no longer suffering the pain in the same way.  As we let go of the suffering, we begin to foster a continued intimacy with our moments, regardless of what shows up in them, diminishing our ingrained habits to cling to, fight or disconnect from our experience.” Sarah Powers, Insight Yoga

Playing the Edge … on and off the mat

There is a concept in yoga called “playing the edge.”  It’s about balancing effort and ease in your practice —working at the point where you aren’t pushing, but you aren’t holding back.  While the phrase “playing the edge” wasn’t coined until 1977, the concept of this balance between effort and ease was first written about by Pantanjali in the Yoga Sutras.  In Chapter 2 Sutra 46 he writes “sthira-sukam asanam,” which translated means each yoga pose should contain a balance of effort/steadfastness and ease.  This balance is both physical and mental.

To practice at the edge requires paying attention to your moment by moment experience and listening to the cues your body is sending — the pace of your breath, the sensation of the stretch, the level of energy you are putting forth.  It is also noticing the flow of your thoughts — the topics that arise (including self-criticism), the level of agitation or relaxation that certain poses may create, the way you mentally classify poses as ones you like and ones you can’t wait to move out of.  Yes, once again we find ourselves using mindfulness.

I’ve written about mindfulness’s role in helping us know when we are going too far.  Or in this case, the point just before pushing.  But it can also help us determine when we are holding back.  This is important because if we never challenge ourselves, our practice grows stale and we miss out on opportunities for growth.  Signs that we are holding back can be more subtle than those that signal pushing.  For example, the sharp intake of breath that accompanies stretching too far is immediately felt.  But, the holding of breath as you move into a pose that you find intimidating isn’t as immediately noticeable.  You have to be watching for it.

The edge is not a constant.  It isn’t a thing you achieve and then never have to think about again.  It changes not only from practice to practice and pose to pose, but breath by breath.  In his book Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness, Erich Schiffman demonstrates how working with this changing edge allows us to make progress:

As you come into a pose, look for your very first edge.  Do not rush past it.  When you feel that edge, stop.  Stop moving, deepening the breath, clarify your energy lines, and wait for it to open.  You will know the first edge has opened when the sensations of stretch begin to diminish.  At that point you will naturally want to go deeper into the posture.  Rather than having to push your way in, you will feel drawn into the pose.  As you are drawn deeper, a new edge will soon appear, and the sensations of stretch will come back.  Wait for the sensations at this new edge to diminish before going deeper.

Do this over and over.  Wait for the sensations of stretch to diminish somewhat and then go deeper.  It will feel as though you are sneaking into the pose, not barging your way in.  Proceed slowly, edge by edge and gate by gate. 

While finding and maintaining this state of balance can be hard for anyone, those of us living with chronic conditions have a tendency to practice at one extreme or the other.  Some push too much.  Others hold back too often.  Both are the result of fear.  Fear that acknowledging a limitation is surrender or “giving in” to the disease.  Fear of the unknown — will doing more or doing X result in pain or fatigue?  How people will react to me if we stop doing certain activities?  Will they see me as a quitter?  Will they stop asking me to do things? 

The direction from which you approach your practice is often a reflection of how you approach life.  I am prone to holding back — both on and off my mat.  This was not always the case.  During the first couple of years with multiple sclerosis, I often pushed too far.  I hadn’t yet returned to yoga, so this “pushing” was in life.  Sometimes it was my own pride that didn’t want to accept a limitation.  Sometimes it was following the well-meaning advice of others who assured me that pushing through was the only way to continue living a meaningful life.  Sometimes it was because I hadn’t yet figured out what activities could result in pain or fatigue.  The result of all that overdoing was that the pendulum swung all the way to the other side.  Holding back became my first response.

It took some time to begin to find balance between pushing and holding.  Yoga has been very helpful in learning how to make these choices mindfully.  To realize its not “all or nothing.” However, I still tend towards holding.  My mental dialogue is where I am best able to notice it.  That’s where the fear of “what if” is most at the surface.  When I notice myself “what if-ing,” I pause and ask myself questions like: 

  • is this fear based on past experience?  If so, can I modify the last outcome by doing things differently (i.e., not staying out as late, not sitting in the direct sun where I’ll over heat, not forcing myself to keep pace with others during Sun Salutation)?  
  • If this isn’t based on past experience, what do I fear will happen?  How likely is that to really happen and is there anything I can do that would minimize the likelihood of this outcome?
Sometimes the smart response is to hold back.  Other times, I’ve been able to  find a way to participate without overdoing.  But, every day is different.  The only constant I’ve discovered is that the more consistent I am in my yoga practice, the easier it is to find and live at my balanced edge.

Acceptance Part 2

In my last post I wrote about the concept of acceptance — acknowledging reality as it is, not as we want it to be.  In my experience, acceptance begins with the practice of mindfulness.  In his book, Mindfulness Yoga: The Awakened Union of Breath, Body, and Mind, Frank Jude Boccio defines mindfulness as:

“observing of things as they are, without choosing, without comparing and judging, without evaluating, and without laying or adding any of our projections or expectations onto what is happening.”

He goes on to provide the following visual aid:

“One image used to describe this quality of mind is to imagine awareness to be like the sky.  All the thoughts, feelings, and sensations — indeed all our experiences, both physical and psychological — are like clouds passing through the sky.  We tend to identify with the clouds of thought, projection, craving and aversion and ignore the sky.  Our practice is to cultivate ‘big sky mind’ and to allow all the changing phenomena to pass through awareness, without being swept away or entangled in any of it.” 

The way we respond to things on our yoga mat is a reflection of how we respond in life: Do we rise to the challenge or run away?  Do we push beyond our limits and pay a price later or do we work within boundaries that will keep us healthy?  How concerned are we with what others think of us?  Can we enjoy the moment or are we already regretting that it will soon be over?  This makes the mat a great laboratory for practicing mindful acceptance.

Imagine you have tight hamstrings.  As you bend into a standing forward fold, do you strain to reach the floor or do you make an adjustment such as bending your knees until you can reach the floor or stopping when you feel the beginning of a pulling sensation in your hamstring, resting your hands on your legs/a block?  If you allow yourself to make an adjustment that keeps your hamstrings safe, what happens in your mind?  Do you criticize yourself for “giving in” or “wimping out”? Can you remain focused on the sensations in your body or are you envious of the person on the mat next to you with their hands flat on the floor?  And if you realize that you are in envy of the person next to you, do you beat yourself up for doing so?  Or can you laugh at being human and refocus your thoughts on what is happening with you?

As a teacher I have watched time and time again as students who need to use a prop or make a physical adjustment to safely experience a pose refuse to do so.  Instead they struggle, adding unneeded stress and sometimes getting injured.  I can empathize because one of my own challenges to acceptance comes on days when my hands, wrists and forearms are in too much pain to practice the traditional version of Downward Facing Dog.  It is one of my favorite asanas (poses) and there are days when I find myself beginning to grumble as I move onto my hands and knees and feel the pain that says “No Down Dog today.”  I know its variations and I know they are just as beneficial.  Still, I sometimes find myself resistant to using them or even angry that I can’t do the “regular” pose.  This coming from a yoga teacher who encourages EVERYONE to do the version of an asana that is right for them in that moment. 

I don’t analyze why this is happening while I’m on the mat.  That’s an activity for later.  On the mat is where I practice making choices that can lead to acceptance or away from it. In that moment of resistance I can choose to continue resisting and do the regular version — the consequences of which will be even more pain now and later — or I can accept that whether I like it or not, its a variation or nothing.  Mindfulness is what helps me recognize that I’m in the midst of resistance sooner rather than later (noticing the tightening in my jaw or chest; the feelings of resentment; the urge to just skip my practice like the petulant child who would rather take their ball and go home than play by another’s rules).  It keeps me from moving without thinking into more pain.

Just like on the mat, the addition of mindfulness in our life gives us the option to make a choice between working with reality (through acceptance) or continued resistance, which eventually leads to unnecessary pain/struggle/irritation, etc.

The meditation cushion is another place to practice mindful acceptance.  The simple act of watching your breath and the flow of your thoughts without trying to change anything is often extremely challenging for beginning meditators.  Friends have told me, “I can’t meditate.  My mind won’t slow down.”  That’s the first lesson: recognizing that our minds are like monkeys or happy puppies.  They are all over the place.  Dashing from one thought to another as they arise.  It is a sensation we don’t like so we decide we can’t do meditation.  Until we accept that our minds are like a toddler on a sugar high (or Dori from Finding Nemo), we will always feel that we are failing at meditation.

Don’t think that this is all easy for me.  There is a reason we say yoga ‘practice’ and meditation ‘practice’ — even acceptance ‘practice.’  Yoga and meditation don’t lead to a life of roses.  But they are handy tools to know how to use when you are faced with the reality of a stem filled with thorns.

Whatever your current reality, may you hold it with a compassionate heart of acceptance.