By Andy Reynolds at Popular Publicity
Photos: Chad Wagner
Many in the LGBTQ community have been traumatized by the current political climate, which feels inescapable. International yogi, meditation teacher, and author of the frank and funny new book “Sage Sapien: From Karma to Dharma,” Johnson Chong offers five things that even a meditation newbie can do to calm the panic feel a little more hope and love on a daily basis.
“Sometimes it can be extremely difficult to understand what is going on in the bigger picture, especially when it seems like the world is falling apart,” says Chong. “We have the choice to either let our external environment bring us down or to accept it as it is, for better, or for worse. By ‘accept,’ I don’t mean by succumbing to complacency. Complacency would be resigning to indifference, while acceptance means taking charge of our anger, and turning it into passionate/compassionate action. Activism and taking a stand is a whole other subject here, but on a more personal level, herewith are my five tips for self-care when dealing with a sense of panic.
My first piece of advice is that you need to give yourself full permission to feel everything that you are feeling. Without honoring the truth of our how emotional or not emotional we are, we create a fracture in ourselves, and perpetuate the okay-ness of not feeling whole. Panic is an intense mutation of fear where our heart might race, we may shake and tremble, sweat and even feel like we are losing our minds. We need to have a dialogue with our emotions, like we need to dialogue with an angry child who is throwing a temper tantrum. Fear and anger happen when we there are two conflicting needs that are having trouble getting met. So in the same way, when an angry child will simmer down after he accepts that he will not get a popsicle for lunch, our fear can dial down so we can meet that fear halfway and understand why we fear what we fear. Understanding is key to softening out of heightened states of emotion, and that cannot happen if we don’t give ourselves permission to feel our rawness.
Turn Feelings into Art
Take your feelings and turn them into conscious art. Whether you want to dance it away, write it away, bake, body build or create a performance art piece, it is all up to you. Fear is an emotion. Animals experience fear, and then choose fight or flight. The same physiological responses happen in human bodies. If fear doesn’t go down the path of fight or flight, then it crashes our entire system. Think of it as purposefully repurposing your pain.
3. Download Meditation App
Download Insight Timer, and try their free meditations. I have a few on there (Johnson Chong, insighttimer.com/sagesapien). And there are also many amazing teachers who have also put up free meditations for download. You can search by type, length, and even themes that resonate with you your current mental/emotional state. Even if you’re extremely busy, download the meditation and play it while you’re on the subway.
4. Get a Slow Deep Relaxing Massage
A monthly massage, if not bi-weekly, is a great self-care routine to take care of your muscles, calm the nervous system, and to soothe the emotions.
5. ‘Retreat’ Yourself
Take the weekend off and go on retreat.Whether it’s yoga, meditation or writing, retreats are designed so that you can take the time out to pause and recalibrate. You get a moment to breathe and connect to nature, and reflect on what it is you really want, instead of worrying about the things that you cannot control. Easton Mountain Retreat is a spiritual retreat center for gay men in upstate New York that focuses on self-development, healing and transformation. If you don’t have the means to get to a retreat, go to your state park with a bunch of friends, leave the phones in the car, take a long walk, and have deep, meaningful conversations over a campfire or picnic. Or just find a comfortable spot in your city park, unplug, and watch the clouds or stare at the fountain. It’s all about removing yourself from the daily grind and remembering what is truly important in life.
Order your copy of Jonhson Chong’s “Sage Sapien: From Karma to Dharma” on Amazon, and learn more at johnsonchong.com.
Find a list of LGBTQ-friendly retreats at retreat-finder.com, keyword gay-friendly.