In times that necessitate activism, we must take extra steps to care well for ourselves. The more stress we face, and the more external our focus, the more energy we need to put into our self-care to maintain balance.
One of the qigong sets that I teach illustrates this well. In the five animal frolics, each animal is a short qigong form within the larger set. Sometimes we practice one or two, and sometimes we practice all of them. The animals teach wisdom lessons through the form.
The crane stands, gets ready, flies, draws in, then looks out at the world. This oscillation between stances and moves that focus inward and gather strength permits her to fly high once she’s ready to take off. Immediately after her flight, she withdraws into herself, and then she’s ready to look out at the world and prepare to take it on once more.
What a perfect model for the introvert activist! First practice stillness and strengthen your core. Then psych yourself to engage the world. Next fly high (“When they go low…” or otherwise). Now take the time to check back in with yourself, examine and address your own needs and gather your strength. Then look out and assess what you need to do next. Practice stillness again and repeat.
The tiger isn’t such an introvert. Our tiger begins by crouching, a more active inward motion. Then, she gets ready and then pounces. She doesn’t require as much stillness as the crane, but she still gives herself two steps to get herself ready before pouncing. She is cautious and builds her strength rather than squandering it. After pouncing, she draws back, much like the crane after flight. Finally, she looks over her environment to make sure there are no predators eager to steal her prey.
We, too, need to start by checking in with ourselves to assess and take care of our needs. Then, we need to prepare ourselves before acting, especially if we plan a powerful action. After our power move, we need to check in with ourselves again before shifting our gaze back outward.
The bear moves powerfully, walks, reaches, and acts with grace and an awareness that his every move influences the environment. The moves lack the inward and outward oscillation of the crane and tiger, but still, after a period of extended activity, the bear retreats for a period of hibernation. The more heavily we move about in the world, the more critical it is for us to take periods of retreat. Likewise, after a lengthy period of rest, we need to refocus outward.
Many of us are emulating the bear in making a shift now from focusing inward on our own lives and concerns to becoming activists in response to the challenges facing our country. We need to remember to continue alternating focus between activism and self-care.
To learn more about the conditions I have worked with, click here.