by Marie Antoine, Kriyol Dance! Collective's Public Voice
The current global health pandemic has caused a lot of disruption and turbulence in many of our lives. The widespread misinformation, mistrust of leadership, loss, isolation and fear during this time has raised the levels of socio-political toxicity in our society to new heights. This toxicity has presented a growing threat to our mental and emotional wellbeing. For most of us, maintaining our mental health at this time has been anything but simple. In fact this time requires a lot more effort than ever before to retain our center.
The uncertainty around the spaces we may have previously relied on for comfort or a semblance of safety, including in our careers, community spaces, and relationships, have created even more of a barrier to our mental health and emotional needs. For months we have been in isolation and many of us in a state of hypervigilance - constantly plugged into the often dismal news updates. As a result, it is valid that many of us may have gotten swept into the chaotic energies of 2020, essentially giving into the magnetism of collective fear, frustration and angst. This past month as I checked in with my network of family and friends I noticed that many of them were still living in that heavy mental and emotional state.
Dwelling in this reactive state of being has caused us to recklessly share images of violence and transmit unknown agendas. We feel obligated to stay plugged into the news and to personally advocate for all injustices rising to the forefront. We continue in this way despite the signals from our mind, body and emotions to unplug from the noise.
We need to be able to take a step back and analyze the bigger picture from our individual point of view. Though we are influenced by collective currents, it is still the task of the individual to be intentional about where we want to spend our attention and energy. Otherwise we are leaving ourselves vulnerable to manipulation and powering agendas that do not serve us.
It is possible to be aware without being hypervigilant; it is possible to refocus feelings of angst so we can prevent long periods of fear and anxiety; it is possible to be intentional and discriminatory about where we spend our attention while feeling that we are doing our part. To achieve this level of clarity, peace and purpose we must create a safe distance with the outer world and get back in touch with our inner reality. When the world gets too noisy a great way to counteract the commotion is to get quiet from within. Our breath is one tool we can employ to help us start the process of contextualizing our individual experience within this challenging social climate.
Our breath is our built in stabilizer. Accessible and nourishing. The depth of our breath whether shallow or deep lets us gauge our level of ease, excitement or anxiety. Therefore, in times of upheaval, fear or great change breathing through it is an active measure for regaining equilibrium.
When there is disruption in our society returning to the breath can help us
If you have not been able to shake off feelings of anxiety and overwhelm lately, I suggest committing to a week of breathing exercises to help you release these stagnant emotions. You will notice a shift with just 10-15 minutes of practice per evening. Start each session with a clear intention; keep it simple, an example could be, “I am using this time to breathe in more deeply to signal to my mind and body that in this moment I am safe and at ease.” A simple breathing exercise you can do is to place one hand on your belly the other on your heart and breathe in deeply and slowly through your nose for a count of 2 second and to release through your mouth for a count of 4 seconds.
Additionally, Kriyol Dance! Collective has received funding from the Citizens Committee For New York City to support our efforts to provide support to our community during this time. For the rest of the year, we will be hosting a calendar of wellness offerings, including meditation, movement workshops and conversations to help you process these emotions in order to move through them with intention and power.
Sak Rete Ou? (What's Stopping You? in Haitian Creole), holds space for reflections, meditations, poetry, video blogs, and capacity to captivate readers through creative writing. To the question, sak rete ou?, we respond "Nou Se Kriyol!" (We are the Children! in Haitian Creole), implying and calling on the strength, kindness, and revolution of our Haitian ancestors to move forward!