How many of you wear a night guard to prevent you from clenching and damaging your teeth?
It seems many people grind their teeth, clench their jaw and guard against the world even in their sleep.
One dear friend said that when she didn’t wear her guard, she woke in the morning with tooth powder in her mouth.
Indeed so much of our time is spent guarding about what has or hasn’t happened. Our flight, fright or freeze buttons are on standby and we are constantly bracing ourselves for danger. And with the pandemic, the danger seems no longer ‘around the corner’ but right in front of our masked nose.
I like how Tara Brach in her talk on Relax the Over-Controller quotes Chogyam Trungpa. That “we are a bunch of tense muscles tensing against our existence. Trying to hold it all together”.
We believe this bracing helps protect us. We believe we can keep everything under control. And it can be exhausting. Cutting us off from accessing our deeper coping strategies. As well as our joy, creativity and connection.
My friend’s advice? Unclench. I love that word. Just at the mention of it, you feel your jaw relax. Maybe even your buttocks.
So here’s a nature-inspired moment by moment and week by week guide to the great unclench.
Moment by moment, breath and body
We are so often in our heads. But every moment gives us an opportunity to come into awareness and notice our body. And if we do, we are likely to feel some tension somewhere. In this gentle noticing, we can choose to relax and release that tight part of ourselves. And automatically feel better.
And we notice that in every breath we naturally, instinctively unclench. We can only breathe in because we breathe out. If we pay attention to the very fundamental, lifesaving act of our simple profound breath, we can feel ourselves open and calm.
Week by week, taking it to the land
And as Jeannie Daly-Gunter on the Earth Converse Podcast invited us to do, ‘if we can find a few moments once a week, we can take the tightness out to nature’. This practice of ‘taking it to the land’ as explored also on the podcast here is where we intentionally seek nature’s wisdom and see what it mirrors back to us. When we do this, the benefits of nature are amplified. Not only do we benefit from the relaxation, therapeutic, physiological, physical, emotional and mental regulatory benefits of going out in wider nature, we create a deeper connection with ourselves and our surrounds. Our world view expands.
As Jeannie said,
‘Take whatever that is, that constriction, restriction, confusion, take it to the land. And just see what else comes. When you undo that constriction just a little bit, and say, ok I am here to listen. In that moment of openness, something new always comes’.
Examples are all around us in nature. The flower you pass. The acorn you notice on the ground. For me, the beautiful pinecones I came across were a case in point. Open to the autumnal warmth.
Have you ever immersed a pinecone in water? To see it constrict. And then take out, and see it expand? Such a perfect example of aliveness and opening, when you may not think anything is happening.
And so again, in bringing attention to what is around us, we are opening.
Otto Scharmer, in his Theory U work talks about how an open heart, open mind, open will is our route to co-creating systemic transformation.
I agree. And it probably starts with the great unclench.