The following post was written by Liz Beres, a NYC-based dancer, yoga teacher certified by The Perri Institute for Mind and Body, and dance teacher. Liz currently teaches yoga privately and at various gyms throughout the NYC metro area, and holds a regular Tuesday morning class at Steps on Broadway. She is continually intrigued by and appreciative of the power of mind/body practices, and is grateful for the chance to share her musings on MindBodyBrew’s digital platform.

I can’t handle the silence.

Never have such words been so deafening to my ears.

Seated on the couch, this came out as we gently prodded our friend about coping mechanisms. Our conversation had budded from talk of suicide—words and intentions I can, luckily, hardly fathom, but that hold a weight that must not be dismissed. Slowly we had gotten around to this, at my careful mention of yoga and meditation as powerful methods for coping and healing. Certainly the heightened energy in the room amplified the candor and color of words; these, from my struggling friend, particularly struck my heart.

We live, day in and day out, amidst the clamor of this world we share. Sights and sounds stimulate both our aware selves and those aspects of us that are less so. And we too experience life through our personal loud lenses, thoughts, emotions, and sensations filling our heads and our hearts.

I could guess—and probably rightly so—that all of us, at one point or another, have become overwhelmed by this onslaught of stimuli, so much so that we’ve overflowed with emotion or slipped away into utter apathy. To become so lost amidst the grind is legitimate; this realization makes me all the more aware of the need for yoga and meditation in our increasingly stressful world.

To be able to sit in stillness, in quiet, especially when such a space feels uncomfortable, is no easy task. But as I mentioned gingerly to my friend, the work in meditation is not to push thoughts and feelings away, but to instead reach out a hand to ally with such fodder. This way we note a thought or feeling’s presence, consider its place in reality or fantasy, and recognize the power it perhaps grips over us. This process is not an easy one. Similarly, letting these bubbles continue on their way is a challenge. Why would we want to loosen, to open the field for more pain to enter? While maybe counterintuitive, it is these open doors that can serve as both entrances and exits for our minds and hearts, and, if we can build the skills, can also be bookends between which a conveyor belt can effectively transport matters in and out. No machine works to perfection, so jams are inevitable, but cultivating the skills to negotiate with our personal experience is, as I’ve now learned, invaluable to prosperity.

I’m consistently thankful for these practices and, after being on that couch, am even more so. I tapped into my yoga like never before that night—attempting to mindfully hold the space, compassionately listen to the matters at hand, stay present with physical and energetic shifts, and delicately encourage ahimsa (nonviolence) in both word and act. One’s own prized tools can only help another so much, but that effort is unbelievably worthwhile. Reckoning with silence is not a point I would have added to my toolset before now, but I am beginning to realize how lucky I am to have that healthy edge at my fingertips. It’s something I will no longer take for granted and will work to share as I can all my life.

Hug your loved ones, folks. And honor those you don’t know quite as well too. We never really know how another being on this life path is.

—Liz Beres

Photo by Yuriy Khimanin

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis Text Line offer 24/7 free and confidential support. For New York residents,  NYC Well also offers 24/7 free and confidential support.  

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